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Remote Control [Hardcover]

Kotaro Isaka , Stephen Snyder

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Book Description

July 28 2011

Masaharu Aoyagi is a driver for a delivery company in the city of Sendai in northern Japan. Two years ago he had achieved brief notoriety for rescuing a local starlet from a robbery attempt while making a delivery to her apartment. Now he is back in the spotlight- this time as the main suspect in the assassination of a newly elected, young, and charismatic prime minister who had returned to Sendai for a victory parade in his hometown.

Told in six parts from several perspectives, Remote Control follows Aoyagi on a forty-eight-hour chase through streets, buildings, and sewers as he-by various ingenious means, and with a little help from his friends-eludes not only the authorities but also "security pods" set up throughout the city to monitor telephone, cell phone, and e-mail transmissions, and keep a continual photo record of street traffic. Very quickly it becomes clear that Aoyagi has been framed by a shadowy organization, and the whole scenario plays out like the JFK assassination, with Aoyagi in Oswald's shoes, trying discover who has set him up and why-before it is too late. The action culminates in the center of City Park, as Aoyagi plans to surrender to the authorities with the media watching to avoid the conspirators from having him killed before he can prove his innocence.

With nostalgic references to the Beatles and allusions to the JFK assassination, and with its likeable characters and unforgettable dialogue, this award-winning bestseller is sure to strike a chord with entertainment-fiction readers everywhere.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha International (July 28 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770031084
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770031082
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 15.5 x 22.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 662 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,183,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review


"Both a comment on contemporary social disconnection and a warning about what can happen when a complacent public welcomes the loss of privacy with open arms, Isaka's Remote Control is a timely thriller. And a rare one that takes an ordinary guy, throws him into the fire, and doesn't make him into some kind of "Sendai's Bravest" hero at the end. Rather, he gets by, with a little help from his friends." - Mystery Scene


"Remote Control by Kotaro Isaka is an exciting, riveting mystery. . . . Recommended!" - J!-ENT


"Set in a near-future Japan, Isaka's remarkable thriller adroitly shifts between the extended pursuit of handsome Masaharu Aoyagi, a former deliveryman accused of killing Prime Minister Sakayoshi Kaneda by dropping a bomb from a remote-control toy helicopter onto the official motorcade, and several other characters associated with Aoyagi, who's been mercilessly set up by high-placed persons unknown. . . . Isaka cuts perilously close to the bone of today's politics in this elegant, intricate, enormously satisfying parable of good and evil." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)


"Winner of the Sugoro Yamamoto Prize and the Japan Bookseller's Prize, this dynamic and complex political thriller is set in a near-future Japan, where high-tech security pods monitor every move. When the new prime minister is assassinated in a complicated conspiracy involving a remote-control helicopter, the perfect patsy is Masaharu Aoyagi, a flawed hero who gained notoriety after saving an actress from a robbery. . . . VERDICT: With a plot that parallels the JFK assassination and the feverish hunt for Lee Harvey Oswald, this is sure to appeal to fans of conspiracy mysteries." - Library Journal


"A bestseller in Japan, Isaka's near-future thriller is a complex crime story inspired by the Kennedy assassination but set in a futuristic Japanese city where everything is monitored by security pods on every street corner. The newly elected prime minister is killed when his motorcade is attacked by a bomb-carrying, remote-controlled helicopter, setting off a media frenzy. The initial story is told from the point of view of a hospital patient watching the news coverage, followed by a 20-years-later overview of the case, which was never really solved. The remainder of the story is told from the alternating points of view of the main characters. . . . Isaka's manipulation of these narrative devices keeps the pace fast and allows for lots of character development. . . ." -- Booklist


". . . plot twists and turns keep the narrative riveting and surprising, right until the end. In this character-driven work, dialogue supersedes action, yet the pacing will keep readers interested throughout. Remote Contro is a complicated story, but a quick read. . . . Translating from Japanese to English under any circumstances isn't easy, but maintaining the author's style, wit, and subtle humor when performing that translation is a herculean effort. Stephen Snyder pulled it off flawlessly." - ForeWord Reviews


About the Author

Kotaro Isaka graduated from Tohoku University, School of Law. Formerly a systems engineer, he debuted as a writer with Audubon’s Prayer. His novels and short-story collections have been nominated for the Naoki Prize – Japan’s most prestigious award for popular fiction – and many have been made into movies, including Remote Control, which was released in 2010 under the book’s original title, Golden Slumber.

Stephen Snyder is the acclaimed translator of Natsuo Kirino’s Out, Ryu Murakami’s Coin Locker Babies, and Yoko Ogawa’s The Diving Pool, The Housekeeper and the Professor, and Hotel Iris. He teaches Japanese literature at Middlebury College in Vermont.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When the machine that you think protects you is turned against you Aug. 23 2011
By mhnstr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Remote control is a thriller set in Sendai, Japan. The story begins with the killing of the prime minister of Japan by a bomb which was delivered by an unknown man using a remote control helicopter. The beginning of the story focuses on two men who share a room in a hospital who watch the events unfold on their televisions. Through the commentary by the men and the news reports, the reader is shown the excitement and the uncertainty of the unfolding events. A suspect is named and sightings of the suspect are reported. But, in the next chapter of the book, the men from the hospital drop from the focus and the reader is taken 20 years into the future and the mysterious events surrounding the bombing are discussed. Then in the next chapter, the book jumps backwards in time and resumes in the hours before the bombing. The jumps in time and characters was an interesting, but slightly confusing device to introduce the background of the story from a distance before the main characters are introduced in first person and the plot rapidly takes off.

Once the story resumes, the reader is introduced to Aoyagi who is meeting with an old friend from his high school days. His old group of friends are people who Aoyagi lost touch with, but they are never far from his thoughts. It is from his friend that Aoyagi first learns that he has been caught in something sinister. Soon Aoyagi finds himself being chased by mysterious men who accuse him of killing the prime minister. As the force of a mysterious machine is set in motion against Aoyagi including the police and the electronic eavesdropping pods, Aoyagi is constantly facing close calls as he tries to understand what is happening and to figure out what he can do to prove his innocence.

I really enjoyed Remote Control. I found the translated text to be perhaps simplistic in places, but overall the sentences flowed well. The plot is fast paced and the book became harder and harder to put down and the story began to unfold. The storyline does have some tangents, but I found that Aoyagi's memories of his high school friends served to underline the bonds that remained between Aoyagi and his friends and why they would risk helping him. The tangents also served to humanize Aoyagi which makes him very different from the cold, mysterious machine which is working against him.

The book includes commentary on the Big Brother society that the world has become where personal freedoms have been whittled away in the name of fighting terrorism. In the case of Remote Control, the invasion of privacy is done by pods which are distributed throughout the city which record mobile telephone conversations as well as audio and video from their environment. They were placed in the name of catching a serial killer but were actually used to monitor the citizens in the name of protecting them.

I found the intrusive surveillance state in Remote Control to be very believable in this day and age and that someone who is innocent could be framed to be entirely plausible. However, what I did find less believable was that strangers would risk being sent to prison by helping the accused and that the strangers were able to help him in so many ways and so effectively.

Overall, a page turner and a good book. I am looking forward to reading more from Isaka.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced delight April 24 2011
By J. Mullally - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
While there are definite holes in the plot, this fast paced thriller about a humble delivery man framed for an assassination he did not commit keeps you on the edge of your seat most of the time. Aoyagi is a harmless man who suddenly has his whole life turned upside down when he is framed for killing the Prime Minister in a futuristic Japan with shades of 1984 and continuous references to the JFK assassination. His friend betrays him, then tells him the truth at the last moment, sending Aoyagi on a hair raising journey where no one is ever as they seem. I could have done without the heavy handed 'history sections' that mar the start of the book, the ex girlfriend and her friend and then the 'historian', but once we get past that to Aoyagi's point of view, the novel really shines. If you don't think too hard about all of it making sense, this is a very engaging romp that will help pass the time.
1.0 out of 5 stars The translation is terrible. April 10 2014
By Neko-chan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I couldn't read more than a couple pages in. The translation is sloppy and substitutes "Western" references for the Japanese ones. I'd love to read Isaka's work in English but it deserves better than this.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Thriller July 27 2011
By OutlawPoet - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
When Masaharu Aoyagi is accused of using a remote control helicopter to kill the prime minister, it sets off a series of plot twists that are sure to please the most discriminating of thriller readers.

I love Japanese thrillers and noir, especially those that give you a peek into the underside of Japanese Society - away from the drab lives of ordinary salarymen and office girls. While not quite as edgy as some of the other Japanese authors popular today, this is still ultimately satisfying.

What keeps it from being a perfect five is the way the time element jumps throughout the novel. From six months ago to twenty years from now, six years ago to eleven years ago, I found it very hard to keep track of "when" we were in the story. I began to use Aoyagi's relationship with his old sweetheart as a focal point in each chapter. Was this before he met her? After they started dating? etc. This was difficult for me, but it in no way kept me from enjoying the book.

If you are new to Japanese Thrillers/Noir and not quite ready for the edgier stuff, I think this would be a really great starting point and will pique your interest into exploring the genre further.
4.0 out of 5 stars Hashire Aoyagi hashire June 19 2011
By racapowski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Two old friends meeting for ramen watch in horror as a remote-controlled model-airplane bomb assassinates the prime minister of Japan. The police and media conduct a frenzied three-day hunt for the killer culminating in a weary standoff in a city park, while twenty years later, a historian details the high rate of accidental death among key eyewitnesses in the incident. Two decades after the fact, he reflects, nearly no one believes in the supposed assassin's guilt - but any hope of finding definitive answers died with the poor framed man. It's then that we reach the heart of the story, as we follow the wrongly-accused assassin, ex-deliveryman Masaharu Aoyagi, moment by moment through his three-day flight - from a college friend's warning that he's very imminently about to become the fall guy in a larger conspiracy to Aoyagi's woefully-underequipped everyman attempts to evade the law and public and prove his innocence.

I might note that without the Japan setting, "Remote Control" might seem a bit routine: an amiable underachiever has his true mettle tested by an impromptu battle against vast nebulous powers that forces him to a crossroads in his life and rouses him from his sleepwalk through existence. You can probably name any number of works with a similar premise (the Jamie Foxx film "Collateral," for one), but there're a couple qualities that somewhat distinguish "Remote Control." First, Aoyagi is exactly as outmatched by his predicament as you'd expect an untrained worker with no special skills to be; the true killers are, it seems, far beyond his reach, and his best outcome is only to prove somehow that he couldn't have been the perp. Aoyagi's primary weapon, then, isn't guns or fisticuffs but the manipulation of mass media, from outwitting the "security pods" that record video and audio on every street corner in this near-future to ensuring that his encounters with police are in front of cameras, where the cops are more reluctant to shoot a man dead. Indeed, rather unique to the thriller genre are the Japanese characters' consistently stunned reactions to how their cops are now not only brandishing guns in public but are willing to shoot both guilty and innocent in pursuit of their suspect; there are many quarters of the U.S. where that would be just another Tuesday. (Don't Google "Oscar Grant" unless you wish to be thoroughly dismayed by law enforcement and humanity.)

The book pinballs between four points of view - that of Aoyagi on the lam; that of Haruko Higuchi, Aoyagi's college sweeteart who dumped him for his passivity but now, as an urban mom married to a passionless salaryman, has second thoughts; and the former lovers' younger selves, as the sites in Sendai Aoyagi tours during his escape are cross-referenced with defining moments of his youth. Isaka's resolution of his divergent viewpoints is original and thematically consistent, as is a bit about an abandoned car that plays out effectively in the book's milieu of intrigue in the commonplace and Isaka's ruminations on the enduring value of old friendships even after the immediate ties fade. The meeting with the college buddy that kicks off the pursuit is another highlight; the reactions of the once-wisecracking, now-grim friend are exactly right, and the scenario ends with a rendition of a Beatles standard that's heartbreaking.

Let us now begin the airing of the grievances. First, the novel's translation is stiff, as is to be expected for any Japanese author in the U.S. market whose name isn't Haruki Murakami; still, I wish more effort had been expended to bring out each character's individual voice instead of having everyone speak solely in run-on declaratory sentences. A couple developments might stretch some readers' suspension of disbelief: halfway through his flight, Aoyagi receives help from a singularly unexpected quarter who adds some character to the proceedings but whose presence is a bit unbelievable; likewise, one might wonder if the method the true culprits chose to cover their tracks was really worth the investment and risk over digital means. A few too many folks are far too willing to risk jail time to help Japan's most wanted fugitive, and the novel's climax seems to come prematurely and is initially kind of muddled - though that doesn't stop it from being emotionally affecting in the end game. Finally, though Isaka works with the theme of friendship well, there's a lot of untapped potential in qualities like the book's nonlinear timeline and mass-communication fixation; the novel wants to make a bigger statement about the gulf between media images and reality and the untouchably vast forces controlling our lives but ultimately contents itself by simply observing that they exist.

"Remote Control" was published with a grant from the Japan Foundation, and I have to wonder why its translation was deemed such a priority. It's good but not great and contains little that is particularly culturally revelatory. Then again, though, why should every author by expected to write a big national statement? Why don't stories that're just tense and suspenseful instead of Important deserve a wider audience? Like Aoyagi himself, "Remote Control" doesn't quite follow through on its promise, but it is amiable company for a few hours, even managing a few genuinely memorable moments.

IMPORTANT NOTE: An unusual number of reviewers seem all too eager to reveal key plot points for this book. If you're arrived at my review unspoiled and have an inclination to read "Remote Control," go ahead and indulge it before others rob you of the book's surprises.

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