‘S’ feels like the best of ‘Ring’ with large parts in summary form as told by other characters. In some ways it’s an introduction to new readers and a refresher course for others. At times though it seems to get in the way of the story at hand, especially when you are reminded of how good the previous books were. ‘S’ does have it’s own story and mystery to unveil though, the problem is that if you have read the previous books, particularly ‘Ring’ and ‘Spiral’ then you’ll know quite a few of what the big reveals and mysteries are, if not you’ll be able to at least guess them.
The biggest places the book falls are as so, it has a supernatural aspect to it. Now this works fine with the movies because there has always been that aspect, Sadako’s curse is exactly what it is, a curse. In the novels though it is a virus is the guise of a curse. The books have always taken a more scientific approach to the Ring virus and almost all mysteries thus forth, yet here there are elements not really explained in the context of the Ring world, instead (and that brings me to my second point) they are explained in the context of ‘The Loop Program’ in such a wave of the wand way. I was worried as I was hitting the 200 page mark that the story didn’t look like it was going to be wrapped up before I reached the end of the book, at least not in a satisfying way. Alas it does get wrapped up in a “I want to finish writing this thing before bedtime manner” as we have a character appear in 2D form on a computer screen to give a long exposition as to what has been going on all this time. In a way, it’s easy to feel cheated. The main antagonist is even dealt with in an offhand manner which the main character reads about in a news report. Any real confrontation is done in a dream like Haruki Murakami way, it reminded me a bit of the final confrontation at the end of ‘The Wind up Bird Chronicle’.
At the end of the book there are two mysteries that are left for the reader to ponder.
Who is Seiji Kawashia and why did he have a relationship with Sadako?
He is somewhat related to Kaoru Futami from the book ‘Loop’ but that character died in ‘The Birthday’, sacrificing himself to destroy the Ring Virus.
What is Akane’s true power and did she actually kill Niimura? Was it really so easy as to do that? Or was it perhaps the spirit of Sadako, her mother, whom she sees from time to time?
There is another novel ‘Tide’ which follows the story of Kawashida which might blow the lid off these questions. The main character at the end of the novels chooses to go back to bed rather than deal with them and his wife (the clone of Sadako) is too underdeveloped to really know what she thinks.
Am I glad I bought the book after all that? Hell yeah I am. It’s still a page turner because all these years later the story of Ring and Sadako is still so compelling and after a gap of over 10 years between this and the last Ring novel I was really hungering for some more.
Translation Notes: I’d like to say first that I haven’t translated any books but as someone who has read the entire series of Ring Novels I have to say that it seems like the translator made a meal of this one.
There were parts of the book that I had to read again and again just to try and get what the translator was trying to say in English. The most obvious is from early on when during the cursed tape a man hangs himself on the video and the action is described as “crashing through the ceiling”, yet his toes don’t touch the ground and he actually hangs “from” the ceiling, so how is it that he is crashing through it again and again? It’s confusing and unclear when the description of the cursed tape should be handled delicately. A few scenes like this I found difficult to picture in my mind due to the aloof way in which they are written.
Here’s a few more “The body fell with deliberate speed”. Uh OK, so we are talking about the speed? How fast is deliberate? Or is it with the intention of deliberate action? I checked for a definition of this and found a definition in a law dictionary stating “the law or a regulation needs to be maintained or instituted without delay.” Which doesn’t match a hanging scene in a book.
Here’s another, “as the bird flies” – “As the crow flies” is the correct idiom, not bird.
These parts of the novel did spoil it a bit but I put it solely down to the translator and any proof readers, I had not encountered such problems with the other books . Vertical Inc, I expect better.
Favorite Quote: “When signs match, it often means that phenomena that appear unrelated at first sight are connected underneath.”