Ring, Book 1 by Koji Suzuki
I am going to assume that most of you have seen The Ring, or Ringu. They’re incredibly popular horror movies and The Ring is probably one of my favorites of all time. I rewatched it recently and it definitely holds up as a truly scary movie.
Ring, the book, has a lot of similarities to the American movie but the movie took some liberties with the characters and I think it was the right call. Asakawa is the protagonist of the book, he is a male journalist with a wife and child. He doesn’t seem particularly close to or fond of either of them.
Asakawa also has a friend who ends up being his partner in solving the mystery but in order to discuss him we’re going to need to go into spoilers. I’ll mark where spoilers begin in a bit so that you can skip them if you’d like.
Asakawa has a young relative who dies very mysteriously. He becomes obsessed with determining the cause of her sudden death. Years later, after he’s finally set that case aside, he gets drawn back in by news of a new similar death.
During his investigation he finds a strange video tape. He watches it and learns that anyone who watches the tape will die in seven days, but the part that tells him how to stop this curse has been recorded over. I really like the was the tape was described, it got into the emotional aspects of how it made him feel and why it would be believable that it contains a curse.
Just like in the movie, his family accidentally watches the tape and that gives him extra motivation to figure out how to stop it. The bulk of the book follows him and his friend uncover clues and finally get to the story of Sadako, a young woman with psychic powers.
In Ring Book 1 Sadako is a young adult, not a young girl. This is important because…
Sadako is raped and murdered at the insane asylum she resides in. This is what starts her curse. I need to mention this spoiler because I want to discuss some unusual themes in Ring Book 1.
I mentioned Asakawa’s friend before. Well, he has an unusual character trait that I just couldn’t get over. He confesses, several times, to Asakawa that he is a serial rapist. He just sneaks into a house and rapes the occupant once in a while. For some reason, Asakwa stays in contact with this person.
I think that the author made him a bad guy because he also needed someone to die from the curse toward the end of the book. The rapist is the canon fodder. However, I think that makes the book weaker. We end up with an unlikable character and a meaningless death without an emotional impact.
The same coud be said of Asakawa’s family. He doesn’t seem to actually care that much about them and I felt no emotional connection to them. The Ring stars a mother and son and really makes the fear arond losing the son impactful, Ring Book 1 is missing that intensity.
Then we have poor Sadako. She gets raped by her doctor because she’s just so danged beautiful men can’t control themselves around her. *eye roll*
When the doctor is finished raping her he notices something unusual. She has testicles. Ring Book 1 describes how she has a condition known as testicular feminization in which she has the genetic markers of male (XY) and the testicles but also has a vagina and is unable to recieve androgen. This makes her present female.
I looked up this condition and apparently a common side effect is that their appearances are quite stunning. Several super models have come out as this particular type of intersex.The more you know!
Of course, the doctor is startled and ashamed to have had sex with someone with testicles so he panics and dumps her in a well where she takes days to die. An awful death leading to an awful curse.
But she doesn’t solely form the curse because of the rape and murder. It’s because of her condition that she is not able to have children. This video tape is her baby of sorts and she wants it to propogate around the world and be her legacy.
I’m glad that the surprise intersex detail had a bit of purpose but it does read strangely today. Anyone sensitive to gender criticism in literature may have quite a bit to say about it.
Issues mentioned in the spoiler section aside, Ring Book 1 is a spooky read. I found myself feeling on edge while reading it and reading at night did feel super creepy. So that’s a huge win.
It does end on a cliffhanger to lead you into book 2. I am curious about what comes next so I’m sure I’ll pick it up at some point. Overall, I think the American movie is still the best of the bunch but the book does have some positive qualities.
4/5 spooky video tapes 📼📼📼📼
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Buy it here: Ring 1
For another great book that became a great movie check out Altered States.
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