Monday, October 11, 2010

In honor of 80 degree October days

I am in love with Kieli.  It's a series of books translated from Japanese about a teenager isolated because of her past and her abilities and what happens when she meets someone even more lonely and isolated than she is.  It's aimed at a teenage audience (it's called a light novel), so it's not particularly challenging.  The writing isn't necessarily Pulitzer caliber.  It's horror, a genre I normally don't get on well with, and there are some serious gross-out moments.  What is it, then, that makes me love it so much that it's the first thing I read when I get a new batch of books that contain it among them, no matter how large the batch is (as long as it's sunny out, and I can read in the sun because, otherwise, even the "light" horror will drown me).

There's a lot to like about it.  In the past I've wondered what draws me to the series most.  The atmosphere of sweet, awkward melancholy or the dreamy quality of the storytelling (interrupted by brief and disturbingly clear instants of graphic violence and action)?  Is is the reflective mood?  The detached but sad tone?  The brisk pacing that seems languid at the same time?  The spine-tingling weirdness that creeps in sometimes?  The amusing and crotchety relationship between the lead characters?

This round (volume 3), though, I realize that one of the most powerful draws to it for me is the way that it approaches the walls we put up around ourselves and how to co-exist with them.  That sounds dreadfully opaque.  What it comes down to is that I respect this author for not taking the easy way out, like so many other Japanese stories about teen girls do.  We put walls up, and there can be all kinds of very legitimate reasons for that.  In a lot of Japanese stories aimed at teen girls, the author will tease me by bringing up the subject and then inevitably let me down by making the answer a simple, "Bust down the walls, be friendly to everyone, and everything will be fine!  Nice conquers all!"  That is not reality.  It is false, saccharine, and kind of enraging, especially when it's the cliche in a long series that could do so much with the idea.

Don't get me wrong: I can like those series well enough.  I do like a happy ending.  But I love a happy ending that is earned by blood, sweat, and tears. I love a series like Kieli that says, "Here is what it's like for these people who have excellent reasons to have walls, and here is how sometimes they trust, and it's a good thing, and sometimes they trust and it's a bad thing.  Here is how their walls save them and keep them alive, and here is how their walls crush them, sometimes at the same time."  In other words, it's kind of like real life even though the setting is horror/fantasy/sci-fi.  I love how "genre" works can sort of sidle up to these issues and deal with them sideways.

I do want a happy ending for these characters; I really do.  But I want a believable happy ending.  And I don't see yet how that will happen.  The author is too good at those real-life twists and turns to pander to the reader.  They're billing it as a romance, so I believe things will work out, and I look forward to seeing how, but right now, I love reading about these broken people searching for God knows what.


  1. As regards walls, you really need to watch seasons 3 and 4 of Chuck sometime. Sarah's character is getting some nice development.

  2. Why must you torment me with things impossible until December?! Fiend! Grrr . . . :)

  3. Does it get your blood pressure up like road rage? Maybe I should do it more.

  4. I don't think it does. It makes me sad. Road rage from how stupidly and dangerously people drive just makes me angry. :) I'm not sure what that says about my blood pressure . . .