Saturday, August 16, 2014

Taroko Gorge by Jacob Ritari

(Jan. 3, 2011)  Taroko Gorge is a good first effort, deserving applause for getting published, but I hope it's only a mere beginning for this young author. I think this novel would make a great story for a manga (graphic novel) so that the characters and scenery would have a chance to be fully realized in visuals since they are never fully realized in the prose.

Given the title, I was expecting that Taroko Gorge would come to life in this story through some descriptions of the sounds, smells, weather, colors, and so on that could have created spectacular atmosphere for the mystery that develops. Imagine a story named "Yosemite" in which there is not enough description of the place to warrant the use of the park's name in the title. Sorry to go on about this, but having visited Taroko Gorge, I was looking forward to seeing it skillfully woven into the storyline.

The characters struggle to have distinctive voices but almost all of them seem to have the same voice as the author. Their characterizations are dialog-driven, so I could never conjure visual images of them and had to rely on the stereotypes indicated by their speech.

A fair first effort that will appeal most to teenagers but unfortunately doesn't reveal much in terms of cultural insights, despite the crisscrossing of Japanese, Taiwanese/Chinese, and Americans. I would like to see this book re-incarnated as manga.

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