Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzimiya by Nagaru Tanigawa is a sci-fi YA novel written in Japanese and translated into English by Chris Pai. I found this little book when I was in New York in December, strolling through the children's section of the Strand bookstore. At first I thought the novel might be Middle Grade rather than YA but then I noticed the "AGES 15 & UP" sign on the back cover. 

To be honest, I didn't finish reading it. It's barely 200 pages in length but I felt so disconnected to the story, the characters and the writing I didn't see what I would gain in reading the last quarter. It definitely had potential in the beginning and even in the middle(ish), and I could forgive all the unexplained things that were introduced at the start because the author was beginning to explain things further on.... but then about 2/3 of the way through, events got a bit crazy, I felt lost and I didn't expect or want my reading of the book to be a difficult one. A lot of time travel/alien things got thrown at me and I felt like they weren't introduced in a way that enticed me to find out more, instead I felt the opposite. So that's mainly why I didn't read on after that point.
But anyway let me tell you a little about the plot.

The protagonist is Kyon, a boy (and also an alien with ESP) who goes to North High school and is in a club called the SOS Brigade with his friends (who are also aliens or time travellers; one is even a robot). It's one week before Christmas Eve and the leader of the group, Hiruhi, is decorating their clubroom and planning their Christmas party. The next day, Kyon wakes up in a parallel universe. The SOS Brigade doesn't exist, Hiruhi doesn't even go to North High, the girl Kyon likes doesn't recognise him, all his friends are now human, his cat doesn't talk anymore and the only chance he has to find out what's happened to him is through his shy, no-longer-robot friend, Nagato. 
That's the simple basis of the novel. 

I didn't particularly like Kyon.. at all, actually. He wasn't UN-likable, but just kind of... a typical teenage boy. His character didn't seem very unique, other than the fact that he had ESP (which wasn't mentioned until later and had me confused as to why his dialogue never had quotation marks). One problem I had was that he felt attracted to all three major female characters in the novel. It wasn't exactly the most affable trait. He didn't have to go on and on about how beautiful Hiruhi was, or how cute Nagato was, or how well-endowed Asahina was. He didn't have to mention having fantasies or dreams about Asahina. He didn't have to tell us those details. I suppose when a writer takes on 1st person POV narrative, they have to know they're investing a lot in that character.

The English translation definitely detracted from the novel a bit - I had to get used to the style of writing. There's always going to be something that gets lost in translation, but it wasn't that big of an issue though. This novel is part of a series, and I suppose another major reason why I didn't finish it is because it didn't explain things for me to understand the story well enough to enjoy it. And this detracted from the novel even more so than the translation. A lot of the time travel/alien aspects referred to terms and other things I think the author may have assumed the reader to know already from the past books of the series. So as one whole, or as a stand-alone, this book doesn't fair that well. 

I bought the book on a whim, really... I was intrigued by the cover and the fact it was written by a Japanese writer, but the book alone just didn't do it for me. Maybe I'll watch the movie to get a better idea of the characters and setting and pick it up again later on. 

STAR RATING : 2.5 out of 5

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