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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Gold Rush

Yu Miri

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To purchase Gold Rush

Title: Gold Rush
Author: Yu Miri
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998 (Eng. 2002)
Length: 286 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Gold Rush - US
Gold Rush - UK
Gold Rush - Canada
Gold Rush - France
Gold Rush - Deutschland
Oro rapace - Italia
  • Japanese title: ゴールドラッシュ
  • Translated by Stephen Snyder

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Our Assessment:

B : dark tale of lost childhood

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Time . 1/7/2002 Isaac Adamson
World Lit. Today . 4-6/2003 Celeste Loughman

  From the Reviews:
  • "Gold Rush reads a little like a Nipponized version of Bret Easton Ellis' cause macabre American Psycho, with a healthy cut of Murakami sprinkled in. There is the same shrugged response to ultraviolence and a sense that somehow society has let its children down. Grownups are just bigger, more disappointing versions of their kids, and parental supervision is nothing more than a distant rumor. However, where American Psycho, or for that matter Coin Locker Babies, retreated to the more comfortable perspective of satire, Gold Rush is bracingly and clinically realist." - Isaac Adamson, Time

  • "Yu has created a believable portrait of a lost child whose rage at the absence of love and meaning transforms him into an ugly, violent creature. Regret for the loss of traditional values as a result of Japan's economic bubble is common among contemporary Japanese writers, and Gold Rush continues that theme. It is a grim book, but its grimness is tempered by the restoration of moral order that begins with the affirmation of life as an essential value." - Celeste Loughman, World Literature Today

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:

       Gold Rush centers around 14 year-old Kazuki, the youngest child in a catastrophically dysfunctional Japanese family. His father is Hidetomo Yuminaga, who has made a fortune running pachinko parlors. Dad makes enough to send Kazuki and Kazuki's older sister to "nationally know prep school" Hosei Academy, buying them places there. Like practically everything and everyone in the book even this elite school is "crassly commercial", putting up with the likes of Hidetomo Yuminaga (and even making him a trustee) in exchange for his generous donations.
       Mindless pachinko is equally symptomatic of the society described in this book. Kazuki has little but contempt for the customers who are the source of the family wealth: "The pachinko players were a step down from barnyard fowl." His father's business is organized under the less than auspicious name of Group Icarus; the game-parlor that is its centrepiece was once known as Treasure Hall, but is now called Vegas. Kazuki is the appointed heir, and he is already a familiar figure at Vegas.
       Kazuki has two older siblings. First-born son Koki suffers from an incurable disorder, Williams Syndrome, that has left him a naïve, friendly innocent -- completely unfit for the cynical world around him. Still, he manages quite well, with all keeping a watchful eye on him; he is also Kazuki's last real tie to any sort of humanity. Older sister Miho, though still of high school age, already strays far from home, living her own life (and failing quite miserably at it). The children's mother, Miki, renounced wealth and money, believing it to be responsible for her beloved oldest son's disease; she lives apart from the family and hardly ever sees the children.
       Kazuki is a man-child: a young boy, but one often treated with inappropriate deference. His father dotes on him and willingly gives him large sums of money. Money and indulgence suffice to excuse the inexcusable acts of violence Kazuki is involved in at the beginning of the book -- one of the few life-lessons Kazuki seems to take to heart.
       Kazuki has little respect for the adult world, and none for that of adolescence. Even his father, blind to most of Kazuki's fault's, recognizes: "he's hit an obstacle along the normal road to becoming an adult. Somehow he's made a detour into some horrible world all his own." Kazuki no longer bothers going to school, though he still has some ambitions of learning and bettering himself. But his future lies in the pachinko empire, and it is this he sets his sights on. It is his due, and he demands it far earlier than is realistic.
       Taking everything into his hands Kazuki begins to decide even over life and death -- and kills his father. Hidetomo Yuminaga is hardly really missed at first. Still, some of his employees, friends, and his mistress do wonder what happened. And most quickly jump to the conclusion that Kazuki probably did him in. It doesn't seem to bother them all that much -- that's just the kind of world they live in. Most just try to see how they can best position themselves, given this turn of events.
       Kazuki tries to take over the pachinko empire -- an idea only slight less ridiculous than it sounds. Guilt and despair do gnaw at him, and he reaches out for help but none are able or willing to give him what he needs. What he needs most of all is a father-figure -- and he even asks one of the characters to become an Ersatz-father -- but it is far too late for that.
       One of the characters, who had grown up in an orphanage, saw in Kazuki's eyes a look she was familiar with: "the look of boys victimizing someone else to escape their own sad reality." It is this, Yu insists, that drives Kazuki.
       Because Gold Rush is so exaggerated -- such easy wealth, such cruelty, so much violence with so little consequence for the perpetrators, such dereliction of parental duties (by both father and mother) -- it is almost too far from the believable to be effective. Kazuki really is both man and child -- and though still much more child he is allowed, again and again and again, to act like an adult and yet almost never held at all responsible for those acts. To Yu childhood is still an excuse. Society, perhaps, and the true adults, not allowing for childhood, bear much more of the responsibility. But the argument, as presented here, is not entirely convincing.
       Still, Yu has fashioned an interesting novel. Most of the characters are well-drawn: Kazuki, especially, but also his brother, as well as the yakuza Kanamoto, and several of the others. The roles seem a bit too convenient: the mother who leaves her children behind, the innocent brother, Dad's mistress. Some of the scenes, too, are dreadfully ugly. But many are also very effective, and there are enough where Yu convincingly captures adolescent confusion in Kazuki's fumbling words and deeds.
       An interesting though disturbing read.

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Gold Rush: Reviews: Yu Miri: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Yu Miri (柳美里) is a leading Japanese author. She won the Akutagawa Prize in 1997.

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