#FridayReads 2022-09-30 – Halloween Bingo Week 6 – ‘Bullet Train’, ‘Black Water Sister’ and ‘Priest Of Bones’

The State Of My Bingo Card

It’s the start of Week Six of Halloween Bingo, the halfway mark in the game, and I’m just about on schedule for a Blackout Bingo by the end of October.

I’d hoped to have my first Bingo by now but the Gods haven’t smiled on me, or maybe I’ve been reading for the wrong squares.

I’ve read books for 13 of the 25 squares, including 9 of the 11 Called squares on my card, but I still only have one complete line (bottom left to top right). This week’s reading should give me another two complete lines, one of which already has four of the five squares called.

So, on with the books…

This week’s books

One of the things I like about our annual Halloween Bingo game is that it gets me to read books that are a little outside of my usual reading habits. All three of this week’s books are like that. They’re all new authors for me and they’re all a little off centre.

One is a Japanese thriller, translate into English, that uses a high speed train as the vehicle for a locked-room mystery with multiple assassins. One is a story about young woman being haunted by her grandmother when, after being raised in the US, she returns to Malaysia. One is a grim and bloody sword and sorcery book written by an Englishman who spent two decades working in IT.

None of them are short, so I’m going to have to find a lot of time to read this week but I think it’s going to be fun.

‘Bullet Train’ by Kōtarō Isaka (2010)

I get a buzz out of reading crime fiction originally written in a language other than English. Crime fiction is a genre that depends on a shared understanding between writer and reader of the social context that provides motives for murder and the behaviours and attitudes that flag whether someone might be lying or hiding something. Even though they’re all written in English, I think the cultural differences between the US and the UK and between now and the 1920s stand out when I read contemporary crime fiction or golden age mysteries.

When something starts off in another language the cultural differences are even more apparent. To me, the differences between Northern European cultures are relatively small whether it’s something Swedish, like An Elderly Lady Up To No Good’ or German like ‘Blue Night’. The differences become more pronounced when we move to Spain for ‘The Invisible Guardian’ but one of the biggest shifts is when we move to Japan for ‘The Devotion Of Suspect X’ or ‘Malice’ where nothing works the way I’m used to.

I’m hoping that ‘Bullet Train’ will, as well as being a decent thriller, give me that sense of having seen through foreign eyes. Some of the publicity around the movie makes me wonder about that. The novel (which translated directly from Japanese as ‘Maria Beetle’) was already seen as departure from the norm in Japan: bigger, bolder, more action-packed – although I struggle to understand how anyone who has watched Manga would find any of those attributes surprising. The movie though has been accused of ‘whitewashing’ the characters as the assassins are no longer Japanese but cast people as diverse as Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Michael Shannon, Brian Tyree Henry, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Andrew Koji, Zazie Beetz, Karen Fukuhara, Hiroyuki Sanada, Masi Oka, Logan Lerman and Bad Bunny.

HERE is an article in which the author responds to the whitewashing criticism.

And here’s the trailer for the movie. Does this feel Japanese to you?

Any mystery/horror/thriller/supernatural book that was originally written in a language different from the language in which it is being read

‘Black Water Sister’ by Zen Cho (2021)

‘Black Water Sister’ calls to me because it’s set in Malaysia, a country and culture I have no knowledge of, it has strong elements of humour, a young woman being possessed by the spirit of her dead grandmother, and lots of cross-cultural references between the lead character’s experience growing up in America as a daughter of immigrants and going ‘back’ to her Chinese roots in a country where she barely speaks the language.

I think this one is going to be all kinds of fun.

Any story involving ghosts or hauntings – includes haunted houses

‘Priest Of Bones’ by Peter McLean (2019)

I don’t read much Dark Fantasy anymore, partly because the books are often three times as long as other books that I could be reading instead and then it turns out that they’re the first book in a novel sequence that would take many reading years to complete and partly because they’re, well, Dark and dark often means depressing.

But this subgenera is hot just now and it’s a new Halloween Bingo square so I’m going for it. I’ve picked an English writer because my cultural prejudices suggest he’ll be more down-to-earth and less likely to see a Disney version of what close quarter battles with bladed weapons and ancient cities built from stone and occupied by a rabble are like.

Also, I couldn’t resist this quote:

‘Sixty-five thousand battle-shocked, trained killers came home to no jobs, no food and the plague. what did Her Majesty think was going to happen?’

It sounds like just the kind of question that gets asked everyday in British politics at the moment.

Any fantasy story with a pronounced horror element, or a high fantasy story that features anti-heroic or morally ambiguous protagonists;” this can include grimdark fantasy as well, defined as a subgenre of speculative fiction with a tone, style, or setting that is particularly dystopian, amoral, and violent.

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