Thursday, November 29, 2012

『QはQuestionのQ』

「思い出と記憶って、どこが違うか知っている?」 犀川は煙草を消しながら言った。
「思い出は良いことばかり、記憶は嫌なことばかりだわ」
「そんなことはないよ。嫌な思い出も、楽しい記憶もある」
「じゃあ、何です?」
「思い出は全部記憶しているけど、記憶は全部は思い出せないんだ」
『すべてがFになる - The Perfect Insider』

"Do you know what's the difference between memories and recollections?" Saikawa asked while he extinguished his cigarette.
"All memories are good, while recollections are bad"
"That's not right. You can have bad memories, and also good recollections"
"What's the difference then?"
"All recollections are memorized, but you can't recollect all of your memories"
"Everything Becomes F - The Perfect Insider"

Last week was the November Festival of Kyoto University, at which the Mystery Club was selling its magazine (?) Souanoshiro (or Souajou; both readings are correct). The first year members (even though I'm far from a first year student) were in charge of the booth, which was a new kind of experience. I had been to Kyushu University's school festival before, but such a festival is definitely different if you're on the selling side. Interesting was that Van Madoy himself was present at the booth too (often to sleep, but also to sign books). In fact, a lot of old members drop by to pick up this year's Souanoshiro, which meant that Maya Yutaka and Abiko Takemaru also visited the booth. And I totally got their Mii's with the 3DS's StreetPass functionality.

But anyway...

Mori Hiroshi's Subete ga F ni Naru - The Perfect Insider ("Everything Becomes F - The Perfect Insider") is the first novel in the S&M series starring assistent professor Saikawa Souhei and first year student (and old acquaintance) Nishinosono Moe solving mainly locked room problems. We are first introduced to Magata Shiki, a genius (overall genius, but specializing in computer science and programming), who was once considered a child prodigy. Until that whole being accused of killing her parents incident when she was 14 years old. and being diagnosed as suffering from multiple personality disorder. Since then she has been living inside a locked room inside the Magata research institute, located in Himakajima island. Her living quarters are separated from the rest of the institute by two doors: one door can only be opened by Shiki herself, while the other has to be opened by other people at the institute. During a visit to Himaka island, Saikawa and Moe request to meet Magata, only to be greeted by her corpse, in a wedding dress, coming out of her room, while the computers inside display the enigmatic message: "Everything becomes F".

Hmmm. Subete ga F ni Naru is one of those famous works in contemporary Japanese mystery novels you just have to read and most people are like it quite a lot, but for some reason or another, it just doesn't 'click' with me. It is definitely not a bad book (far from it!) and it does sorta mark the beginning of the scientific detective novel movement in Japan, so I can't really afford to ignore it here, but I really have trouble finding the right words to describe how I experienced Subete ga F ni Naru. Which explains why I wrote this review weeks after I had read the book. Well, that and I always have trouble finding relevant post titles.

There are roughly two problems in the novel: what happened inside Shiki's triple locked room (the island, the institute and Shiki's room), and how did the murderer escape from the locked room? It's the solution to the latter problem I don't really like (I love the former though). It is a trick that is quite innovative (especially considering the original release date of 1994!), but it is not completely fair to the reader. The foreshadowing/hints is/are not clear enough, or at least not detailed enough to absolutely point to the one solution. In hindsight, it all makes sense, but there are some details vital to the solution that seem skimmed over in the text until Saikawa gives the solution. It is a great trick in theory though and I would have been very pleased with it if Mori had planted more detailed hints in the text.

Even though this novel is set in reality, I had troubles in guessing what 'rules' Mori was going by with this story. It is something that can arise when dealing with mystery novels set in the future, or with a fantasy setting, but this is one of the rare instances where I had such troubles in a realistic setting. Of course, most mysteries I read are either set in an age where technology hasn't advanced this far yet, or set at an isolated location, or have a setting where technological advancement simply have no role, so that might explain why I don't really "get" it. It's the same problem I often have with Higashino Keigo's scientific mystery series, Detective Galileo (applies mostly to the short stories).

I also had problems with the characters in the novel. Yes, they are all memorable and come alive on the pages, but in a slightly exaggerated way. It is for example a bit hard to swallow Shiki's genius if everything she does is just explained away by 'she's a genius'. Subete ga F ni Naru is not only a starting point for scientific mysteries, it is also often seen as one of the earliest novels to invoke kyara moe (not moe kyara by the way. That is something else). In short, to look at a work focusing on the characters (as opposed to plot, structure etc.). Definitely something to consider if you want to look at society and (second stage) New Orthodox detective novels, even if I am not really interested in that period.

Subete ga F ni Naru is definitely not bad and I am actually quite fond of the problem of what happened in Shiki's room, but I just can't feel that enthusiastic about the novel. Maybe it's because of the (unfair) expectations I had because it was such a famous book, maybe because scientific detectives, kyara moe and stuff aren't for me, but I am more likely to continue with Mori's 100 Years series than the S&M series. For those not fluent in Japanese, yet interested and fluent in French, I am sure the manga version has been released in France as F - The Perfect Insider.

Original Japanese title(s): 森博嗣 『すべてがFになる The Perfect Insider』

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