Lunar New Year Reads, #41: Kabuki 1: Circle of Blood by David Mack
Kabuki is not for everyone. It’s a dark, vaguely SFnal epic about, well, sort of about the intricate connections between crime, empire, sexuality, and power in an imagined Japan which, unlike many inmagined futures, is definitely, clearly, and intelligently linked to real history.
Dark, dark, dark.
But it’s also beautifully drawn; it’s insightful, and it reminds me in a way of how, in SF, sometimes the technology that is being discussed takes on the status of a character unto itself. In Kabuki, the art is like this: it takes on the status of a character, and in some ways, there is an internal narrative to the art which supports and underpins the more surface narrative of the progression of events within the story. It’s too bad I can’t fully appreciate this, so as to pick out the crucial moments at which kanji characters (the Japanese form of Chinese ideograms) show up as part of the art, hidden in circuitry or shadows. It’s too bad I’m not familiar enough with Japanese pop culture to really get some of what comes across as simple, pure weirdness.
But it is, nonetheless, a gripping tale, the kind of thing that kept me up reading at night, even though I knew the next morning would be an early one. And you know, vengeful women running around with swords and other bladed weapons is — as Quentin Tarantino will never let us forget — big entertainment. Though I’m not sure when I’ll get around to it, I would like to work my way through some of the rest of the installments in the Kabuki series, even if it isn’t for a while.
Here’s a link to the David Mack Guide, which is one of the better current sites on the subject of his work. On the site, you can see preview pages for each book in the series: start with Book 1.