Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Microreview [book]: A Small Charred Face by Kazuki Sakuraba

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and you know bad things are going to happen? You can sense it on a deeper level, almost taste it in the air. You aren't sure of how bad or when, just that they are coming.

Kazuki Sakuraba weaves suspenseful tension onto every page of A Small Charred Face. Only a few times did I somewhat anticipate/predict what was going to happen during particular events and yet, Sakuraba still made those moments, even if slightly predictable, emotionally powerful.

But I'm getting a tad ahead of myself and haven't told you anything about anything have I? Kyo is a small boy whose mother married a small-time criminal that quickly worked his way up in the Japanese organized crime syndicates. Unfortunately for Kyo, that man, his fourth papa by marriage, decided to steal the boss's money and woman and a contract was put out on the man's entire family, which included Kyo.

Yet, Kyo finds himself saved by a Bamboo, an ancient Chinese vampire born of the tall grasses. However, the greatest crime a Bamboo can commit is harboring and communicating with a human.

A Small Charred Face is not the story of single human or Bamboo. Rather it is the story of life and death, of retaining a sense of humanity in the face of terrible events. The narrative takes place over decades and follows multiple characters as their lives touch, like a baton being passed in a relay race.

I think Sakuraba has written one of the most touching and simultaneously horrific novels I've read in some time. The horror is not in gore, or jump scares, or anything remotely [air quotes] Traditional Horror. These characters, both human and Bamboo alike, must confront what it truly means to live. You see, Bamboo have long lives but they are not immortal. They can heal but they can and do die of old age.

Multiple times I was brought to tears while reading because Sakuraba so eloquently conveyed the depth of love these characters felt for life and each other. It is one of the most beautiful horror novels I've had the pleasure of reading.

Even now, as I sit here to write this, I am struck by the sense of life and fire this book carries within. This is a book I want to give out as gifts simply so I can talk about it with more people. So, do me a favor and go buy it so we can all talk about it, please? Seriously, I'll wait here for you.

The Math:
Baseline Assessment: 8/10  
Bonuses: +1 for brilliant tension throughout Penalties: None from me!
Nerd Coefficient: 9/10 -- a truly refreshing vampire novel
POSTED BY: Shana DuBois--extreme bibliophile and seeker of raindrops.
Reference: Sakuraba, Kazuki. A Small Charred Face [Haikasoru, 2017]
Our scoring system explained.