What's incredible about this book is the gentle build up of tension. It feels like someone playing an instrument off key, until on p.111 hell breaks loose. Audition (another book by the same author) did a similar thing to great effect. Once the violence kicks off it becomes one of the nastiest and most disturbing books I have ever read, up there with Frisk and American Psycho. But it also has some pretty huge themes running through it: humans' unexpected reactions to trauma, the insular nature of Japanese society, and boredom. Sheer existential boredom to which any distraction, however ugly, might seem like a relief.
My favourite lines -
"When the body's constrained, so is the spirit."
"[W]e always have to picture ourselves doing something before we can match the image with an action. And that was what Frank had made impossible - he'd destroyed our ability to visualise a course of action."
"Before Frank had turned up, this pub was like a symbol of Japan, self-contained, unwilling to interact with the world outside, just communing with itself in every breath - mmm, ahhh. People who've spent their lives being in that kind of bubble tend to panic in emergencies, to lose the ability to communicate, and to end up getting killed."
"That's the real reason we have horror films - they act as shock absorbers - and if they disappeared altogether it would mean losing one of the few ways we have to ease the anxiety of the imagination."