Edge (novel) by Koji Suzuki
English Publication History: Edge (Vertical, 2012)
Original: Japanese (2008, エッジ)
Translated by Camellia Nieh and Jonathan Lloyd-Davies, 2012
Synopsis: Eighteen years ago, Saeko lost her father, thus leaving her without parent yet with ample funding due to her father’s translations, publishing, and writing. His disappearance spurred her to deeply investigate his life and to understand the those methods of investigation, which helped her to become an excellent journalist. A recent spat of human disappearances is investigated by Saeko, an investigation which gains her fame within media circles, but the disappearances themselves in the public sphere overshadow her minor fame. Hashiba, a television executive, takes a liking to thirty-something Saeko, a relationship that treads softly with neither party discussing their private lives. Her involvement with the man causes her to look again into her father’s disappearance, which may have involved a woman, a facet of truth that she garnered from her father’s journal found at the site of a family’s vanishing. Soon, with some inventive research, it’s found that a combination of tectonic forces, sunspots, and magnetic neutrality is causing people to vanish one way or another. Fearing reprisals of quackery, the team keeps their discoveries to themselves… only later to learn of more than 100 missing from a botanical garden. The US president has gathered a team, and Saeko and Hashiba–ever with frisson between them–gather their own scientists to better understand the intangible threat.
Analysis: In regards to fear, “out of sight, out of mind” takes on a curious form in Edge. In our real world, “out of sight, out of mind” plays a psychological element to our everyday lives. When guns are hidden, we don’t consciously fear a shooting, murder, or hold-up. When the elderly are hidden in nursery homes, we don’t fear our own decay or death. When nature’s predators are killed, we no longer worry about attacks as prey. So, we hide the guns and pretend there aren’t any, we keep the elderly hidden to believe in immortality, and we kill the beasts to crown ourselves the fittest to survive. Meanwhile, while these material fears lessen, immaterial fears–intangible yet forceful–still prey upon us: bankruptcy, cancer, climate change, etc. These fears are man-made, products of success as a species.
Few are the intangible fears that are natural (i.e., an asteroid impact, to name one). In Edge, however, the characters are met by two immaterial fears of death stemming from psychological reflection of their reality: sudden human disappearances (the primary element to the plot) and the alteration of the universe’s physical laws (the much lauded plot according to the book’s summary, but more of a framing device). It’s this intangible fear that Suzuki seems to do so well in his Ring trilogy, which I haven’t had the privilege to read yet.
Call me one who relishes a mystery, one who thrives in uncertainty, one who wallows in “directionlessness”, one who… you get the idea. The mind needs to fill in its own gaps of understanding to make fear more visceral, more relevant. When intangible fears are named, probed, necropsied, diagrammed, and cataloged, the intangible fear begins to feel very tangible with almost book-like familiarity. In Edge, everything point of fear has some logical underpinning. The human disappearances begin to feel like segments from 1980s-1990s Unsolved Mysteries. The paranormal begins to feel very normal, like how sensationalized news makes our normal yet remarkable lives feel otherwise dull.
Review: When I said that “In Edge, everything point of fear has some logical underpinning”, it wasn’t a compliment. In modern SF novels, some authors like to add an bibliography in the back that backs the science used in the novel. I suppose this either 1) makes the book better based on reality rather than fits of fancy or 2) as a resource for others to discovery more of the book’s science in depth. These bibliographies are often peer-reviewed articles from professional journals. In Edge, however, the bibliography can be immediately disregarded (in terms of “based on real science”) when Graham Hancock is seen, who “specialises in pseudoscientific theories involving ancient civilisations, stone monuments or megaliths, altered states of consciousness, ancient myths, and astronomical or astrological data from the past” (Wiki).
In addition to pi being made from irrational to rational (one of the the book’s opening premises), the novel delves into ancient civilizations, some correlation between sunspots and earthquakes, clairvoyance, and other pseudoscience. It tries hard to incorporate some far-flung theoretical science into this mishmash, but the end result is a disorganized array of half-hearted attempts of injecting interesting slants to the story. It’s a mish-mash that could have used some more time distilling before bottling, leaving the reader hungover from its dregs.