This post is in two parts. Firstly a look at one of the greatest stories in print, a truly masterful suspense thriller. And secondly a few thoughts on my new Kindle and how I think it could be utilised to great effect in the future.
Monster by Naoki Urasawa is a manga (Japanese comic book). It weaves the riveting story of brilliant Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a Japanese surgeon with a promising career at a leading German hospital. It is a compelling thriller. No costumes or masks. No bulging biceps or heaving bosoms.
A brilliant surgeon sacrifices his career to save the life of a child who’s been shot in the head, rather than operate on the Mayor of Dussledorf who needs a minor operation. The Mayor dies, the child survives... and grows up to be an incredibly evil psychotic killer.
It’s a comic book, and comes in 18 volumes each around 200 pages.
Live up to the Hype?
Yes. A staggeringly complex plot. A thriller that incorporates suspense, mystery, romance, drama and action. It’s a stunning achievement.
The really amazing thing about this story is the villain, the ‘monster’ of the title, who is a charming, handsome young man who has the ability to talk people into doing whatever he wants, no matter how heinous.
You may have read the advice of some writers who say when you have an exceptional ability in a character, or you have made a grand claim (the greatest magic trick, the best chat-up line, the greatest treasure) never show it as the reader’s imagination will always be more powerful than anything you can come up with.
I believe this is true if you happen to be a bad to average writer. Good writers are able to show you what they mean, and they’re the only ones I’m interested in. Here, we see the ‘monster’ in action. The writer lives up to his claims. And seeing a child who has discovered the monster’s identity being talked into killing himself is horrific and dreadful like I can’t even verbalise. That should give you an idea of how dark this particular story gets.
My main reason for posting about this comic book is because of the ramifications this media has for e-readers. Having just purchased a Kindle I discovered (well, the Internets informed me) that the Kindle has a hidden mode for viewing comic books, specifically manga for the Japanese market.
I don’t know why this mode isn’t in the manual, but it does a very good job of displaying comic books, even Western ones (in black and white though).
The thing about manga is that it is not how we perceive comic books in the West. Cheap, black and white, rarely about superheroes, and as complex as any movie or even novel — and very definitely aimed at adults — they are hugely popular. They are serialised, so people buy them weekly the way they would newspapers or magazines, and are as addictive as soap operas, which means a constant revenue stream, not a one off purchase.
The whole point is to get you hooked to keep buying so story is paramount, characters have to be intriguing and since so many get produced, competition is cutthroat. The thrilling pace, non-stop twists and unexpected story outcomes designed to keep the reader reading and rushing out to buy the next issue is a lesson in itself for any writer.
As e-readers become ever more ubiquitous, and magazines and newspapers become ever more redundant, the idea of an easy to download, serialised story that is mature enough to appeal to adults, but simple enough to read while jiggling around on a train to work, could really take off. Bear in mind this is the first generation of middle aged people (okay, men) that didn’t stop reading comics and playing video games.
What do you think about serialised content for e-readers? How interested would you be in reading an ongoing drama in the genre of your choice? How interested would you be in writing one?
This is post is part of an ongoing series that can be found here.