Ring (Ring Series, Book 1)
Author: Koji Suzuki
Translated by Robert B. Rohmer and Glynne Walley
A last minute decision forever alters the life of Kazuyuki Asakawa in this gripping story about a video of incongruous images delivering a death threat to the viewer. Four mysterious deaths in Tokyo, which are thought to be connected, piques the interest of Asawaka, a journalist. This is a race against time to solve the mysteries of the videotape.
It’s been quite a long time since I read any book from the horror genre. Reading this book reminded me of those days when I enjoyed watching horror movies all by myself, much to my mother’s wonder. Watching horror movies by myself wasn’t a choice, just in case you’re wondering. Whenever I suggested that we watch a horror flick, no one in the family was really interested (even when I’ve prepared the usual popcorn and drinks) so I’m left sweating and shivering alone.
Remember those times when the products of your imagination- something you can’t see, terrified you? Well, Ring did not fail to reawaken those old feelings of instinctual terror.
From the first few pages of the book, one becomes aware of an unsettling presence. A strange feeling engulfs you and when you try to shake it off, you just can’t. There is a terrific connection between metaphysical horror and unreality. Since this is a race against time, one can’t help but sense an impending catastrophe waiting to happen.
The videotape’s message of impending death would definitely terrify anyone. Some might dismiss this as a hoax, but of course, one can’t take any chances. Asakawa enlists his friend Ryuji’s help. Understandably, Asakawa grows increasingly wary, petulant and distraught as the seventh day nears.
As Asakawa strives to counter the videotapes curse he is also faced with a dilemma, for when he chooses to show this to anyone, that person might end up dead after seven days too. When Ryuji agrees to help, Asakawa can’t help but admire Ryuji’s courage. Not only that, Ryuji proves to be the deus ex machina throughout the novel. He steadily utilizes his connections and shows his brilliance throughout the novel. One can’t discount the fact that despite Ryuji’s peculiar character, he is loyal to his friend and dedicated, just as Asakawa is, to solve the mystery behind the videotape and avert an impending disaster. Every little success they encounter into unfolding the secrets of the videotape gives the reader a sense of relief but it is never complete and merely fleeting.
One of the strongest points of this dark and compelling book is the almost tangible and perceptible sense of sinister evil permeating the story. What is so scary is that the object of fear isn’t a physical being but rather an invisible entity that terrifies because of its unreality and ‘absence’ in the story.
The book touches on themes about metaphysical horrors that might be easily dismissed as preposterous. I would agree that the book is a concoction of somewhat fantastical and absurd elements but the writing is very convincing, so much so that the story becomes slightly plausible and even conceivable to even the most craven readers out there. If one expects bloodshed in this book then you are wrong. It is a very clever story, not the usual blood and gore you might expect from a horror book. The book expects you to maximize your imagination while it constantly spurns out the twists and turns that make this book so thrilling. The interest for the story never lags and it’s surprisingly stimulating. That’s saying a lot. I’ve read the usual horror books which weren’t very stimulating imagination wise, thanks to the lurid descriptions of horrifying events. This book expects you to use the most of your mental faculties. Not knowing what you are afraid of amplifies your imagination indeed.
Another thing worth sharing is the book’s striking stance to impress upon us the vastness of facts relating to the paranormal and subjects concerning clairvoyance or ESP. The author offered these facts with clarity, perhaps not to be believed immediately, but to aid a reader in swallowing much of the difficult paranormal stuff the book presented.
The author also didn’t fail to develop characters that we can sympathize with. The characters are distinct, never set aside and belittled despite the weighty subjects of the book. Their vulnerabilities and fears transfer to your own world making you aware of your own vulnerabilities.
I have left out a great deal of the story deliberately, but only to ensure a future reader of the experience of suspense and thrills this book has to offer. I assure you, there are many of those surprising details that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
A terrifying and suspenseful book about evil and horrors that are way beyond our comprehension. Expect a lot of twists and turns, and an ending that might surprise even the most avid fan of the horror genre.
Ring (Ringu) is “one of the most frightening horror films in Japan” [Source]. One of the most obvious difference in the book and the movie is the protagonist. Asakawa is a male journalist in the book but in the movie, we have Reiko, a female reporter. Let me just say that while Sadako in the book was scary enough to give me goosebumps, Sadako in the Japanese film was terrifying. I’m saying that because I’m actually seeing that evil entity I’ve been talking about in the book review. Needless to say, there are many things from the book that were inevitably changed to suit the film. I can’t say much more as I might divulge the book’s secrets.
For a budget of $48 million and later garnering more than $200 million in the box office, the American version proved that it was a financial success and was quite popular when it was released in 2002. Like the Japanese film, a woman served as the hero in the person of Naomi Watts. That long-haired girl, Samara (vs Sadako in the original film) creeping out of the television set is downright creepy. I liked that part better in the American version.
I would say that both films were suspenseful and terrifying, but I prefer the Japanese version more. Sadako in the Japanese film adaptation is far more creepy. Sure her long hair covers much of her face and she’s wearing that same white dress in the American version but Sadako in the Japanese film doesn’t show her face. Remember what I said about not knowing what you’re afraid of? Well, there you are.
I sat there absorbing all these visuals and sounds, my imagination running low because all the disturbing images have already been provided for. I sat there somewhat connecting the film scenes to those I read from the book (which were very few). There’s a huge difference in how Sadako, the terrifying entity in the book, was portrayed in the film. A lot of things were changed obviously, so if you would really like to appreciate the films, I would recommend starting with the book first. For those who have watched it, reading the book is highly recommended. I sure am glad that I read the book before I watched the films.
- Koji Suzuki is a famous author in Japan and is often called Japan’s answer to Stephen King. He is fluent in English. He graduated from Keio University.
- While Ring was published in 1991, it took 12 years before an English translation was made. The book was translated by Robert B. Rohmer and Glynne Walley.
- There was reference to the religious mystic En no Ozunu in the book. I found out later that the story about him being banished to Izu Oshima was true. There is a Wikipedia article about him.
- While Koji Suzuki currently lives in Tokyo, he was born in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan.
- The author has won the Excellence Prize of the Japan Fantasy Novel Awards in 1990 and the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers for “Spiral”, the second book in the Ring series. [Source]