December, 19, 2017
Ring Trilogy by Koji Suzuki, who is often called the Japanese Stephen King, is an amazing set of three books. While everyone knows the first Ring novel mainly due to the movie, few have read the second two books, Spiral and Loop, and hence do not know the strange twists and turns the plot takes. I heartily recommend all three books.
But until recently I did not know there were other books is the series. Book #4, Birthday, is a collection of short stories based in the Ring universe. Now for the first time in English, we have the fifth book, E:Es, originally written in 2012 but released in English at the end of 2017. I would have initially wondered if two more books were needed since the Ring Trilogy wraps up beautifully and needs no followup. But Suzuki disagreed obviously and the author is always right.
S:Es is said by the publisher to be a stand alone novel set in the Ring universe. I'm not sure I agree with "stand alone" but the author gives you enough back ground to understand what is going on. I'm going to make the assumption every one knows the premise of Ring and the cursed videotape where people die seven days after watching it. The problem is the next two novels add so much more and I'm a little afraid to spoil it by saying what it is. So let's see if I can give an adequate synopsis of S:Es without giving too much away.
Takanori Tando, the son of a character in the trilogy, has come across a video of a hanging execution. The one executed was a killer of four women. But as Takanori watches the video several times he sees the perspective of the video is changing. His fiance Akane who is currently pregnant watches the video by accident and something connects with her. Takanori begins to realize Akane has a deeper connection and may be related to some of the personages involved in the original Ring videos and the virus it carried. The novel becomes a race for knowledge during a time when both Takanori's and Akane's lives may depend on that knowledge.
First, I think it is important to mention this is not about a tape that kills people in seven days even though that part of the story does figure into the final resolution. The plot has gone way beyond that. It is partly a mystery tale, partly a technological thriller thanks to all that computer and video equipment, and very much of a horror tale. S:Es succeeds because it fits so tightly into the sum of the trilogy's scenario but mostly because Takanori and Ando are interesting characters with fully realized dilemmas. They are embarking on a new life with child but Takanori is not sure this will be possible due to what he now knows. Kayane is also perplexed at the vague implications but dives into the fog hoping to see clearer skies ahead. This is not an easy book to follow, especially if you haven't read the first three, but Suzuki does manage to pull the complex plot together.
I'm not sure I can recommend you read this unless you read at least the first three books. However, if you have it fills in a number of areas and manages to be vastly entertaining. E:Es, like the others, are intellectual horror thrillers with a dose of science fiction. They are in some ways a mind game and I feel for that reason one is richer to have read them. E:Es is not as riveting as the Trilogy but still solid in its four stars.