Literature: Februar 1993, Issue 50

Literature: February 1993


Rising Sun

by Michael Crichton

With the economic balance of power shifting in the early 198Os, Japanese-American relations have suffered, especially of late. This problem, along with the hows and whys of it, forms the basis of Michael Crichton’s latest novel, Rising Sun.

Rising Sun concerns itself with the events of three fateful days, and opens with Lt. Peter Smith, a divorced father of a two year old daughter and Special Services liaison for the L.A.P.D. It seems Smith is called in to handle diplomatic cases and instances where an interpreter is needed or to defuse possible racial incidents

Smith’s night is interrupted by a call asking him to come to the newly opened Nakamato Building and to bring along John Connor, a retired captain and expert on Japanese culture, language, and customs. But the two are rile prepared for the mysteries they will encounter in trying to solve the crime: a seemingly meaningless murder of a beautiful young woman in a 46th floor boardroom.

From here the tale moves on to very meaty and heady matters. Smith and Connor find themselves obstructed by the Japanese corporation and by various forces intent that the truth should not be discovered.

Writer Crichton has meticulously researched his material, and its shows on every page. Each word, situation, and detail has a ring of truth. Whether detailing the history of the economic “state of war between Japan and the United States, revealing the workings of a police investigation, probing the nature of the American Press, or just creating a very believable character, Crichton excels.

Indeed, Rising Sun is a detective story with a difference. While it can be read as a sparkling “whodunit” (and the manner in which the Investigation proceeds and the true killer is finally revealed is fascinating), the substance of the work comes from its exploration of the adversarial nature of Japan and America’s relationship. The book has drawn a good deal of flak as being racist, but that intent (if true, which is doubtful) never becomes evident. Crichton is careful to balance that with explanations of the philosophy behind those actions. If Japan comes across looking badly, the U.S. looks to be nothing short of buffoonish. Any nation which turns a blind eye to what amounts to total foreign takeover of its economy by any means, legal or otherwise, is seriously blinded.

But Crichton evidently believes that the intent behind Japanese investment is not a hostile overthrow but rather an attempt to dominate the world economy and instead of seeking to run the U.S. market, the Japanese intend to make sure their investment isn’t wasted. Indeed, he speculates, the economic well being of both countries is too firmly enmeshed by now for any chance of independence.

Similarly, Japanese culture is laid bare under Crichton’s critical dissection, but while all the shortcomings are revealed, the character of Americans is also called into question and exposed.

Yes, the material may sound racially explosive, but the reader needs to look at what is written objectively. While the work could be sued to expound a nationalist platform, Crichton appears to be telling Americans to wake up.

All of this shouldn’t detract, though, from what is essentially a superb crime drama The suspense and intrigue build, drawing the reader along for a rollercoaster ride. Crichton’s situations are frankly vivid and well-realized. One gets the feeling Crichton could write in any genre of his choice and succeed admirably. He’s that good.

The bad news is that Rising Sun has been optioned f0r a motion picture, but it would seem to be impossible to mess this tale up. But the reader should check the workout himself/herself. It may be that one will be offended by the novel and its controversy, but with an open mind, the thought-provoking nature of the books should be evident.

Check out more from the SLUG Archives:
Literature: September 1992
Book Reviews: March 1992