Item description for Inverted Kingdom by Ken Asamatsu & Robert M. Price...
This massive collection of original stories and articles inspired by the 'Cthulhu Mythos' created by H.P. Lovecraft was published in Japan in 2002 as a two-volume set under the name Hishinkai. The list of contributing authors is a who's-who of Japanese horror fiction, featuring some of the finest writers in Japan today. In cooperation with Tokyo Sogensha, the Japanese publishers, and the anthology editor, Mr. ASAMATSU Ken, we are proud to present this second volume of the series. Here you will find new vistas of horror - some stories with shock you, others force you to look at your daily life through new eyes. Each story is accompanied by a thought-provoking introduction by Robert M. Price, the recognized master of the Mythos.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1" Width: 5" Height: 7.75" Weight: 0.91 lbs.
Release Date Nov 15, 2005
Publisher Kurodahan Press
ISBN 4902075121 ISBN13 9784902075120
Reviews - What do customers think about Inverted Kingdom?
More great Japanese fiction Jan 3, 2006
This is volume 2 of a planned 4 volume collection of translated original short fiction by Japanese authors, These have been previously published in Japan but are basically completely new works and completely new authors to us English speaking westerners. Regular AHCers may know I thought the first volume was brilliant, a stunning triumph. My impression is more tempered this time but I also give this volume a resounding recommendation. We simply must have more of this Japanese fiction! I do hope Kurodahan Press, the publishers, reaps in lots of yen so they will be encouraged to keep us supplied with a steady stream of Japanese mythos fiction, not just these 4 volumes.
Some housekeeping: The price is $20. There is no discount from this site (boo!), but if you order more than $25 worth of stuff it ships free (yay!) for downgraded shipping (boo!). Page count was a just short of phenomenal 357, so quite a bargain really. This includes a 4 page introduction by Asamatsu Ken, a 10 page introduction by Robert Price (a familiar figure to all of us), 2 pages for titles in front of each story, another 2 page introduction by Price in front of each story, and the last 24 pages devoted to an essay on mythos role playing games and notes about the authors. No calculator available, but this left 291 pages for 7 stories, an average about 42 pages each. This book is generally longer than most homegrown mythos collections and has fewer stories. Some amount to novellas. Is that the Japanese way? Are short stories less short than in the US? In any event, the authors were allowed sufficient page count that characters and plot could be developed at leisure, imagery could be lingered over. The same lotus scented surreal atmosphere seemed to exude from this volume as from the earlier one. A special note must be made of the cover art by Yamada Akihiro. It is simply lovely, one of the most gorgeous mythos covers ever. An octopoidal thing drifts dreamily in the seaweed, but don't venture too close! The book is, I think, POD, and my copy was flawless. Alas it is already a bit beat up but it hasn't been handled too gently here. Mostly I have only grateful praise for the translators except in two instances that I will note later.
I think the forward by Asamatsu Ken, "Life with Gills" set the mood for the book perfectly. This time, however, I was not enamored of the Price's introduction. He was off on his pet themes regarding the mythos, now about mythos cult members. It was a trifle (or more) long winded and didn't really add to my appreciation of the subsequent stories. I did not read his individual story introductions until I had finished each one, as there were sometimes minor spoilers. Mostly I felt neutral about them.
My comments about the individual stories may contain spoilers so please skip the rest of this if that will be a problem for you.
Ashibe Taku: "The Horror in the Kabuki Theatre" translated by Sheryl Hogg
I believe this was the longest story in the book, practically a novella. I had some heartburn with it. A group in Japan has a copy of the Necronimicon and are trying to invoke the power or presence of the Great Old Ones by inserting chants or imagery about them into performances in the Kabuki theaters bear Edo in 1806. The premise that these entities can manifest into existence from thoughts or words on a page dovetails nicely with many mythos stories or themes here in the US. The spin here that was original that by writing a play about their defeat, humans, the playwrights and the players can combat the Great Old Ones using words, just as they are trying to be manifested through words. Unfortunately I found this tale somewhat dry. The back ground is true history of Japan and Kabuki, with much discussion of the names of playwrights, actors and prop makers, and listing their work. Here is where a detailed introduction could have done real service to the uninitiated westerner. I have no context for this story historically or culturally. I think I have only ever seen a minute or two of Kabuki on TV or in movies. The same is true for Chinese opera but in the film Farewell My Concubine the screen imagery was vivid enough that I could at least catch glimpses of what it must have been like. This text did not do the same thing for me (except the ceremony where the world was decreed), and I don't know whether the blame lies with the translator or the author (or me, for that matter). For example, as creatures manifest and swallow whole theaters full of patrons and performers there was no sense of fear or tension in the prose. The people who were there who were not swallowed up didn't evince much reaction at all. I wonder if I wrote a story for a Japanese periodical and listed the names of Shakespeare's plays, and the major actors and set designers of the period if it would read like so much word salad to my audience. I feel a bit guilty that I didn't Google Kabuki and read up on it instead of just griping about my lack of context.
Matsudono Rio: "Taste of the Snake's Honey" translated by Erin S. Brodhead
This is a Yig story and was quite fine. A young man with tastes for ghoulish and violent kinky sex gradually achieves self realization. His detachment from the atrocities inflicted for his enjoyment ends up internally consistent and necessary to the story. I would love to read some more of Mr. Matsudono's fiction. Initially I thought there were unusual juxtapositions of present and past tense, but this was only in the first part of the story. Author or translator? I dunno.
Matsuo Mirai: "Inverted Kingdom" translated by Usha Jayaraman
This was a superb story of a woman living a mundane existence as a housewife who then finds her destiny is not so mundane after all. Realization comes to her and the reader gradually, at first dimly glimpsed and then more clearly. If not for "Terror Rate" it would have been my favorite in the book.
Konaka Chiaki: "Terror Rate" translated by Kathleen Taji
Goodness, this was wonderful! A young lady in need of supplemental income agrees to participate in a scientific experiment where she merely has to spend the night in a house where her fear will be measured. Well plotted and deftly written it has pride of place in this anthology.
Tanaka Fumio: "Secrets of the Abyss" translated by Bruce Rutledge and Enomoto Yuko
In this nifty story a man in search of a cure for his gravely ill wife comes across an unusual fish in a nearby flooded quarry, after observing a dog eating something from the old mine. The flesh from this creature has perhaps less than salutary effects on her and him. It was a very agreeable read.
Nanjo Takenori: "A Night at Yuan-Su" translated by Usha Jayaraman
A man wanders one night through the streets of Yuan-Su in search of who knows what. Who is real? What is real? Is anything real? You might wish to reread "He" by HPL before reading this story. It was dreamlike and well crafted, another fine addition to the mythos. I really liked it.
Hirayama Yumeaki: "Summoned by the Shadows" translated by Sheryl Hogg
A family settles into a house where the rent is unexpectedly low just because there's a grave in the back yard. Complications ensue. Not a bad premise, not a bad story, it just did not knock my socks off the way some of the others did.
Yasuda Hitoshi: "The Cthulhu Mythos in Gaming" translated by Edward Lipsett
This essay was diverting enough, but seemed rather generic to me. I would have been interested in more complete or detailed description of homegrown Japanese mythos gaming or of the gaming community.
That's about it! I was not as completely won over as I was for Night Voices, Night Journeys. In particular I think "The Horror in the Kabuki Theatre" was too long and too dry, and, well, too obscure for me. On the other hand I would not part with my copy. Four of the stories were superb gems, rating with the best of modern Lovecraftian fiction. 1 was very good and 1 was OK. I think everyone should have this book on their shelves. It is indispensable reading for serious mythos fans. Heck you can't beat the value for the money so go for it! I await other opinions with interest. Even more so, I impatiently await volume 3!
INVERTED KINGDOM Review Dec 12, 2005
INVERTED KINGDOM (LAIRS OF THE HIDDEN GODS, Volume Two) -- edited by Asamatsu Ken and Introduced by Robert M. Price (Kurodahan Press: Japan, 2005 (Translation of a 2002 edition called HISHINKAI, Produced by Tokyo Sogensha.). This 2005 English translation volume can be ordered from this site.Com, and more can be found on the book, including a view of the cover, at: http://www.kurodahan.com/e/catalog/titles/j0011.html Reviewed by James Ambuehl More Mythos goodness from Kurodahan Press, whose previous NIGHT VOICES, NIGHT JOURNEYS (LAIRS, Volume One) I gave a rousing review. One thing that stood out for me in a few of these tales was the predominance of the female character, usually in a sexual and/or progenitive role, but they were present all the same. Lovecraft's fiction hardly used them, of course, and usually in the role of villains if he did. But anyway, again, this is a highly-original, even scary anthology of very imaginative tales. And we lead off in very fine form with Ashibe Taku's short novel, "The Horror in the Kabuki Theater." In this deep, compelling story steeped in Japanese culture, real monsters are supplanting the fictional ones in picture books and plays -- and coming to life! -- and very unorthodox rituals must be brought into play to combat them! This story seems to carry echoes of "The Dunwich Horror," with its banding together of various hardy souls to combat the Mythos, and it proves once again that the pen is indeed mightier than the . . . er, tentacle! Next up is "Taste of Snake's Honey," a shocking tale -- rife with perversion and murder -- from the bad guy Yig-avatar's point of view. But it's a well-written, engaging read which is, despite its horrors, impossible to tear one's self away from. I dare say author Matsudono Rio is the Japanese equivalent of our own Douglas Clegg or Edward Lee! Matsuo Mirai's "Inverted Kingdom" is very poetic, with lots of descriptions of flowing and bubbling black waters in the wake of a devastating Tsunami. It's very much influenced by "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" too, a tale of a lonely identity-barren girl fated to give birth to monsters! "Terror Rate" by Konaka Chiaki is another great read, very WEIRD TALES-ish, a tale of frightening experiments held in a house seemingly outside time and space! Takana Fumio's "Secrets of the Abyss" seemed a little rushed, unfortunately, but the idea was interesting, at least: focusing on the healing powers of a certain strange fish found deep in caves. The ending just seemed to come out of nowhere, and would have been much less jarring had the story been a bit longer. Plus, the Mythos really seemed to me to be tacked on at the end. Nanjo Takenori's "A Night at Yuan-Su" was also not so much Mythos centered, but definitely Lovecraftian, with echoes of "The Outsider" and "He," as well as classic Japanese ghost stories. "Summoned by the Shadows" by Hirayama Yumeaki is a sort of Mythos version of ROSEMARY'S BABY, and its a frightening and imaginative tale to boot! In addition to the fine fiction displayed within, we also have an article on Lovecraftian role-playing games in Japan, and Bob Price is in especially fine, and even quite jocular form, with his Introduction, "Cults of the Ghouls," which takes a long-overdue look at the various types of Mythos cultist and dissects their seemingly mad motivations! So, all in all, a wonderful book, especially worthwhile for the Price Introduction, and the stories "The Horror in the Kabuki Theater," "Taste of Snake's Honey" and "Summoned by the Shadows." And yes, once again, I must mention the cover is a wonderful underwater vista, again by artist Yamada Akihiro, depicting a sort of grumpy looking Cthulhu -- perhaps grumpy because he's just been awakened from his aeons-old slumber! And his dark-eyed gaze seems to say to the viewer: buy this book -- or else! And who's going to argue with Cthulhu? Highly recommended! Even Cthulhu says so!