The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

I completed listening to this award-winning debut novel by Funimori Nakamura as an audiobook narrated by Brian Nishii. It is fast in trying to build up the suspense and it has some interesting characters even if they never really stood out including the main character himself. It has a good beginning, average middle, and a good and very quick ending. While listening I was imagining the what if scenario if Raskolnikov discovered a gun instead of a hatchet in Fyodor Dostoevsky's masterful classic novel Crime and Punishment. But this is a modern crime fiction and the main character Nishikawa is different from Raskolnikov as much as the author Nakamura is far from the skill level of Dostoevsky. I would have given this 2.5 stars if not for the unexpected I-cant-do-it scene and then the quick return-to-the-original dark scheme of finally giving in under the spell of the Gun.

I just could not stop thinking about the self-imposed limits of using a gun in a traditional crime fiction and it left me asking if there is anything else aside from just tiptoing the boundary between being a bad guy or a good guy and back? I was hoping that Nakamura could break the cliche of good-or-bad only dichotomy and wished that his protagonist, the budding sociopath could have traversed the boundary of being grey than being just white, or black. I was just thinking what could be the outcome if Nishikawa became an accidental hero instead of being just a murderer? A situation where he is forced to use the gun to protect his own or somebody else's life (?the police investigator) and not just to murder somebody who is a child beater? How will that change his feverish, murderous obsession with the gun when he accidentally used it and saved an innocent's life instead? Would that alienate him more and drive him worse than before? Will it force him to shoot himself? As a reader i would like to find out more.

There's a lot of room for improvement but I think the quality of this book (as seen by the ones who gave this book the Shincho Award for New Author in 2002) lies within the context of being written and situated in the present-day Japan. As a gaijin reader (outsider) I learned something about  the current Japanese opinion and sentimentality regarding the Americanization of Japan. This is a good attempt as a debut novel for Nakamura but as a reader, I wanted something more in a crime fiction like this.

Genre: Noir, Crime Fiction
Rating: 3 black cats out of 5

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