Monday, July 11, 2016

Suzuki Reinvents Ring's Premise in Thrilling Sequel

Spiral (Ring, #2) by Koji Suzuki (1995; Vertical, 2016, 283pp.)

In Ring, newspaper reporter Asakawa and logic professor Ryuji tackled the mystery of a cursed videotape that left four teenagers dead. They learned that the videotape, which causes you to croak in a week’s time after watching it, was created by a beautiful, but vengeful young psychic who died at the bottom of a well. Despite their efforts, Ryuji succumbed to the videotape’s curse, and, in Spiral, winds up on the dissecting table of his former grad school classmate. The last person Ando expected to dissect is his old friend, but even more disturbing than that is the result of his autopsy findings: in addition to a perfectly healthy man dying from a sudden heart attack, Ryuji was also suffering from smallpox. To those who don’t know, smallpox was eradicated by scientists decades ago, so its appearance on an autopsy report should be impossible—except a little investigative work reveals that at least seven other people have died of similar causes. To make things even more bizarre, Ando finds an encoded note in Ryuji’s stomach cavity which may have the answers to defeating this mysterious new “ring virus.”

In this souped-up science fiction/medical thriller, Suzuki reinvents his curse, causing it to evolve from the simple case of a cursed videotape to a radical new life-form. The author’s new explanation for the curse is interesting, well thought-out, and works well with the rules previously laid down in the Ring universe. On the downside, however, Suzuki spends way too much time educating the reader on code-breaking and DNA in order to validate his premise, and thus runs the risk of alienating impatient readers to an otherwise excellent thriller.

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