Jul 23, 2007

[Books] Train Man: The Novel

Train ManOver the weekend I had the chance to finally finish reading Train Man (ISBN: 978-0-345-49869-4) by Hitori Nakano. It's something I picked up at Fully Booked at my mom's suggestion - she's a fairly good gauge for new books I might like.

The book has a tagline of, "The Internet-generation love story from Japan" - and that's precisely what it is. The books is all about a geek who "saves" a beautiful girl from a subway pervert one day. What comes next is a long and arduous development of a relationship with our geek supported by an entire geek community via an anonymous internet bulletin board.

The book's format is unusual but not necessarily original. The entire novel is formatted as how the entries would appear on the message board - so if you're not familiar with how those sites go then it may take you some time to understand things. Throw in the fact that this is about geek culture and it gets even more complicated. Expect the conversations to go fast and fierce in multiple directions with generous amounts of ASCII-coded graphics and images.

Example of SJIS art. This is me sitting at a c...Image via WikipediaAt it's core the story is simple - it's the romance between and boy and a girl. The fun thing here is that you don't actually get to follow their courtship directly - you are just another of the many readers of the forum, waiting for our Train Man to return night after night with his reports and of course more questions for the readers. It's geek culture at its core and the sense of community throughout the novel is so strong.

At times the book is a bit simplistic - what I hate the most are the narration boxes that introduce a third-person omniscient POV into the story that tends to forecast the next chapter for you and re-explains things that sometimes are so obvious it's insulting. Then again you need to put it into the context of Japan and that makes it a bit more logical at that point.

Given the brevity of the "posts" it's actually a very quick read but a nice and enjoyable one. It's something for the geek in all of us and a demonstration of just how innocent love can be at times. It gets 4 adorable kittens doing strange things in ASCII art out of a possible 5.

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