Monday, November 1, 2010


To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their idol Mamiya Kazune, a group of people in their forties gather on Kazune Island where they once spend a year together worshipping her. Looking back on their young days they are accompanied by Kisaragi Uyuu and his assistant Maina Touri, who are supposed to interview them and write an article about their reunion. Eventually a decapitated corpse turns up... on a snowy morning in August.

After handing in my bachelor thesis I could finally read again... and of course I had to start with a friggin' long book like this. Actually I would not say there was any section I did not enjoy reading, but I'd also dare to say you could have established the same in the usual Koudansha-length. Not as elaborately, but still...

It was a splendid work nevertheless. Again Maya constructs an antithesis for the classical detective. In his previous work he compared him to a messiah, which resulted in utterly failing detective figures. This time he established a protagonist that's even work-immanently likened to the figure of Parzival because of his supposed purity and viridity due to his unrelatedness. Therefore as a bystander he is not even granted the rights and skills as a detective figure. All he can do is 'interview' the characters and hope for information. So in the end this really develops like a detective novel without a detective. We have a peculiar mansion, murders and lots of mysteries lying before us... basically the usual formula, setting and atmosphere. But the novel ends with shocking twists, open questions and an uncanny aftertaste.

This works totally fine though, since the novel does not pretend to be realistic from the beginning. The plot and characters work by the setting's innate and distinct logic and rules and Maya Yutaka does not try to conceal that. By doing that he also shows that the opinion that mystery novels don't really portray human beings is a prejudice since even if the frame is very abstract and surreal, he spends most of the time on describing the characters' thoughts and traits. What I'm trying to say is that I'm totally fine with this sort of mystery, as long as it does not pretend to be something else over the whole course until the ending turns everything upside down.

This peculiar nature is even more deepened by actually making the usual pedantry in such mystery novels on matters as art or music the thematic framework of the whole book. Everything in this book eventually revolves around cubistic theories and in the end you really have to look at his book more as if you looked at a canvas trying to interpret it. Since you have to be fairly creative on your own after finishing this book to actually make sense of everything that happened, Maya did good in preparing the reader for that outcome.

Even with such a distinct framework it never got boring since Maya also combines everything with his trademark topics like the establishment of a god-like entity, people's faith in such constructions and the instability of one's own identity in the broader context of human relationships.

I definitely want to recommend this to anyone who aside from tricks and deductions is just as well interested in the characters' depictions and an actual thematic framework that merges everything into a unique, captivating and atmospheric read. Those who expect and search for books with focus on extensive deductions and logical explanations should better stay away from this, as I can not imagine them to be pleased with this long peculiar journey.

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