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Suzuki Kōji

(1957-    ) Japanese author and essayist, largely known in English through the Cinema adaptations of several of his books, the international success of which has obscured his wide-ranging domestic output. His horror and Equipoisal fiction proceeds in tandem with a wide array (not listed here) of books on young fatherhood and occasional works on motorcycle travel. He was also the translator of Simon Brett's How to Be a Little Sod (1991), released in Japanese as Waru Gakki Nikki: Boku wa Abunai 0-saiji ["A Bad Child's Diary: My Dangerous First Year"] (2000).

Suzuki's genre work reflects a recurring and recursive engagement with Great and Small, presenting large-scale issues that are often found to have microscopic or even quantum origins. In this regard, he excels at retelling hackneyed genre conventions with an insightful, chilling spin. His first novel, Rakuen (1990; trans Tyran Grillo as Paradise, 2006) is a "genetic" romance, in which two star-crossed prehistoric lovers are separated by the Bering Strait, only for their distant descendants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to be reunited by some strange attraction (see ESP) and hereditary memory (see Identity). However, it was with Ring (1991; trans Robert B Rohmer and Glynne Walley 2003), a supernatural detective drama, that Suzuki first found true success. Combining an eerie sense of the Time Abyss of the Japanese countryside, in which modern comforts are written only lightly over centuries of tradition and secrets, with one of fiction's most perfect Basilisks, it posits a "haunted" scrap of film that will strike its viewer dead unless it is shown to another, hence passing on the "curse". It was adapted as the highly successful horror movie Ring (1998). In a backstory only gradually encountered in the later linked works Rasen ["Spiral"] (1995; trans Glynne Walley 2005 as Spiral) and Birthday (coll of linked stories 1999; trans Glynne Walley 2006), the curse is revealed as a form of psychic virus, recalling the troubled life and violent death of a murdered Telepath, now imparted with Pandemic potential through its migration to video, and hence to television.

Suzuki's work, as adapted in several Television and film versions, including the above-cited film Ring and its further movie spin-offs and Manga incarnations, artfully articulates playground dares and summer-time ghost stories for the modern age. It excels particularly in the goosebump-inducing metatextual implication that the text is itself a carrier of the "virus", and that the clock is ticking on the reader or viewer's own fate. This reflects a common theme in much of Suzuki's fiction, that modernity brings the means to replicate viruses of all kinds – genes or memes, good or bad – on a truly, and often terrifyingly global scale. The Near Future novel Loop (1998) rewrites events by suggesting that previous novels have taken place in a Virtual Reality simulation, observers of which have themselves now somehow contracted the virus, which manifests itself as a new form of cancer.

Edge (2008) represents Suzuki's long-delayed return to equipoisal horror, once again replaying familiar scenarios from ghost stories, but with a pseudo-scientific rationale. The novel begins with simple disappearances, later revealed as harbingers of Disaster and apocalypse, inspired in equal parts by Mayan prophecy, the works of Erich von Däniken and the physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988). As one might expect from an author with such an interest in the replication and effect of texts, Suzuki is also notorious for experiments in delivery and readership; his novel Drop (circa 2009) was literally printed on toilet paper, with estimated sales of 200,000, while another story, "Crossroad" (circa 2006), was delivered free to applicants' mobile phones as a promotional campaign for the Nestlé "Crispy" candy bar. [JonC]

Kōji Suzuki

born Hamamatsu, Shizuoka: 13 May 1957

works (selected)



individual titles


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls and Graham Sleight.
Accessed 03:09 am on 6 July 2022.