My Annihilation

Soho Crime. Jan. 2022. 264p. tr. from Japanese by Sam Bett. ISBN 9781641292726. $25.95. M
A man books into a mountain lodge. He’s hiding there under a false name, Ryodai Kozuka. Kozuka’s dead body lies folded up in his suitcase. There’s an open manuscript on his desk. He begins to read. It tells of a man who murdered four young girls in one month in 1988. The young narrator (he was only a third grader at the time) can’t shake off his fascination with the murderer but soon has his own issues to address, sexual and physical. He fantasizes about pushing his sister off a cliff. When she trips and falls but survives, he accepts his mother’s judgment that he’d tried to kill her. His mother sends him to a treatment center, where he begins to feel that someone else, not him, is taking over his personality. A doctor hypnotizes him to replace bad memories with new. Electroshock treatment follows, leading to the breakdown of whatever personhood he’d had. The story becomes a maze of conflicting accounts, back and forth between manuscript and reader—black boxes within black boxes, memory and personality transient, even basic facts losing a foundation.
VERDICT Nakamura’s (The Thief) dark, elegant novel will appeal more to lovers of experimental fiction than fans of crime thrillers.
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