by Ryu Murakami (English translation)
Gore: Done with visceral finesse
Sex: Dirty in all the right places
Angst: Like an ice pick to the gut
I read this book in one night, and the next night I went out and bought "Almost Transparent Blue" (also by Ryu Murakami). I read that one last night, went online and bought "In the Miso Soup." As soon as I get another coupon from BORDERS, I'll go buy "69." Though I am pounding these novels like fast food cheeseburgers, rest assured this is not literary fast food. "Piercing" is a fantastic, complex tale about the steps some people take to keep their lives together.
The story centers around a young man named Kawashima, and a very simple premise: he is afraid that he is going to stab his newborn daughter with an ice pick. For ten nights in a row he looms over the crib, ice pick in hand, and tells himself it would never happen. Except he knows that it might, and that would be bad. He had a good job, a wonderful wife, and a bright future. Why throw that away, when he can be proactive about finding a solution?
The story starts out quiet and contemplative, during which we get to know Kawashima extremely well. He is a complicated person, who I found easy to sympathize with. Others may disagree. As his story progresses, Kawashima's well laid plans unwind slowly then unravel, as present events intertwine with old memories and deep psychological wounds. The second half of the novel is as brutal, and has a rare treat: a ending I truly didn't see coming.
Of course, one always worries with novels translated from other languages. I didn't see any red flags while I was reading, and my gut tells me "Piercing" was translated with extreme care. I recommend this to anyone who is into psychological horror, and anyone who thinks Japan can be summed up by anime and Hello Kitty. Every country bleeds. All you need is someone to show you where.