Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Book Review: Queen of Kn-Yan
Queen Of Kn-Yan
By Asamatsu Ken (Translated by Kathleen Taji)
Some of the most bizarre films the world has ever seen came from the small island of Japan. Some of the nastiest and most ear damaging punk rock have come from the same island. Attention has been paid to Koji Suzuki the horror fiction author of the Ring series which is J-horror's most famous export. Several of Suzuki's novels have made it into english, but I very interested in going further with Japanese horror fiction. Why not a Japanese take on one of the 20th century American horror mythos of H.P. Lovecraft?
That is what this novel Japanese horror author Asamatu Ken is.
Lovecraft reinvented the horror fiction genre in the the early half of the 20th century by excusing himself from the traditional tropes of vampires and werewolves. He created a his own mythology of cosmic monsters who very existence was hard for the human mind to handle. Well I often think of those mythos being placed in Lovecraft's native New England authors around the globe have been playing on Lovecraft's unhollowed ground since he was alive.
The man encouraged other writers to create with the mythos. I am not sure Lovecraft who at times had some nice things to say about the Japanese (but mostly racist things) would have felt about the translation. None the less Ken has created an excellent mythos story that as fan of asian cinema feels of it's culture.
The story centers around A biologist named Anri Morisita who is hired by a corporation to study the remains of a mummy unearth in China. The setting in the JGE's headquarters named the Leviathan tower reminds me of a Clive Barker influence. On the inside the building with various elevators connecting only certain floors with each other seems perfect for a Resident Evil style game.
Anri is a well developed character who has flashbacks to the cruel treatment of pre-WW II chinese at the hands of the Japanese. It suggests a deeper plot, but one of the few weaknesses of the narrative is the Flashbacks happen so fast. Written with no narrative transition I often got confused and had to scan back. After it's established in the novel that is less of a concern. Anri is hired to do research on the impossibly old Mummy.
As the research continues the corporation and it's motives are revealed with it's knowledge of the the mummy's ancient origin. This sets up an amazingly timed and delivered chapter break at the end of the fifth chapter. This is a short and effectively written story that deserves it's place as one of the finest modern takes of the Cthulhu mythos. Lovecraft devotees should not miss this book.
Beautifully packaged with amazing artwork by Kojima Ayami the Queen of Kn-Yan is textbook example of why we need a healthy and thriving small press. Kurodahan press has translated and provided a book that no major publisher in New York would bother to give but it is an important and fun book none the less.
Libraries in Japanese districts and ones interested in having a complete and diverse genre collection should get this book for sure. This is an excellent work of horror fiction and it tells me that I should be investing the collections of Japanese mythos fiction released by the same press and edited by the author.
Check out their books for sale online or request them from your local library! I am reviewing another selection from the same press next month. An anthology of Japanese Science Fiction. Looking forward to that!