Book Review – The Ring by Koji Suzuki


The Ring novels by Koji Suzuki and it’s subsequent film adaptations have got to be one of THE most popular titles in modern day horror-based film and literature.  Published in 1991, it was made into a Japanese film in 1998, with an American remake in 2002. As a kid, I’ve watched both the Japanese and American films. I know many critics have applauded it for being ‘psychologically creepy’ but it has never left a deep impression in me.  I’ve actually forgotten how the actual movie was like. So when I saw the book up for sale at the local bookstore, I decided to grab a copy to read.

Set in modern day Japan, it revolves around a journalist (Asakawa), who, after the death of his niece and three other teens after visiting a cabin in the mountains, decides to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding their death. His investigations lead him to the cabin where he discovers a videotape which the teens had allegedly watched a week prior to their deaths. Curious, he watches the tape himself. Unknown to him is that the tape contains a powerful grudge conjured by one Sadako Yamamura, a dead telepathic whose curse carries on in the form of the videotape. Those watching it will die within seven days, unless they follow instructions at the end of the tape, which the teens have erased as part of a joke. Left with no hints, Asakawa must race against time to solve the riddle using his connections and skills as a journalist.

(Spoiler: I know one famous scene in the movie is the image of Sadako ‘crawling’ out of the TV set, but the book is rather different. She is never portrayed as having long hair covering her face in a ghostly white robe, as in the movie.)

Right from the get-go, the book wields a grip over the reader. It starts off describing how Asakawa’s niece was ‘visited’ by Sadako after a week from watching the tape. The tension and creepiness level is impalpable: it practically radiates off the pages. For people with vivid imaginations like mine, who find horror novels scarier than actual visual representations, it was nail-biting. You can almost feel as if you’re in the character’s shoes, and that once you turn behind, Sadako would be there.  The entire novel had me holding my breath, even though there was very little description of gore or violence. Suzuki Koji plays with the mind and things we fear on a subterranean conciousness – the unknown and the unseen. It leaves a long lasting impression compared to cheap shock stunts.

I loved the twist at the ending (I kind of knew since I’ve watched the movies, but it was still a brilliant turn) where the protagonist thought it was over.. and BAM. It’s not. Everything they had been working on was in the wrong direction. That sense of relief the reader feels when he thinks it’s over comes back full-fold. Suzuki (well the translator as well!) has a real way with using simple words that brings out vivid imagery. There are some things that are never explained, but the whole novel works out better that way.

The RIng is the first of a three-part novel. I’ve yet to read the other two, but if they’re anything like this, I’d gladly buy them.

I read a review which described the book as ‘one.. you really can’t bear to read and want to lock away and bury away as far as possible, yet at the same time each word is enticing, putting you in a trance, making you read on.’

I think that’s the closest about how it made me feel. I had to put it underneath a pile of books coz I have this silly thought whereby it would somehow come to life if I left it on top. hahaaa. Definitely a great read if you’re a horror fan. Just try not to read it before going to sleep like I did.

Rating: 8/10.

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