Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Science is scary


Well, two things had to happen eventually: I had to get a real, honest to gawd cold that I can't fight off (it's been 2 years!), and I had to finally finish Koji Suzuki's Ring trilogy with Loop. Because of the former I don't think my review of the latter is going to be at my usual level of mind-blowing awesomeness. Er, yeah.

So, Loop, is sci-fi horror designed, I'm sure, to get your lower brain stem freaking out re: viruses and contagion. Which is already happening pretty much everywhere right now anyway; I saw on the news the other day that 1/3 of all Canadians will no longer shake hands because they're afraid of getting the ol' H1N1. Every week there's either some new viral hysteria or some new nuance added to the current viral hysteria, and so I think this book might make some people's skin crawl rather severely.

But Loop is a fascinating conclusion to the trilogy and one I didn't see coming at all. I'm not sure Koji Suzuki saw it coming either; if he did, he's a crazy and dangerous genius of planning. Ring is a straightforward "dark corners and ghosties" sort of affair (far superior to the film versions, especially the American film one, which was pure shite) which I enjoyed incredibly and found to be suitably creepy. Spiral, the second book, also freaked me out because nothing gets my lower brain stem squirming like the idea of giving birth to something not quite human (and child zombies, of course), but I still didn't see where it was going to end up with Loop. In fact, the whole fear of viruses thing is much worse in Spiral than in the other two, so you might not want to read that if you're already showering with Purell or flavouring your morning coffee with it.

But, in fact, you needn't actually read either Ring or Spiral in order to understand Loop, for Suzuki brings back the most relevant plot points of those two books when they're required in Loop and, I think, in a pretty seamless way. However, I'm still glad I read the first two. And I may still be just a little bit afraid of leaving VHS tapes in the machine.

I think Loop is effective because it explores not just one, but two, of society's biggest fears as becoming horrifyingly connected: viruses and A.I. If you think we're not all afraid of the artificial intelligence, it's time to re-watch The Matrix. And that's all I can really say. Actually, I've probably already said too much, for Loop's plot is basically a series of revelations about one character's attempt to figure out where this crazy new cancer virus that is contagious like AIDS came from and what to do about it. It's nerdy, and scary, and convincing.

And that last adjective is probably at the heart of what makes Suzuki such a powerhouse of horror fiction in Japan - he's basically 3 fairly short steps ahead of where humans are now and so the science and logic of what he proposes makes total sense...which is the best kind of sci-fi AND the best kind of horror, as far as I'm concerned. But then, I'm the person who sat in the cinema watching The Blair Witch Project bored out of her tree while her then-boyfriend screamed like a 5-year old; I'm the kind of person to still have nightmares about one scene from a sci-fi book read 20 years ago in which this guy tears the computer pack out of the skin on his back. *Shudder*.

5 comments:

K said...

Hi Colleen, apropos timing, your book choice is. Here in the US there's a narrow segment of the population who is scared of H1N1 but positively terrified of an elaborate govermental conspiracy to inject victims with nano-information technology for all kinds of nefarious ends.

heidenkind said...

I'm not a big fan of horror fiction, but I do love to read books about AI. So I might give this one a try.

mel u said...

I have read Ring-I enjoyed it-I hope to read the other books in the Trilogy, maybe in 2010-thanks for your excellant review

An Anonymous Child said...

Oh, "Loop" sticks with you for a long-long-long time. I still shiver every time I think of the idea of a baby leaving the womb to discover the next level of existence. And I thought "Spiral" and "Ring" were mind-bending crazy. Nope, apparently "Loop" would be worse!

It's a pretty freaking good series. Disturbing, but if I still think about it constantly, I think it deserves some props, no?

Colleen said...

K: A week or so ago, on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart was making fun of people who are too afraid of the gov't to get the vaccine. Mostly these people were extreme right-wingers from the tv. It upset me to realize I have the sensibilities of a left-winger and the paranoias of a crazy right-winger. And you thought I was complicated and self-contradictory before. Oh dear.

heidenkind: Cool! What's your favourite book about AI?

mel u: If you enjoyed Ring, I'm sure you'll enjoy the rest of the trilogy.

An Anonymous Child: It absolutely does deserve some props. I'm looking forward to reading Birthday - have you gotten to it yet?