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Strangers Paperback – January 20, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
And then one day he walks into a nightclub and encounters the spitting image of his father - who died decades before, but not only looks and acts exactly the same but seems to recognize Harada and see nothing unusual about their bumping into each other this way. And through his father he also meets with his mother, who also died decades before.
Is Harada so disconnected with the world that his mind is inventing this new situation to have something to be a part of? Is he already so much removed from the land of the living that it's opened up some kind of doorway through which the dead can pass? Have his parents returned of their own volition to try and help their unfortunate, dysfunctional son learn to live again? Or are these entities even his true parents at all? Mysteries and possibilities abound, and as the book progresses more and more of them seem to involve Kei.
A spooky and engaging book that, for all the cynicism of its central figure, also brings the opposite set of emotions and viewpoints into excellent play, "Strangers" is a great addition to the library of any fan of horror, mystery, or even the social-commentary-through-character-study genre of literature. Great book!
And then there are his new acquaintances. The fragile, mysterious Kei, who lives in the same building he does and shows up at his door late one evening. And the man he meets in a darkened theatre near where he grew up, the man who bears a striking resemblance to Harada's father, dead since Harada was twelve.
When I first bought "Strangers," I saw that it was touted as a ghost story on the cover, and I was concerned that it would ruin the surprise in the story. Fortunately, I was mostly wrong. It's not an obvious ghost story at the beginning, but from the first few pages, when screenwriter Harada becomes aware that he is alone in his apartment building at night, it has the feel of a good ghost story. This is a feeling which is built upon as the story progresses, gradually and subtly. There are no "gotcha" moments, nothing which jumps out and declares itself as That Spooky Thing. This isn't a book about shambling zombies or ghosts coming to attack you out of the television. This is a story about creeping dread and the growing feeling that something, somewhere you can't quite see it, is just a little bit off.
In terms of execution, overall it comes off very well. Some of the dialogue may seem a little clunky (I suspect that this may be to do with the translation), but most of it works just fine. The prose is spare and efficient, enough to convey the essentials and leave much up to the reader's imagination, which I prefer for a story like this one -- nothing is so frightening or poignant as that we we can imagine for ourselves. The story develops steadily and smoothly, with no real lags or rushed points.
And as it develops, as Harada learns more about the things he is experiencing, we also come to see that it is a story about the distances we create between us. This is a very modern Japanese ghost story, with modern themes and ideas that aren't just scary...they're more than a little bit sad, too. The central tragedy of the book is that all of Harada's experiences are brought about by his own choices, and the consequences they have on the people around him.
So, when you see the words "ghost story" used to describe this novel, don't think of shock-value scares or easy, predictable conclusions. This is very much a book of building tension and ever-increasing unease, and very well done. It may just make you look twice at the strangers you see around you, every day.
The ghosts disappear near the end and that is no more explained than was their appearance in the first place.In many stories that would be irritating.Here, it's no problem.The ghosts are mostly a vehicle for exploring the psyche of the main character.(But let me be clear , this is not ambiguous TURN OF THE SCREW territory.These are definitely ghosts).Ghost story lovers should appreciate the novels ingenuity.Yet , those who aren't can enjoy it as a good portrait of a lonely alienated man in contemporary urban Japan.