Loop by Koji Suzuki

The third book in the RING cycle, now out in hardcover in English translation from Vertical, Inc. Again, as in Spiral, everything you thought you knew about the Ring virus is swept aside. A remarkable achievement, though an unsatisfactory ending and dodgy science conspire to make it the weakest of the three books so far.

The Ring virus has mutated again, into a sort of immortal cancer. The cancer spreads, and no matter how many organs to have removed, it keeps going on to the next, then the next. Not only humans, but animals and plants seem to fall prey to the same virus. It is, as we have seen for the past two books in the series, the beginning of the end of the world.

But young Kaoru will have none of it. Watching his father waste away in the hospital, his mother drift into new age mysticism, the boy in the next room become bitter and hateful. That boy's mother, though, sparks an interest in him of a different kind. Soon, he begins to feel that he, and he alone, has the power and the knowledge to save the world from the virus. And the answers lie somewhere in the four corners region of the southwestern United States.

His father was a scientist working on the "Loop" project, which was a massive government funded project designed to simulate the creation of life using computers. The program is "seeded" with virual RNA, which then gradually spawns life. The life evolves (all inside the computer program, mind you) at an accelerated pace until it mimics the growth of life in the real world, copying the path of evolution right up to the creation of human beings, language, and all the comforts of modern society. Sort of like THE SIMS ONLINE, but without any players, I guess.

The analogy that the book makes here is that, since life did not occur spontaneously in the virtual environment, it did not occur spontaneously here. There was a "creator." And because life evolved in the simulation in exactly the same way it evolved on this planet, there is an inherent "design" to evolution. At some moments, I had to wonder if I was reading a horror book, or Of Pandas and People?

Of course, Suzuki had a reason to suggest the possibility of Intelligent Design in LOOP, namely to create the possibility that we, too, are in a Loop project of someone else's making, and are completely ignornant of the fact. But instead of being spooky, it just came out about as loony as a Dover Pennsylvania School Board meeting. It doesn't help matters that Suzuki constantly puts words into the mouths of his intellectual, scientific characters that completely misrepresent current theories and facts concerning evolution. Maybe the problem is I should have never started reading LOOP immediately after finishing Dawkins' brilliant The Ancestor's Tale.

The previous books had some junk science in them as well, to be sure, but there was enough mystery and horror to keep one interested. And with a paranormal answer at the heart of the mystery, the science added credibility despite its rough edges. In LOOP, however, the paranormal answer to the origin of the Ring virus is discarded. Now, trying to explain the story in terms of real science alone, without a sense of horror and only a simple mystery that you will solve long before the protagonist does, the story starts to fall apart.

By the end of LOOP, we seem at last tantalizingly close to the true nature of the Ring virus, and most importantly, how and by whom it was really introduced. But the question is never answered, quite simply dropped, in fact. And what about Sadako? Though an early look at the new mutated cancer cells remind Kaoru of a woman's face, she does not make an appearance in LOOP except in reviewing the events of the previous two books. Kaoru even stumbles across a menacing-looking well, and finds dead, cancerous rats and plants around it and leading away to a dead body, but this too ultimately means nothing. All roads that could have led more sinister places are not followed this time around. The author has stated he wants people to read the whole series right through to see it really has an inspirational message of hope, but frankly I could do without, thank you very much.

In the end, I greatly admire LOOP for once again completely redefining what had occurred in the previous stories and adding additional complexity. It is a brilliant way to structure a trilogy. On the other hand, we do come precariously close to a "it was all just a dream" type resolution. Still, if you have enjoyed either of the first two novels, LOOP is a must read. A year from now, Vertical, Inc. has scheduled the release of the last of the Ring cycle, the short story anthology BIRTHDAY. Suzuki still has my attention, and I look forward to revisiting the world he has created at least one more time.

Loop is available at amazon.com

Posted by Peter Nepstad on November 17, 2005.


this book is great. I loved it, though I have not read the previous books I plan to. I have no money to buy them but our library has just got them in!. Ring and spiral here I come!

Posted by: Imasu at August 21, 2006 03:30 PM

I'm currently searching for Loop here. Can't find it anywhere! I've read Ring and am currently halfway through Spiral. They're definitely worth reading. Very different from your usual typical gory horror. Actually, it really isn't that gory at all but it still sets your imagination wild and gives you the chills. Well, it did for me. *thumbs up*

Posted by: Talon Tearine at March 30, 2007 08:21 AM

I havent read the first or the second book of the series, and must admit that if I havent read this review, I wouldnt even noticed it was apart of a big picture. As much as i disliked the actual Ring movie, I loved the book. I loved the authorĀ“s way of writing. No long explanatory crap, straight to the point with very interesting metaphors. It was an easy, yet thrilling twist. I love algebra and SF, so this was a good one :)

Posted by: Zlamushka at September 7, 2007 01:22 AM

i suggest reading the birthday, too.

it contains 3 stories that were ommitted from the 3 books.

Posted by: melvin at May 17, 2009 11:30 PM
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