Tokyo Year Zero and Occupied City

Certain books just get inside your head. The language somehow finds your resonant frequency and refuses to leave. There is no choice. You have to finish the book as quickly as possible. The experience can be exhilarating and exciting but also disturbing and disorienting at times. If you find yourself staying up too late or missing your bus stop to finish the next chapter, you have come across the kind of book I’m talking about.

Two books that I read recently fit into this category: Tokyo Year Zero and Occupied City both by David Peace.

The plot description will only tell you so much. Set during the Allied occupation of Japan, Occupied City is technically about a mass poisoning that took place at a bank and the attempts to find the killer. Tokyo Year Zero shares the same setting and deals with a police detective tracking down a serial murderer. Both crimes are based on historical events.

Defining these books as mysteries or historical fiction would be a grave mistake, however. Who did it and why, while important, really isn’t the author’s prime concern. Instead he uses an intense stream of consciousness narrative to get inside the head of the characters. The question is whether you want to be there or not.

If you are up for a challenge, and don’t mind going down a few very dark alleys, both of these books will reward you with an addictive reading experience.