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Death Sentences Paperback – February 24, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; Tra edition (February 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816654557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816654550
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #965,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Originally published in 1984 and available in English for the first time, this is the first novel by a noted Japanese science-fiction author. The story, which involves a mysterious poet and his strange, surreal writings, bears more than a passing resemblance to the mind-bending novels of Philip K. Dick (to whom the author has often been compared), and it is definitely not intended for readers who are unwilling to invest a certain amount of mental energy in the process of reading. The book defies easy categorization—it has elements of science fiction, horror, and the detective novel—and its story, which begins in the mid-1980s and then jumps backward about four decades and then forward again, is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, remaining alluring but unfocused until the bigger picture begins to form. Fans of well-known SF writers like Dick, Gibson, and Bradbury—the author’s poetic prose style is especially reminiscent of Bradbury—should definitely be steered in this book’s direction. --David Pitt


"A hard-boiled, sharply surreal fable about the power of the written word." —William Gibson

"Deeply rich in atmosphere and idea, Kawamata's first novel to be translated into English was a bestseller in its native Japan upon its publication in 1984. It deftly establishes the power of the central poems by showing their effects on the emotions, minds, bodies, and very consciousnesses of their readers; and proceeds to build living characters, central and minor, for their dangerous potential to impact." —Publishers Weekly

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By B. Capossere TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
How to describe the copy of Death Sentences, by Kawamata Chiaki (translated by Thomas Lamarre and Kazuko Y. Hehrens) I recently received? Take a heaping helping of Philip K. Dick, a dollop or two of Ray Bradbury, layer into a pan, then frost liberally with my undergrad survey course in artistic movements--particular the week or so on surrealism. Let sit for a few decades (it was originally published in Japan in 1984)--you can pass the time by watching the Japanese horror movie The Ring, which shares a similar plot device. When the timer dings, sit back and read. If you dare.

The "if you dare" is, of course, a reference to the Ring-like plot device. In this case, a text entitled "The Gold of Time" that eventually kills its readers. Written in the 1940s by a young surrealist poet named Hu Mei (or Who May), the text wended its way through the surrealist movement (we get a litany of actually-happened-this-way deaths of surrealist writers and artists, then was buried for some time before reappearing in 1980s Japan, where it began spreading even more quickly. Eventually, it makes its way to a future Mars, becoming of great concern to those with monetary interests on that planet's successful settlement.

The novel is divided into several sections and points-of-view, mostly wholly separated by time. In the early 20th Century, we follow Andre Breton, a French poet who was one of the main founders of the Surrealist movement. In 80s Japan our main character is Sakakibara, head of a tiny artistic press. A few years into the release of the poem to the public, a Japanese secret policeman named Sakamoto is trying to put the genie back in the bottle.
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By Jopa S Ruchkoj on June 27, 2014
Format: Paperback
I bought that book because it was choosed for discussion in book club at our Japanese language school. Book is good, little weird, and I read it with great interest. However, it has quite weak plot, and ending was messed up. I did expect something more interesting. Dobaded!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beautiful, sad, complex. From the idea that poetry can create and alternative reality to the most convincing (and funny) device of taking the Surrealists as characters, this books is full of literary surprises. Just a word of warning for fans: Death Sentences is Sci Fi only if Philip K. Dick is Sci Fi.
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