First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.

Synopsis:

The world has turned its back on Japan: it has been economically devastated, thrown into political turmoil – and then attacked.

A small team of highly trained, ruthless North Korean special forces troops invade the city of Fukuoka, holding the residents hostage. This is the vanguard of the operation ‘From the Fatherland, with Love’ – if nothing is done to stop them, 120,000 more troops will follow.

And while the government seem incapable of acting, there is one possible source of resistance, a troubled gang of psychotic misfits, masters of guns, explosives and toxins, self-taught and unhinged. But they are driven only by a desire for chaos, and death…

Thrilling, bloody and unstoppable, From the Fatherland, with Love is a vast, mad achievement: an all-too-believable, vividly realized alternate present, with the careening, incendiary power of Murakami at his terrifying best.


Another work week is in the books. I hope you are closing the week with a bang and that you’ll be diving into the weekend with high spirits. It’s time to rest and relax and focus on other important things! Me time! This past week has been typical. I did celebrate my birthday; I am officially out of the calendar (Filipinos will understand). I wish that you are all healthy and will stay healthy. I wish that you are all happy and safe. More importantly, I wish that the pandemic will end soon so that we can resume our normal lives. Although I think the new normal won’t be the same as the old normal. Something in the air has shifted and nothing is the same as before. To those who have been a little under the weather lately, I wish you get to find that spark and that joy in whatever you are doing. I know it can be difficult but I know you can make it through. I hope you use the weekend, and the remaining months to realign your energy and priorities.

Before I can dive into the weekends, let me close this week with a fresh First Impression Friday update. For my birth month, I have decided to return to one of my comfort zones in the vast world of literature. After two amazing months of soaking in the works of European literature, I am back in the ambit of Japanese literature. This world both feels very familiar and unfamiliar because of its diversity. While the first two books I read for the month – Yukio Mishima’s The Sound of Waves, and Shūsaku Endō’s The Samurai – were both works of historical fiction, they dealt with starkly different subjects. One masqueraded as a romance story only to capture the shifting tides of modernization while one was about a subject rarely found in Japanese literature, the influence of the Catholic church in Japanese history.

My third book for the month, Ryū Murakami’s From the Fatherland, with Love, brings me to unfamiliar territory. Unlike Mishima and Endō, I have never read any of Murakami’s works before; he is often mistaken for Haruki Murakami because of their family names. It was for this reason that I am looking forward to the book which I recently acquired. Unlike The Sound of Waves and The Samurai, From the Fatherland, with Love was set in the present, primarily in 2010. Japan was now a shadow of its old self. It has relied too much on the United States that other states refer to it as a lapdog. In different facets, from economic to political to morale, Murakami’s Japan has weakened. It was no longer the superpower it used to be.

Japan’s weakened state was seen as an opportunity by other countries and rebellious factions. The crux of the story involved a troop of specially-trained North Korean special forces who seized control of the city of Fukuoka. Through cunning and careful planning, they were able to infiltrate the city’s defenses and establish control, to the ire of the Japanese government. The North Korean government, however, immediately disowned them, hence, their tag as a terrorists group. Top Japanese intelligence officers (including me) were skeptical of the North Korean government’s immediate response. The hermit kingdom is known to issue public statements days after an event.

There were a lot of suspicious actions actually. Another one was the “terrorist” group’s delay in issuing their demands. It was unusual as hostage-takers usually give their demands immediately. However, the group, which we learn was called the Koryo Expeditionary Force (KEF), was biding its time. Even their demands were baffling. They wanted to establish coexistence, and yes, more of them are about to arrive from the Korean peninsula. The Diet, on the other hand, was scrambling to get a grip on the situation. One thing I noted when the cabinet members were enumerated was those female members were specifically called “female” plus their official designation. I surmised that it was Murakami’s way of underlining the gender imbalance and the power dynamics in Japanese politics. Else, he was simply being sexist.

I am nearly halfway done with the book. It was relentless in its supplying me with names of characters although only a few were given speaking parts; the book did start with a listing of its Dickensian set of characters. Anyway, I am interested to see how the story unfolds, particularly how Japan would respond, or perhaps retaliate. I still have about 300 pages to read and I am hoping that I finish reading all of them this weekend. I think that the second half would be more action-driven, especially with the escalation of tensions between the KEF forces and the Japanese forces. Story aside, I am interested to read about Murakami’s insights on the shaky relationship between the two East Asian neighbors.

Speaking of Japanese politics, I was saddened and shocked by the news that came from Japan earlier today. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s shooting and his succeeding death was shocking. While some of his policies and political ideologies were questionable and unpopular, he was a prominent figure in Japanese politics; he was also Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. For now, happy weekend! And as always, happy reading and take care!