Book: Tokyo Suckerpunch by Isaac Adamson 

Good, but not as good as Hokkaido Popsicle 

Isaac Adamson
Tokyo Suckerpunch
HarperCollins, 2000
ISBN: 0-380-81291-6
325 pages

It's not Isaac Adamson's fault that I read his excellent and hilarious second novel Hokkaido Popsicle before I read his first novel, Tokyo Suckerpunch. If I had read his first book first, I would probably have said that I enjoyed it and that I looked forward to his next. On reading the next, I would have said that it was better than the first and very good indeed. Alas, since I read the second one first, I ended up a bit disappointed with Tokyo Suckerpunch.

Like Hokkaido Popsicle, Tokyo Suckerpunch is about Billy Chaka, a reporter for the magazine Youth in Asia (pronounce it), which is, unaccountably, published in Cleveland. He has been sent to Tokyo to cover the Nineteen and Under Handicapped International Martial Arts Championship. But a funny thing happens to him on the way to the arena. He's waiting for a friend in an odd bar in Tokyo and runs into a geisha.

It turns out that Billy has a geisha obsession and he doesn't make an exception in this case. When the woman disappears out a bathroom window just as some gangsters come in the bar's front door, Billy is at least intrigued. Then he finds that gangsters want him to find her for them, that another group does as well, and that the friend he was to meet is dead. What follows is a kind of a detective story but more like a funny adventure through a version of Tokyo that's slightly more surreal than the real one. The story is by no means bad. It's just up the same alley as the one in Hokkaido Popsicle and slightly less entertaining. Billy is also a slightly less interesting character in this book. He's not the hard-boiled Billy we see in Hokkaido Popsicle. Instead he's a man in thrall to his obsessions.

Perhaps it would be best after all to read Hokkaido Popsicle first. If, like me, you're a big fan of that book, you'll surely enjoy Tokyo Suckerpunch, just probably a little less.

There's an interesting possible insight into Japanese culture in the book, which Billy attributes to a sociologist, that the Japanese fondness for talking vending machines has its roots in the animistic beliefs of Shintoism.

There are a few editing errors in the book: There's "weeklies" where "weekly" is wanted (p. 26), "who" where "which" would be better (p. 114), "does" where "do" is wanted (p. 119), "consulate" where "embassy" would be accurate (p. 269), "courtroom" for "courthouse" (p. 296), and "hung" where "hanged" would be better (p. 319). 

Posted: Sun - October 2, 2005 at 07:28   Main   Category: