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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Promenade of the Gods

Suzuki Koji

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To purchase Promenade of the Gods

Title: Promenade of the Gods
Author: Suzuki Koji
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 319 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Promenade of the Gods - US
Promenade of the Gods - UK
Promenade of the Gods - Canada
  • Japanese title: 神々のプロムナード
  • Translated by Takami Nieda

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Our Assessment:

B- : readable but fairly pointless

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 24/11/2008 Melissa McClements
The Japan Times . 24/8/2008 Mark Schreiber
The LA Times . 31/10/2008 Dale Bailey

  From the Reviews:
  • "After a lengthy investigation, the mysteryís final unravelling is perhaps not as subtly chilling or unsettling as fans of Ring might expect. One more minor quibble: itís been translated into American English, so characters talk about "grade school" and having "just gotten up". For British readers, this gives the Japanese thriller a curiously US twang." - Melissa McClements, Financial Times

  • "Overall, however, the style supports the narrative, raising tension through artful understatement while working in unexpected shocks. Promenade is a fine effort, with a ring of plausibility that subtly revives the mood back in March 1995, when the public's fears of Shoko Asahara's doomsday cult were palpable." - Mark Schreiber, The Japan Times

  • "The devil, as they say, is in the details -- or the selection of them. And Suzuki consistently selects the wrong ones. (...) This habit of over-explanation also mars the novel's plot. Thrillers depend on the artful presentation of seemingly trivial detail -- the casual incident that later detonates in the reader's mind, rearranging the entire story with a single retrospective glance. Suzuki trusts neither himself nor his reader in this regard. As a consequence, every twist of plot is weighted down with clumsy explanation as the characters recall -- in often laborious detail -- the entire network of observations and events that must be reconsidered in light of new developments." - Dale Bailey, The Los Angeles Times

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:

       Promenade of the Gods is a curious sort of non-thriller. It dangles a decent premise in front of the reader, suggests sinister and possibly dangerous goings-on, but then defies most expectations and deflates weakly, like an old balloon. Yet it does offer some insight into Japanese society and culture, and this otherness has a perverse appeal.
       Out of the blue Shirow Murakami, who leads a fairly easy life running a cram school, gets a call from the wife of one of his friends whom he hasn't heard from in a while. Miyuki tells him that Matsuoka has disappeared. He left two months earlier, and now even the occasional telephone calls have stopped. Shirow is curious -- and he seems to have been the last person to have heard from Matsuoka, a month earlier, in a telephone call where Matsuoka had given him a number to write down. He decides to try to help look for him.
       Mysteries abound. Looking into Matsuoka's past, Shirow finds several years unaccounted for. Then there's the TV star who also seems to have disappeared -- Ryoko Kano, whose show Matsuoka was watching when he up and left. And what about that supposed license plate number Matsuoka asked Shirow to note down ? The first clues lead to a cult or religion, 'Halo of Heaven and Earth'.
       As the search progresses, Shirow and Miyuki find themselves attracted to one another. Running out of money, Miyuki is also desperate for financial security, and looks for a job where she can earn enough to take care of her infant daughter; she winds up as a daytime sex-worker, something she's not proud of but, hey, she's always let men provide for her, so what the hell.
       Finding information about the cult also proves difficult, but Shirow slowly pieces some together, and finds that after starting under Terutaka Kageyama a new young leader came on the scene, Keisuke Kitajima, who tried to steer things in a new direction. But he disappeared almost a decade ago in a sailing accident .....
       Shirow comes tantalizingly close to Matsuoka, only to see him re-kidnapped in front of his eyes. Meanwhile, Ryoko Kano also resurfaces.
       Who is playing who here ? What is going on at the cult ? And are both former leaders really dead ?
       So many possibly exciting questions, so many dull resolutions.
       Yes, there is a cultist-scheme unfolding, and, yes, the media is shown to me easily manipulated and an enabler of bad things, but the payoff here isn't anywhere near great enough. Suzuki doesn't aim very high, and given how long it takes him (and hence the reader) to get where he's going, it's rather disappointing. A short last section, almost a decade after the main events, serves as a sort of epilogue, and even here the lessons that are meant to have been learnt fall pretty flat. What became of Shirow is only mentioned in passing, while Miyuki is shown to have been empowered (in a pretty bizarre way) and the cult is shown for what it is (i.e. pretty much just another religion, and worth taking about as seriously (i.e. not at all) -- but, like any other religion, finding a flock of adherents who like the message and the show).
       The Japanese attitudes presented in the book are interesting, from the formality at various encounters to how the police treat the kidnappings (they're very reluctant to get involved) to the way the media reacts. Suzuki obviously also means to show how people look to fulfill their ambitions and dreams, from lackadaisical Shirow, unsure whether or not to pursue Miyuki, to his star employee, who just dreams of flying, to Miyuki, willing to perform ignominious sex acts because she can't imagine anything better; part of the (peculiar) fun of the novel is how Suzuki presents these quests for fulfillment (doing so terribly sincerely, among other things).
       Suzuki does write decently enough, though at this length and with this little action it does occasionally feel plodding. There are a few odd translations ("With the sleeping baby strapped to her chest with a cord used for that purpose"), and, as so often in contemporary Japanese fiction, the sex scene descriptions are horrific ("Shirow's desire did not subside with one emission"), but on the whole it is readable enough. It's just not very exciting.

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Promenade of the Gods: Reviews: Other books by Suzuki Koji under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Suzuki Koji (鈴木光司) is apparently an authority on childrearing. He was born in 1957.

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