Translated from the Japanese by Andrew Driver
I bought this book because I saw the following phrase on the cover:
A Japanese master to be ranked alongside Haruki Murakami
I hadn’t heard of the author, but I’m afraid I have no self control when I see the word Murakami – I just have to see if it is anywhere near as good as books like Kafka on the Shore or The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I’m really pleased with my impulse buy – Paprika is as weird as anything Murakami has written!
Paprika is a science fiction novel, originally published in Japan in 1993. The book focuses on a group of scientists who have invented a machine which allows them to enter the dreams of others. The team use their invention to treat mentally ill patients, particularly those with schizophrenia. Everything goes wrong when one of the devices goes missing and is used as a weapon to turn people insane.
This book is very strange! Much of it is set within peoples’ dreams where anything can happen:
Atsuko was trying hard to vanquish the demons of sleep. “It’s just like a dream. A dream. No. This is a dream.”
Yes, I’m sure it is. ” The reporter suddenly sprouted a cow’s head, which flopped down low in front of her. The weight brought her to her senses with a sharp intake of breath, but the cow’s slobber still hung from her mouth. “Do excuse me. I’ve only eaten one helping of rice porridge this morning.” And she slurped the slobber back into her mouth.
Unfortunately most of the people have violent or sexual dreams and so scenes like the one above are quite rare. The tone is kept light so I didn’t find the book disturbing, but I know this sort of thing isn’t for everyone!
The plot was gripping throughout, but it wasn’t as thought provoking as I’d have liked. The book seemed to focus on the battles between good and evil instead of how much our dreams tell us about ourselves and to what extent we can be manipulated through unconscious thought.
I loved the way Japanese mythology was prevalent throughout this book and the fact that you could never predict what was going to happen next.
Recommended to anyone who enjoys reading bizarre Japanese fiction.
Have you read any of Yasutaka Tsutsui’s other books?