Ring by Koji Suzuki

Just finished reading Ring by Koji Suzuki, the novel that inspired the movies.  I’m sure this novel needs very little introduction or plot outline but basically this is a story of a journalist who, when investigating the death of four young teenagers who all died under mysterious circumstances, becomes much more embroiled than he ever imagined or would have believed possible.

I really enjoyed this book, but, for those of you who’ve seen the film and are expecting a horror story – this isn’t it.  This story is much more based on the investigation carried out by Asakawa, the journalist who becomes involved in uncovering the mystery surrounding the video tape that causes the death, within one week, of anyone who watches the content but fails to carry out the charm. It’s more pyschological thriller than horror.

What I particularly liked about the book was the style it was told in – which was very simple and unadorned.  I would say it almost read like a journalistic report and perhaps that was the intention given Asakawa’s profession?   I also liked the journey that we went on with Asakawa and the friend he enlists to help him with his race against time.  Gradually each part of the mystery unfolds and we are given a trail of breadcrumbs to follow.  I must admit that the explanation in the book is much better than the film and even the name of the book/film is given its true meaning and was one of those ‘ahh’ moments.  The book then ends with a twist which I won’t elaborate on other than to say I thought it was a small moment of genius.

In terms of the characters, I didn’t particularly find either of them likable – but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment.  The main character Asakawa is not a bad character in particular although I wouldn’t say he had anything redeeming about him or any particular endearing characteristic that would make you want to call him your friend.  His friend Ryuji comes across as a particularly repugnant character – although for some reason he is more readable than his ‘best’ friend and at the end you’re given some food for thought that leaves you in doubt as to his true nature.  I couldn’t help wondering why the characters in the film had been changed to females??

So, whilst I wouldn’t class this as a horror book I would say that if you liked the film you should give this a go – just for the sake of completeness.  I think the plot and eventual conclusion are far superior to the film(s) and whilst I wouldn’t say it was a chilling read it was certainly intriguing enough to keep things moving very quickly onwards to the final outcome which I was really keen to reach.

In terms of criticisms – I don’t really have any particular criticism, I suppose I wouldn’t have minded a bit more of a creepy tale – but I think that’s based more on my expectations given the film and once I’d got over myself and realised that the book was going to be different I was able to enjoy the read much more.

If you were to ask whether I preferred the movie (the original) or the book – mmm, a bit of a struggle.  Normally my immediate answer would be ‘the book’.  Always (well, nearly always).  However, in this particular instance I think the producers have made an excellent job of turning this story into something really sinister and to be honest, down right scary.  But, I thought the explanation in the book was much more understandable and the motivations come across much better.  So – split feelings on this one.  I think I enjoyed both equally.

Thanks to Jason at Genkinahito for the recommendation.




18 Responses to “Ring by Koji Suzuki”

  1. Genki Jason

    Just a quick post – I’ll be back tomorrow!!!! (That’s not a threat even if it sounds menacing :P)

    Your observations are spot on about the characters – they aren’t heroic or particularly likeable but realistic and rather normal. Asakawa is about as useless as I would be in that situation. Ryuji is much more important to the overall trilogy (and you’ll never guess how) so your not wrong about him being more readable.

    The film tries to maintain some of the mystery but it works muh better as a horror film. The plot is very convoluted due to the fact it is trying to fit in the book’s entire narrative but thankfully it works as a horror title. The first time you watch it is magnificent and it sparked the whole J-horror boom.

  2. lynnsbooks

    Ha, Jason, you missed the perfect opp to be menacing – you could have said you’ll be back in 7 days *wiggles fingers* Lol
    Lynn 😀

  3. jessicabookworm

    Interesting review Lynn. If I’m honest I never even knew this was originally a book!

    • lynnsbooks

      To be honest – neither did I. It was a recommendation. I must admit I don’t usually read the book after I’ve seen the film but in this case it was definitely worthwhile. I thought the explanation was much better.

  4. Novroz

    Great review Lynn!!
    I really really like this book. I want to read the other 2 (it’s a trilogy) but they are so difficult to find 😦

    • lynnsbooks

      I actually got this from the library (it had been taken to the basement though). I didn’t realise it was a trilogy – I’ll have to check that out. I thought it was really good, not scary as such but i thought the whole explanation came across so much better.
      Lynn 😀

      • Genki Jason

        The sequels Spiral and Loop go off in a totally different direction and move away from horror and into sci-fi but they are still very entertaining (I’ve read them at least twice) and there are some really creepy sequences in the second book!

  5. Genki Jason

    This is a really good review and it sums up how I felt after I turned the last page although I actually liked Ryuji and his morbid sense of humour more than you did 😉 I was also shocked to learn some of Sadako’s details.

    I want to pick up on your observation about the gender change – I think it reflects the fact that Ringu is examining gender roles in Japan – Asakawa in the book is a single mother/news reporter who isn’t taken seriously. A lot of horror films do tend to reolve around women as well. Evil Dead Trap (1988) has a female journalist as a lead protagonist.

    • lynnsbooks

      Thanks Jason

      Ahem, yes, I was shocked about Sadako.
      I didn’t really dislike Ryuji. I was a bit shocked at first by his admissions to Asakawa and probably even more so by the sort of complacent way it was treated but i thought his character was definitely the most readable one of the two.
      Perhaps I’ll look at the other two?
      Speaking of horror films – have you seen the Tale of Two Sisters – now that is a scary film.
      Lynn 😀

      • Genki Jason

        If you like a good mystery then you should definitely check out Spiral and Loop.

        A Tale of Two Sisters? My, you do have good taste in films! 🙂 For my part I have it on DVD and I remember being blown away by the acting, directing, and and story.

      • lynnsbooks

        Have you seen the original film of Rec? Not the remake – very scary!
        Lynn 😀

      • Genki Jason

        I have seen the original. The final scene in the dark is veeeery scary!

      • lynnsbooks

        Hey, meant to ask – have you seen a Korean film – called Old Boy? I liked that very much. Don’t know what you’d class it as but it was good.
        Lynn 😀

      • Genki Jason

        Aaww Lynn, you’ve got the best taste in films!

        I imported the DVD from South Korea when it first came out and joyously went to watch it in a cinema when Tartan theatrically released it in the UK. I love that film.

        It’s getting a remake starring Josh Brolin and directed by Spike Lee.

      • lynnsbooks

        I’m not always taken by remakes – but you have to give them a go don’t you? If only in order to compare.
        Lynn 😀

      • Genki Jason

        True. I quite liked Let Me In which was the remake of Let the Right One In.

  6. Biblibio

    I actually liked Ring least of the trilogy. Spiral is probably the best-written book, but Loop does a really nice job of tying everything together. It’s a weird, weird series and though each book can pretty much standalone, overall I quite recommend continuing with the sequels.

    • lynnsbooks

      Thanks for that. I must admit that when I picked up Ring I had no idea that it had further books following on and it does feel as though the story was complete. I will look into the other two just to see how they continue the story.
      Lynn 😀

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