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Book Review: From The Fatherland, With Love By Ryu Murakami

A major new novel by the critically acclaimed author of Coin Locker Babies!

From the Father Land with LoveIn a possible worst-case scenario, Murakami has plunged Japan into despair as North Korea has made its move to attack and take over Fukuoka, holding the people hostage. The North Korean government plots to invade and start with three plans of action; one consisting of nine commandos sneaking into Japan to occupy certain areas, two happens two hours later with a drop of four SOF air companies who will take over the beachhead, while three has a hundred and twenty thousand troops landing on Hakata Bay, and the name of the operation is From the Fatherland, with Love.

If nothing is done about these invaders, more will come, 120,000 more to be exact, and what they have come to know as their country will be no more if they get the chance. No one else in the known world has decided to help Japan out, so they realise they are now at the mercy of the invading North Korean forces. Or at least that is what it seems as within Japan, a network of former criminals get together to see what happens once they invade, and whether it is worth their while getting involved.

From the outset, the reader is treated to Murakami’s acerbic wit and social commentary on the times. There is a long list of characters in this novel, so many they have to be listed at the beginning so the reader can refer back to them so as not to cause any confusion. The characters are put into several sections, the longest being the Ishihara Group. When looking through the lists, they might seem normal, or run of the mill, but once you get to the Ishihara Group, that is when the laughing starts due to the descriptions given with the characters.

The first character to be introduced is Nobue who is one of the Ishihara Group. He is something of a local legend that even the Yakuza won’t get involved with him. Stories of his exploits with making bombs, or killing people have been the topic of many men’s discussions. Nobue was friends with Ishihara who works at a refuge, giving young men a place to live, but Nobue has found himself homeless, living in a park with only a tent to keep him from the elements and a rooster called Ken-chan to annoy him. His life is largely due to the economic climate, and sees many like him filling the park, fast becoming an eyesore that warrants a six meter fence being erected to hide the shame of having so many homeless. Nobuo’s life is similar to the other characters in here. He had got caught blowing up part of Fuchu City along with his friend Ishihara; the effect of that meant he got disowned by his parents, and had no access to credit cards or a social security number, thinking he would be stuck in the park, homeless forever living off of handouts, without any hope of a reprieve.

Though there is a lot of build up in the story, portraying the Ishihara Group as less than decent citizens, the rest of the Japanese government let their land be taken over by the invaders rather than do something about it, leaving Nobuo and his men to stand up to them and show that they can fight the enemy even though their government is busy procrastinating over taking a stand against them. Murakami gathers the tension from the first page with each chapter introducing a character either from Japan or North Korea. He manages to convey the suspicion the Japanese government have of an up coming invasion, though there is no declaration of it until page 161 that takes place on April in 2011. The Ishihara Group watch the invasion take place on TV and see what happens to the people en masse. While they had been beaten and abused by their own people for being poor and homeless, they see the more fortunate people of Fukuoka being treated in the same way. Instead of finding it horrifying that an invasion is taking place, they find it interesting, almost thrilling viewing this onslaught as an outsider. Finally the ones who hurt them are being given a taste of their own medicine, and are being put into a terrifying situation, one where they might not be able to live through.

Abandoned and badly treat by their own people is how Yamada and Mori have felt most of their lives and they don’t know whether to fight against the North Koreans or shake their hand. Some even want to join them and aid their invasion against Japan. Through nearly the entire novel, readers will wonder whether they will take up arms against the enemy or aid them and that is part of what makes this a long, yet highly thrilling read. In From the Father-Land with Love, readers will get to know nearly 21 members of the Ishihara Group, and instead of showing them as monsters, Murakami gives us reasons why they grew up the way they did which makes readers question the issues of right and wrong.

About Author: 

Ryu Murakami is a prolific writer of contemporary Japanese fiction. His first novel got him awarded the Akutagawa Prize in 1976, while his other novels Coinlocker, Babies, Sixty-Nine, Poplular Hits of the Showa Era were also praised for their originality and interesting themes. His other work, Audition, Tokyo Decadence and Because of You span his film work to date.

Details:

Author: Ryu Murakami

Format: Hardback and Kindle

Pages: 664 pages

Publish date: 9th May 2013

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Available from all good booksellers including Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Reviewer Profile:

Sandie has a keen interest in Anime, Manga and all things Japanese. Her interests other than reviewing are Japanese Language, dress and culture, liking Harajuku Girls, Gothic Lolita, folding some neat Origami, drawing her own Manga characters, writing her own Manga stories and everything in between.

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