「Spiral」 by Koji Suzuki (Ring Trilogy): Combining Science & Paranormal

Spiral by Koji Suzuki (鈴木 光司 / Suzuki Kōji) is the second book in the bestselling Ring series. It was first published in Japan in 1995 as Rasen (らせん), and then translated into English by Glynne Walley who also translated the first book Ring.

Check out my post on the first book: “「Ring」 by Koji Suzuki: The Book Which Spawned the Film That Terrorized My Childhood Nights”

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Spiral by Koji Suzuki, Translated by Glynne Walley

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Blurb:

“Ever since his young son drowned to death, Ando has suffered recurrent nightmares. His wife has come unhinged after their devastating loss, which doesn’t help. Work is his only salvation these days—and it’s performing autopsies. But Ando’s depressing world of routine and regrets is about to change when Ryuji Takayama, and old rival, appears before him as a corpse to be dissected.

Through Ryuji’s bizarre demise, Ando learns of a series of mysterious deaths that seem to have been caused by an unknown—or rather, forgotten—virus. Behind it all lurks a suspicious videotape to which Ryuji seems to be leading Ando from beyond the grave. A choice more sinister than the one in Ring faces the doctor at the end of a breathless chase through places and minds.

Spiral is not only a sequel to Ring but also a commentary on it that breaks down the acclaimed story and recasts it entirely. Suzuki’s stunning reinvention of his own bestseller won him the Yoshikawa Eiji Award and the accolade of even those critics who had dismissed the masterpiece as a “mere” horror novel.”

It took me almost a year to finally reach Spiral on my to-read list. Ring amazed me, so I was looking forward to reading this sequel. As much as I love spoilers, I deliberately didn’t read any before starting this book. Imagine my shock when the ghost horror novel that I expected turned into a medical horror story instead.

And I love it.

I have met a lot skeptics when it comes to anything paranormal or unscientific. My dad is one. We debate a lot, and he would always stick to the belief that as long as science can’t explain something, then it must not be real. And ever the weird one, I would retort that perhaps science still doesn’t have the technology to gather the appropriate evidence to explain and substantiate paranormal phenomenon. You know, never say never. Despite this, there is still the belief that science and the paranormal don’t mix…or don’t they?

Spiral succeeds in combining science and the paranormal, even portraying it as something natural and possible. I’m very impressed with Suzuki-sensei’s academic knowledge that he showed off in the book. The logic and code-solving techniques are not too over-the-top, unlike in many commercial mystery novels in the market. But the most impressive for me is the usage of his scientific and medical knowledge to explain how a murdered woman dead for 25 years uses her powerful psychic powers to merge with the extinct smallpox virus to terrorize humanity, and even to resurrect herself.

It has a completely different atmosphere compared to Ring. Although there are familiar characters from the first book, Spiral features a new protagonist in the character of Dr. Ando. The reporter Asakawa, the protagonist in Ring, is in coma. His best friend, Ryuji Takayama, is dead. Both Asakawa and Takayama don’t have regular appearance in Spiral but their characters still play major roles in the story.

When I think about it, Spiral is a pretty depressing book. The danger grew exponentially from individual deaths in Ring to the possibility of the extinction of the human species. It highlights that most humans will choose individual desire over the common good.

Dr. Ando seems like a hero throughout the book, unraveling the mystery of Sadako’s curse and trying to prevent future deaths as a result of it, but in the end he betrays humanity. From another perspective, though, he chooses a smart decision for himself because even if resists and fights back, the odds of winning are close to zero. By not doing anything and letting Sadako and her accomplice do as they wish, he ensures his personal safety and even obtains his wish to be with his dead son again. Depressing, right?

Depressing, however, doesn’t mean boring. Spiral is a highly entertaining book. I just had to read it in one go. You can definitely feel the thrill and suspense when you read it. If you ask me which I like more: Ring or Spiral, I can’t give you a straight answer. I like both. While Ring has this traditional ghost story atmosphere (which I really enjoy), Spiral feels more realistic because of the scientific elements (which I also enjoy). They’re scary in different ways.

If you haven’t read Ring yet, I recommend that you do. Once you’ve read it, make sure to read Spiral next. Both are great books. Yes, they’re scary. But they’re not in-your-face jumpy type of scary. They’re more like I-think-someone’s-watching-me goosebumps type of scary. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.

That’s all for today. Have a lovely day. Cheers!

/Wild Arria fled/


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3 thoughts on “「Spiral」 by Koji Suzuki (Ring Trilogy): Combining Science & Paranormal”

  1. It’s been a long time since I read it, but I remember enjoying Spiral. The mix of science-and-supernatural struck me as unique at the time.

    I wish I’d read Loop – I think it hadn’t been translated back then!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here. I was really surprised at how the story developed from Ring to Spiral. I read Loop immediately after Spiral. Good thing that I read them just this year and that they’re already available in English translation. My Loop post is coming out in a few days. Have you read it already?

      Like

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