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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Remote Control

Isaka Kotaro

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To purchase Remote Control

Title: Remote Control
Author: Isaka Kotaro
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 343 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Remote Control - US
Remote Control - UK
Remote Control - Canada
Remote Control - India
  • Japanese title: ゴールデンスランバー
  • Translated by Stephen Snyder
  • Remote Control was made into a film, Golden Slumber, in 2010, directed by Nakamura Yoshihiro

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Our Assessment:

B : far too many convenient coincidences and narrow escapes undermine the suspense (and destroy any plausibility)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times A 20/2/2011 Steve Finbow
Publishers Weekly A 24/1/2011 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "If you want an all-action, well-written and intelligent novel to read in 2011, then look no further than this excellent conspiracy-theory thriller. Remote Control has the delirious historical thrust of Don DeLillo's Libra, the compulsive storytelling of Stephen King's Running Man, and the obsessive paranoia of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly. (...) This novel has doubles and double-crossings, shady secret-service men, dodgy underground crime figures, a determined and resourceful ex-girlfriend, backroom plastic surgeons and political manipulators." - Steve Finbow, The Japan Times

  • "Isaka cuts perilously close to the bone of today's politics in this elegant, intricate, enormously satisfying parable of good and evil." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Remote Control is a conspiracy novel, with Masaharu Aoyagi chosen (by some unknown greater forces) as the fall guy in the assassination of Japanese Prime Minister Sadayoshi Kaneda. The Prime Minister is blown up by a bomb delivered by a remote-controlled toy helicopter while driving in a parade in the city of Sendai, and all the (constantly mounting) evidence points to Aoyagi, a former deliveryman who had already been in the spotlight once before when he had saved a famous actress from an intruder while on his delivery-rounds a few years earlier.
       The novel begins with the assassination and the first few days of the investigation, before then jumping ahead to a brief section describing 'Twenty Years Later', which doesn't reveal exactly how things turned out but does show that even two decades later there's still a lot fishy about the story. The bulk of the novel then describes 'The Incident', returning to the time after the assassination as Aoyagi tries to figure out what he's been pulled into -- and how to get himself out of this situation.
       Sendai is a place where everything is closely monitored, with 'Security Pods' (basically CCTV) installed all over town -- supposedly to "promote public safety", but also with far more sinister government-control implications. These pods come to be a big part of Aoyagi's problem, providing apparently clear evidence of his involvement in the assassination -- "The camera doesn't lie", after all --, as well making it difficult to move around town undetected.
       Aoyagi's day already begins strangely, as he's accused by a woman of groping her on a train -- something he would never do. And there's that old friend who saves him from that situation ..... Soon enough Aoyagi realizes that he's being set up to be a fall guy, but can't understand why -- or how. And, as things progress, he finds himself facing a nearly overwhelming force. As someone says:

     "Yeah, but this enemy of yours -- I can't get a grip on him. You might as well be fighting 'the government' or 'authority' itself."
       Indeed -- and that's what it certainly feels like, as he's hunted down by trigger-happy cops (unusual in Japan) who seem to have eyes everywhere.
       Aoyagi does his best to escape this situation:
     What did they do in movies ? There were lots of cases of people being framed for crimes they didn't commit, sympathetic heroes running from the police while trying to prove their innocence. He tried to remember how these other poor dupes had managed to make it to the Happy Ending. Catch the real culprit -- that was it. Keep one step ahead of the police, discover the truth, expose the plot, prove his innocence. Then everybody could go home more or less satisfied.
       Of course, along the way there have to be lots of hardships -- but Aoyagi also has some people in his corner, from an old girlfriend convinced of his innocence to a variety of people willing to try to help (when they're not being coerced by the police or other sinister forces ...). There's even an unlikely (and way too good to be true) knight in shining armor, the person who was originally targeted by the 'security pods' when they were first installed, and who has quite a few tricks up his sleeve, as well as some good contacts.
       Remote Control quickly becomes entirely unbelievable in its web of connections. Sure, there's a fair amount of suspense, as Isaka makes sure to keep the reader guessing as to how, exactly, this situation will be resolved, but far too much of it gets to be downright silly (the plot eventually requiring resentful plastic surgeons, fake manhole covers, and much else that defies belief).
       Shifting back and forth between several of the involved parties, and with Aoyagi in near-constant danger, the narrative certainly doesn't flag, and is quite well presented. There's a pervasive nostalgia, too, that Isaka constantly weaves into the story, Aoyagi and the others looking back to old times, and with the constant echo of the Beatles refrain from 'Golden Slumbers' (which is also the Japanese title of the novel), as Aoyagi learns the really, really hard way that while: "Once there was a way to get back home", well ..... (And, boy, does he ever have to carry that weight now .....) But ultimately the story is simply too incredible, an implausible movie-script plot with twists that are so unlikely that, in the end, it all seems just too silly.

- M.A.Orthofer, 18 March 2011

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Remote Control: Reviews: Golden Slumber - the film: Other books by Isaka Kotaro under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Isaka Kotaro (伊坂幸太郎) was born in 1971.

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