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Strangers [Paperback]

Taichi Yamada , Wayne Lammers
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2003
Set in the great human maelstrom of Tokyo, Strangers is a thinking man's ghost story. When Harada, a jaded TV scriptwriter, runs into his long-dead parents one night, he enters the womb of a city whose living inhabitants have perhaps lost their souls. Can Harada save his?

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"The author, one of Japan’s best scriptwriters, tells a story about what he knows best. This is an interesting glimpse into Japanese pop culture. His storyline is so poignant, so emotional, it will have you hoping every character will come out ahead." -- Heartland Reviews

"Yamada has gained accolades from substantial writers such as David Mitchell and Bret Easton Ellis, but this novel is more a gentle entertainment than a serious psychic disturbance." - James Urquhart, Daily Telegraph

"(A) story that pens in spare strokes a portrait of urban alienation. (...) Less subtle, unfortunately, are the vagaries of the translation into American English. (...) What survives, however, is a memorably uncanny tapestry, and a powerful atmosphere, of heat and rain and sorrow." - Steven Poole, The Guardian

"Strangers is written with a clarity I have come to recognise as Japanese." - Kate Kellaway, The Observer

"Strangers is written with a tone that reveals great emotional discernment." - Peter Burnett, Scotland on Sunday

"What might have been a simple ghost story evolves into a psychologically acute portrait of a man unused to being cared for. (...) All of this manages to survive a poor translation that renders a delicate tale in clunking prose" - Patrick Ness, Sunday Telegraph

"Taichi Yamada's Strangers is a very efficient and chilling up-dating, to the 1980s (when it was written in Japanese), of a Noh-play-type story: of ghostly spirits filtering through into the living world, and of how the spirit must be put to rest by the living." - Anthony Thwaite, Sunday Telegraph

"As an exploration of the power of delusion, Strangers is not without interest. As a ghost story, however, it is not very frightening." - William Skidelsky, Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Taichi Yamada, one of Japan's most successful scriptwriters, transformed the TV drama in his country and has authored several acclaimed novels. Strangers, a contemporary classic, is his English-language debut.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story/poor translation June 18 2004
By G. Tong
I just finished "Strangers" by Taichi Yamada. The narration is a bit sloppy and some of the translation seems stilted, with convoluted syntax, although that may reflect the original Japanese writing for all I know. It doesn't seem well-written especially considering the first person of the first-person narrative writes for Japanese television.
But the theme dominated and was both moving and curious. The story captures, for me, the psychological security from being my parents' child and the joys of reunion. The last sentence sums up why I like the book: gratitude for the time my parents gave me.
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Succinctly translated into English by Wayne Lammers, Strangers is a Japanese novel by Taichi Yamada of a jaded TV scriptwriter who feels pangs of loneliness, and encounters an ordinary workingman that is, eerily, the very mirror image of the father he lost years ago in a tragic accident that orphaned him. Hauntingly told, with a sublimely subtle undercurrent to the tides of emotion, Strangers is an unforgettable journey through memories and the inner striving to reach out and contact others.
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5.0 out of 5 stars THE DISCARNATES May 5 2004
Okay - gotta admit I haven't read the book yet (just ordered it on Amazon) but the film is absolutely amazing!
It's called "the Discarnates" or "Summer Among the Zombies" and it was made in 1988 by Nobuhiko Obayashi. I saw it once ten years ago and it's stuck in my mind ever since.
Finally I got it on DVD and I watched it again last night and it's just as beautiful as I remember! Highly recommended - hope the novel is just as good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Story Nov. 9 2009
An excellent read - unexpected twists and quite moving. More than just a ghost story, this book packs an emotional punch. That's not to say that it isn't a cracker of a spooky tale. Had me leaping out of my slippers and crying into my Bovril at the same time. Though I must say that I agree with the other fellow about the translation (much better in the original Japanese).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly told, with a sublimely subtle undercurrent Oct. 18 2003
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Succinctly translated into English by Wayne Lammers, Strangers is a Japanese novel by Taichi Yamada of a jaded TV scriptwriter who feels pangs of loneliness, and encounters an ordinary workingman that is, eerily, the very mirror image of the father he lost years ago in a tragic accident that orphaned him. Hauntingly told, with a sublimely subtle undercurrent to the tides of emotion, Strangers is an unforgettable journey through memories and the inner striving to reach out and contact others.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Supernatural Tale Of Ghosts Whose Origins And Intentions Are A Mystery Dec 11 2005
By Stephen B. O'Blenis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Strangers" is a very diiferent kind of ghost story, full of the physchological, the metaphysical and the allegorical. The book's protagonist, Harada, is a recently-divorced writer for Japanese television, and a jaded and solitary character he is, to much more of an extent than he realizes. Although he's a very believable individual character, he also is something of a metaphor for some of the more unsettling trends in the world today. Subtly bitter over his divorce and having given up on the notion of romantic love, he's also allowed himself to drift apart from his son over the years to the point where they're practically strangers to one another. A very successful and very respected writer in his field - a position many would envy - he's become cynical and skeptical over his art and his profession for little apparant reason. Approached often with overtures of friendship both from within his line of work and from without - including a beautiful young woman named Kei who also lives in the appartment building he does (used mostly nowadays as rentals for daytime office space) he seems at best unaware of the admiration his younger co-workers have for him and his achievements, and at worst dismissive of these efforts at making friends - including that from the lonely and mysterious Kei - to the point of considering them impolite intrusions.

And then one day he walks into a nightclub and encounters the spitting image of his father - who died decades before, but not only looks and acts exactly the same but seems to recognize Harada and see nothing unusual about their bumping into each other this way. And through his father he also meets with his mother, who also died decades before.

Is Harada so disconnected with the world that his mind is inventing this new situation to have something to be a part of? Is he already so much removed from the land of the living that it's opened up some kind of doorway through which the dead can pass? Have his parents returned of their own volition to try and help their unfortunate, dysfunctional son learn to live again? Or are these entities even his true parents at all? Mysteries and possibilities abound, and as the book progresses more and more of them seem to involve Kei.

A spooky and engaging book that, for all the cynicism of its central figure, also brings the opposite set of emotions and viewpoints into excellent play, "Strangers" is a great addition to the library of any fan of horror, mystery, or even the social-commentary-through-character-study genre of literature. Great book!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunted Strangers Aug. 12 2005
By Rich Stoehr - Published on Amazon.com
It seems like everyone in Hideo Harada's life is a stranger. His ex-wife, who agreed to a divorce because of the growing distance between them. His estranged son, who sides with his mother and barely speaks to Harada anymore. His colleague, with whom he works well but doesn't really know.

And then there are his new acquaintances. The fragile, mysterious Kei, who lives in the same building he does and shows up at his door late one evening. And the man he meets in a darkened theatre near where he grew up, the man who bears a striking resemblance to Harada's father, dead since Harada was twelve.

When I first bought "Strangers," I saw that it was touted as a ghost story on the cover, and I was concerned that it would ruin the surprise in the story. Fortunately, I was mostly wrong. It's not an obvious ghost story at the beginning, but from the first few pages, when screenwriter Harada becomes aware that he is alone in his apartment building at night, it has the feel of a good ghost story. This is a feeling which is built upon as the story progresses, gradually and subtly. There are no "gotcha" moments, nothing which jumps out and declares itself as That Spooky Thing. This isn't a book about shambling zombies or ghosts coming to attack you out of the television. This is a story about creeping dread and the growing feeling that something, somewhere you can't quite see it, is just a little bit off.

In terms of execution, overall it comes off very well. Some of the dialogue may seem a little clunky (I suspect that this may be to do with the translation), but most of it works just fine. The prose is spare and efficient, enough to convey the essentials and leave much up to the reader's imagination, which I prefer for a story like this one -- nothing is so frightening or poignant as that we we can imagine for ourselves. The story develops steadily and smoothly, with no real lags or rushed points.

And as it develops, as Harada learns more about the things he is experiencing, we also come to see that it is a story about the distances we create between us. This is a very modern Japanese ghost story, with modern themes and ideas that aren't just scary...they're more than a little bit sad, too. The central tragedy of the book is that all of Harada's experiences are brought about by his own choices, and the consequences they have on the people around him.

So, when you see the words "ghost story" used to describe this novel, don't think of shock-value scares or easy, predictable conclusions. This is very much a book of building tension and ever-increasing unease, and very well done. It may just make you look twice at the strangers you see around you, every day.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern Japanese ghost story Sept. 2 2007
By Kali - Published on Amazon.com
A middle-aged, cynical and now divorced TV scriptwriter Harada is living a lonely self-contained life in his work-come-apartment when on the spur of the moment he returns to the dilapidated downtown district of Tokyo where he grew up. Orphaned at an early age and raised first by his grandfather and then his Uncle, Harada is very much removed from human emotions, unhappy but not knowing understanding that he is unhappy he is looking for something that he is not able to find in the modern world that he has to live in.

Whilst wandering through his old childhood home he visits a theatre and meets a man who looks exactly like his long-dead father with a wife who is the image of his equally long dead mother.

And so begins Harada's journey into the land of strangers, as he's drawn into a reality where his parents appear to be alive at the exact age they had been when they had died so many years before.

Is he living a dream? Are these people real? What is happening to him? A spooky ghost story with a modern twist, well worth a read.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Japanese ghost story Nov. 22 2004
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The protagonist is a man with no family (parents dead) who has recently divorced. He has almost no routine ties with anyone, and discovers that only he and one other person live in his apartment building. There is a real sense of alienation -- aloneness -- in this book. Even when he is out in public, you feel that he might as well be in a universe of shadows. One day he goes back to visit his old neighborhood and discovers a nice, friendly couple who look like his parents did when they were alive. He is now 47, but this couple appear to be in their early 30's, just as he remembers his parents. He is very moved to find people that look so much like them, and begins to visit these people. The story goes from there. I had actually guessed the "surprise" denoument, but it was still well done. This book was not as "frightening" as it might have been, but succeeded very well in creating a sense of distance and coldness in this world. I recommend it for a cold evening by the fireplace, when the wind is blowing outside, and you want a story that is quite moody.
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