This book is one of the best spy novels I’ve ever read. I learned many things about Japanese culture and history. I also enjoyed the portrayal of Basque people (who are very similar to Iranian Kurds!). There were fantastic characters in the book, including General Kashikawa, Le Cagot (revolutionary Basque poet), Mr. Diamonde (the antagonist), Hana (Hel’s concubine), and many other minor characters in the book. The research behind the story was great and I was introduced with many interesting new things, including the Chinese game of Go, different levels of sexual activity (romance, passion, release, control), caving adventures and Naked/Kill (a kind of lethal sport).
Unfortunately, there were some negative points:
1. I was a little irritated by the way Hel’s character was depicted. I was thoroughly convinced that he has superhuman abilities when he killed his Japanese protectorate with a pen. But the author ruined his great work by giving Hel some characteristics that made him a freak of nature: being able to read minds; having orgasms merely by concentration; killing people by a paper; growing younger; having weird green eyes. All these efforts by the author contradicted the concept of Shibumi (or simple and hidden beauty).
2. Although I’m not particularly an admirer of Arabian or Western cultures, I thinن the author was really unfair to both. On the other hand, I’m not a Jew-hater, but I couldn’t accept this premise of the book that Israel is country that is fighting against forces greater than itself. My understanding is that Israel is the revenge of the Christian world against the Muslims. The Christians have never stopped helping this racist nation to continue its unnatural existence in a hostile environment. To this day, US have used its veto right to stop UN from even condemning Israeli crimes against humanity, and Israel is the only country in the middle-east that is allowed by the West to have nuclear bombs.
3. I could feel a little bit radicalism, even anarchism, in the book. I know this has nothing to do with the quality of writing and storytelling. As the author mentions in the book, some people believe that the form is more important than the substance. I don’t believe so; Hafez, Iran’s most popular poet, has many beautiful and masterful poems, which I detest, because they are simply bootlicking. I’m not saying that Shibumi is something like that (despite its praise for Zionists), but its radicalism was really annoying to me.