May I Have a Large Container of Coffee

suzuki_edgeDon’t think of U2 band members but rather those popular books that became the Ring franchise at the movies. Yes, the author is Koji Suzuki and, although not a part of the Ring series, he has returned to the successful and highly profitable genre involving a highly technical reality that rapidly turns into unspeakable horror. The work in question is titled, Edge (with apologies to The).

World Literature Today gives a fine review of the novel.

In Edge, Koji Suzuki devises an inspired premise and pummels it half to death. Suzuki has been touted as Japan’s answer to Stephen King. Wrong. Suzuki may be the answer, but King is not the question. Suzuki lacks King’s gift for weaving seamless stories peopled with multidimensional characters. More important, Suzuki dislikes horror, describing himself in a 2005 interview as “the complete opposite of a ‘horror’ sort of person.” …

The novel’s major strength is protagonist Saeko Kuriyama. Never having known her mother, Saeko grew up devoted to her father, Sinochiro. He raised her to be knowledgeable and inquisitive, peppering her with minilectures on topics ranging from ancient mysteries to quantum physics. Then, when she was seventeen, he vanished—a trauma that forever warped her psyche.

Now, thirty-five years old and recently divorced, Saeko remains obsessed by his disappearance, deeply neurotic, and detached from life. In her capacity as a freelance journalist, she is about to be pulled by the irresistible force of proliferating disappearances throughout Japan into a confrontation with no less a mystery than the ontological structure of the universe itself—which, events hint, may be unraveling.

Unlikely as it may sound, the culprit is mathematics. Physicist Naoki Isogai struggles to explain: “Apparently the value of Pi has changed.” Worse, “[t]he Riemann hypothesis has collapsed. . . . It’s a disaster, a nightmare scenario.”

imagesLet’s stop right there. It appears that Suzuki has just enough knowledge to be dangerous. This super spooky sudden change to the value of Pi caused a bigger rift in the logic of Edge than any San Andreas fault ever could. Pi is not at first a number which is then applied to mathematics, it is the mathematical representation of the relationship between the diameter of a circle and its circumference.

One summer in High School we were given the assignment to calculate the value of Pi in four or five ways. Back then we were happy and the world still turned if Pi was non-repeating to a dozen decimal places. Edge‘s premise that after a supercomputer computes Pi to the 500 billionth place it begins to repeat is not only silly but hardly the stuff of horror. The worst that I can envision is that I can’t get tires anymore that fit on my old bicycle wheels.

I would be remiss if I failed to at least mention the Wormholes. I suspect Suzuki got this idea from Time Bandits but maybe it was Star Trek.

Suzuki undermines Edge with awkward prose, inconsistent characterization, and inept metaphors. He is irrepressibly redundant, repeating information as though writing for readers with ADD. Further potholes fill the narrative road: information dumps on a wild range of topics, including Japanese folklore, black holes, plate tectonics, the history of hieroglyphs, the origin of sight and the evolution of the eye, geomagnetism, antimatter, wormholes, sunspots, the demise of the dinosaurs, enough ancient-civilization mysteries to delight Erich von Däniken, and mathematics. Lots of mathematics.

Despite the less than glowing review of Edge, World Literature Today suggests that it is a good book to read if you are interested in the Japanese approach to the Apocalyse (it’s not Godzilla?). However, they then immediately undercut the recommendation by introducing another novel that was superior in its message and quality. Go figure.

I think Edge was a mess that probably should be skipped by all but the most genre-smitten readers … there’s so much better out there.

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