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The Crimson Labyrinth [Paperback]

Yusuke Kishi , Camellia Nieh
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 31 2006
From a rising new star of horror comes a killer read that will make you lose track of time and reality. The Crimson Labyrinth is a wicked satire on extremist reality TV in the tradition of The Running Man-if that indeed is what it is. Welcome to THE MARS LABYRINTH where things aren't what they seem. Welcome to the world of Kishi, where the plot is as gnarly as the humor is twisted.
When an unemployed former math major wakes up one day, he wonders if he's somehow ended up on the red planet. The good-looking young woman with aid-she says her name is Ai and that she draws erotic comics for a living-seems to have no clue either as to their whereabouts. Their only leads are cryptic instructions beamed to a portable device. Has the game begun?
There is no reset button, no saving and no continue-make the wrong move and it's really GAME OVER. In the cruel world of THE MARS LABYRINTH, mercy and compassion are only for the weak or the very, very strong. The stakes are nothing less than your life-and apparently a lot of money.
If you're a fan of Lost or Battle Royale, don't miss this one.

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Product Description

About the Author

Yusuke Kishi was born in 1959 in Osaka. He graduated from Kyoto University with a degree in Economics. After working for a life insurance company for several years, Kishi started his writing career as a freelancer. He has twice won the Japan Horror Association Award, and boasts bestselling status in Japan with multiple works adapted to the screen. The Crimson Labyrinth marks his American debut.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy Survival Game Oct. 8 2013
By Jessica Strider TOP 500 REVIEWER
Pros: creepy premise, interesting characters

Cons: introduced to too many characters at once making them hard to remember

When Yoshihiko Fujiki wakes up in a red stone canyon in the rain, he has no idea where he is or what's happened to him. All he has are a few basic supplies and a handheld game system welcoming him to the Mars Labyrinth. Before he has the chance to follow the directions to the first checkpoint he runs into another player, Ai Otomo. Her game system is broken, so they team up to face... whatever comes next.

This is a novel that starts slowly - with Fujiki trying to figure out what's going on - but quickly builds momentum. Like the characters, you're horrified by the turns the 'game' takes, as some of the players become less and less human. And though Fujiki has some ideas of what's happening behind the scenes, figuring that out isn't as important as staying alive.

Try not to read the book's back cover synopsis as the first paragraph contains a spoiler that will colour how you read the novel.

The premise of the book is pretty creepy. It starts off as a survival game with everyone in the wilderness. As time goes on and a trap set by those running the game is activated, things shift and it becomes a different kind of survival game.

The protagonists are pretty interesting, with down on their luck backgrounds. Fujiki took a while to grow on me, but I liked his tenacity and cleverness. While Ai gives good advice at times, she mainly stays in the background, letting Fujiki make most of the decisions. The other players all have unique personalities, though you don't see much of them.

Fujiki and Ai encounter the other players at the first checkpoint and you're given a quick introduction of all of them.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly pulp Jan. 27 2008
Yusuke Kishi's Crimson Labyrinth is an engaging exercise in psychological and physical extremes. The narrator finds himself and a bunch of strangers in something called The Mars Labyrinth wherein they must first cooperate and then fight to be the lone survivor. They're all given different survival tips and goods and then the terror and craziness begin. It sounds, from my description, a lot like Battle Royale but while they're in the same sub-genre they're two very distinct books.

I loved this book because there wasn't one wasted word - everything hurdled you towards further gruesome discoveries and psychological cracks. A great read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it! Jan. 28 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I too have read Battle Royale, and several other Japanese books that were translated into English - Parasite Eve, Ring, and Dark Waters. Of all of these, I feel that The Crimson Labyrinth was the best. It kept my attention completely, I read it quickly over a few hours and could not put it down. I did enjoy Battle Royale a lot too. Another reviewer wrote that it seemed like a rip-off of BR, but I don't agree at all. Of course the themes are very similar, but I think the writing is actually much better in Labyrinth and the mystery throughout the book of what's behind the game is what really gives this the punch. The motivation for the game to me was far more realitic than that of the one in BR.

Anyway, this is a fun, creepy, quick read. I will definitely read anything else translated into English by this author.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Could Not Put It Down July 25 2010
By QuietMyth26 - Published on Amazon.com
I had begun to doubt whether I'd ever read a book that would hold my attention so well that I would be unable to put it down (Lately I'd hit a slump of bad/dull/cliched books that I barely got through the first 3 or 4 chapters before setting it down).
But this one definitely caught and held my attention. Not only did I read it everywhere I possibly could (including while I was getting my hair done, only to pause briefly to explain to my salonist what the book was about). I even pulled an all nighter because I had only 2 chapters left to read and would probably not be able to sleep that night without giving in to my curiosity.
The book, like many other reviews say, is certainly along the same lines as Battle Royale. Normal people are put into a survival game situation where its kill or be killed. But this book, to me, seemed much more twisted then Battle Royale was. Where in Battle Royale, kids were simply handed weapons and told to kill each other, some of these contestants were continuously drugged, fed hallucination meds, and set upon by poisonous snakes. And where Battle Royale, the kids that went over to the 'dark side' merely looked a bit more ragged then they had started off as, Labyrinth's contestants ended up as nightmarish ghouls that I must admit gave me very frightening dreams after reading it.
All in all, a great read! I definitely suggest it to anyone who enjoys thrilling adventure. (I've already lent out my copy to one of my coworkers)


To me, Labyrinth's only fault lies in the ending. I was all set up for some phenomenal ending which showed Fujiki facing off against his captors (and maybe an explanation of sorts). But all I received was a page worth of bland guesses from his friend-turned-detective and a few interesting theories by Fujiki about Ai's part in the game. I would have loved to see some more concrete evidence as to who the game masters were, why they were doing this, if this was the first time they'd done this sorta thing with real people, and so on. The ending that I pieced together by vague guesses was sort of unsatisfying.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrifying Sept. 18 2010
By paperfalls - Published on Amazon.com
A man wakes up and finds himself in the Crimson Labyrinth. There are about twelve people in total trapped along with him, and no one can be entirely trusted, because the point of the game is to kill or be killed.

This is possibly the creepiest, yet most fascinating, book that I have ever read. The horrors of this book just keep piling up. Even the most jaded horror fic reader might find something new in this.

Continuing comparisons to Battle Royale, there is not nearly as much intimacy as there was to the students who were told to kill each other. Only the point of view belonging to our main character is considered. Part of the horror is due to the way that pieces are revealed one by one, and the worst things that humans can do to each other are not shown until deep into the story.

Worse, this could be reality. Though at the beginning, they are informed that the game is held on Mars, it becomes clear very soon that this is Earth, and other people - humans just like them - are the ones who are doing this. I could not put this down until I read the whole thing, and I shivered through the entire book. Unlike Battle Royale, there is no redemption at the end.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Battle Royale: the Reality TV version. Oct. 9 2008
By Robert Beveridge - Published on Amazon.com
Yusuke Kishi, The Crimson Labyrinth (Vertical, 1999)

What do you get when you cross "The Most Dangerous Game" and Battle Royale? You get The Crimson Labyrinth, Yusuke Kishi's first novel translated into English. While it's a bit over the top at times, it's well-written and readable.

The plot: a man with amnesia wakes up in a gully. Next to him is food, water, and a handheld game machine. Confused, he starts wandering until he meets up with another person, who is similarly suffering from amnesia and carrying the same provisions. Eventually, the two of them find others, and when all are gathered, they discover they're all trapped in some sort of reality TV-style game from which only some-- or one-- can emerge. They break into teams and, given hints by their game machines, begin playing cat-and-mouse with the other teams.

It's genre writing in the sense that if you like this sort of thing, you're going to like this novel, but I think-- like both "The Most Dangerous Game" and Battle Royale (the book, not the aggressively mediocre film produced from it)-- The Crimson Labyrinth transcends simple genre writing in that Kishi writes strong, believable characters who have three dimensions, and does so without ever letting up on the action. He gives us an excellent, if a tad unbelievable, setting (though for all I know it really does exist) and then tosses these believable characters into it and lets them run wild. Good stuff, this. ****
5.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting Read July 30 2013
By Votz - Published on Amazon.com
I found this book while trying to find books other than Battle Royale that follow the same thread of thought. This book gets going quickly, within the first two chapters or so. Unlike Battle Royale, most of the character's get more than just a name and how they died. I have to disagree with another reviewer who said that the motive behind the plot was left unexplained, it just isn't beaten into your head with a sledgehammer. Overall, this book is well written and beautifully translated, the few typos I caught were easily made ("Grave's Disease" instead of "Graves' Disease") and were not particularly jarring to the read.

I was unable to put down the book, seeming to always be on a cliffhanger. The psychological horror to this novel hooked me quickly and did not let go until the character's ride was over.
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