Ring by Koji Suzuki
Asakawa is a hardworking journalist who has climbed his way up from local-news beat reporter to writer for his newspaper's weekly magazine. A chronic workaholic, he doesn't take much notice when his seventeen-year-old niece dies suddenly -- until a chance conversation reveals that another healthy teenager died at exactly the same time, in chillingly similar circumstances. Sensing a story, Asakawa begins to investigate, and soon discovers that this strange simultaneous sudden-death syndrome also affected another two teenagers. Exactly one week before their mysterious deaths the four teenagers all spent the night at a leisure resort in the same log cabin. When Asakawa visits the resort, the mystery only deepens. A comment made in the guest book by one of the teenagers leads him to a particular vidoetape. When he watches it, instead of a movie he finds an odd collection of disparate images with a portentous message at the end: Those who have viewed these images are fated to die at this exact hour one week from now. Asakawa finds himself in a race against time -- he has only seven days to find the cause of the teenagers' deaths before it finds him. The hunt puts him on the trail of an apocalytpic power that will force Asakawa to choose between saving his family and saving civilization.
I really enjoyed this, and I think this was a lot to do with the fact that it differed greatly from the film (the Hollywood version, at least, I've never seen the Japanese one). In the film it's a female reporter who does all the investigating into the videotape, but in the book the protagonist is male. Many things are the same or similar, but I definitely preferred the book overall. It seems to me that the film was hugely overdramatised for cinema audiences, but that's irrelevant here.
It's not as scary as the film is. It reads more like a mystery novel than a horror, so if you're looking to be scared then you'll be disappointed. It's interesting to see where the idea for the film came from, though, and it is creepy in places.
The description of the videotape was my favourite part of the novel. Although I can't remember much of how it appeared in the film, this tape seemed creepier and a lot more melancholy than anything that cropped up in the film adaptation. It also gave a bit more depth to the story and provided the reader with a bit more of an understanding of the reasoning to everything happening in the way it did. It was also exciting to read the description of the scenes shown on the tape, knowing nothing of why they were there, or their meanings, and then throughout the pages of the novel being given a slow understanding of the tape's motives.
The book was extremely atmospheric and sinister. I found myself with a horrible feeling of dread every time I sat down to read it, and the suspense was absolutely electric. Suzuki's writing was wonderful and I'm already seeking out another of his novels to buy. Since this is a trilogy, I'm going to look into getting the second in the series.
I really enjoyed it overall, and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of mystery, or even supernatural reads. It's a good one to read if you've seen the film, but I imagine it'd be even better if you hadn't.
26 / 66 books. 39% done!