CLOUD OF SPARROWS by Takashi Matsuoka


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Some rootin’-tootin’ shoot-’em-up and slice-’em-up for those who thought the US-Japanese trade deficit was bad.

Missionaries arrive in Japan to spread Christ’s message. The time is just between the New Years—after the outsiders’ celebration and before the real New Year. A prophecy says that an outsider will save Lord Genji’s life after the New Year: but which New Year is meant? We seem to have Lord of the Rings (with the West as the economic orcs) mixed with Days of our Lives and The King and I, with a bow to Shogun to avoid accusations of plagiarism. Characters include the naive missionary Emily (“We bring nothing with us but the word of Christ. Why would anyone wish us harm?”), who may be doomed to fall for Lord Genji; the super-ninja-assassin Shigeru (“Slashing with the katana in his right hand and stabbing with the tanto in his left, Shigeru killed or mortally wounded everyone who opposed him”); the accidental gunslinger Stark, who repeatedly reminds us that a .44 bullet in the back of the neck can take a man’s head clean off; and Heiko, who is either the hottest geisha on this slope of Mt. Fuji or a spy—or both. The stakes are high: It will be war at the hands of outsiders or war among the samurai clans, and 2,000 years of civilization is on the line. Unfortunately, battle sequences are written more for ambitious cinematographers than for readers, and, really, Matsuoka doesn’t have the weapons to handle the morass he’s created: here, we’re treated to pedestrian wisdom (“It was truly a terrible thing to be in love”); nonwriting (“Above, the winter stars moved across the sky in their set orbits”); and inconsistencies—such as this one, regarding a land that’s supposed to have been secluded for several hundred years: “We have always been easy prey for foreign fads.”

In this case, enough said.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-385-33640-3
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2002