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Book Review: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

January 29, 2013

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The month of January is coming to a close and it looks like I have done a whole lot of book reviews. Recently, I got an ebook through Barnes & Noble, just to try something out. Today, I will be reviewing that book, which is called The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa.

As I have given a series synopsis in an earlier post, which could also fit as the synopsis of this book, I will not go over it again.

I will have to admit that I was not particularly fond of the first season of the anime, but I enjoyed this a bit more. Unlike the anime, which seemed very episodic, things had a certain timeline in this book. In could be because of the fact that episodes were not arranged chronologically when I was first introduced to series, but things just did not make as much sense as they did here. What I really liked though was that it emphasized that Haruhi was a special person, even though she thought that she was ordinary. She certainly would have to be, if a time traveler could not go back to before 3 years prior to the start of the series. After all, a being would have to be omnipotent to do something like that. Another thing that I liked, which could tie into the previous item, was that it showed that one person could change everything. Yes, it takes quite a large group to actually change the world. However, when one thinks about it, nothing really changed until one person actually did something. That seems pretty reminiscent of how things were in Michael Oher's life, according to his book. In the case of this book, nothing really seemed to happen until Kyon gave Haruhi the idea to start the SOS Brigade. If he had not done that, he probably would not have met a time traveler, an esper, and an alien, though Haruhi was unaware that the beings she was looking for were right in front of her the whole time. I also seemed to enjoy the fight between Yuki and Asakura much more in this one than the anime, although it was pretty faithful to this book, with a few exceptions. Not too sure what made it more exciting, but the fight just seemed much more intense. I notice people complaining that this is not realistic, but I do not really care about that. Since when was fiction ever supposed to be realistic? We have had aliens and time travelers in fiction for quite a long time, the former of which was not the least bit human-like. If things were realistic, espers would be the only ones that would not be around. Besides, according to the documentary The Fabric of the Cosmos, time travel is certainly feasible in physics, and a paper by Gary Felder, located under the North Carolina State University domain, discusses the same thing. However, unlike the example in the PBS documentary, people are not flying toward Black Holes, which are located in the center of most galaxies, according to an article on Colorado University Boulder's JILA, and my basic astronomy studies in college, in order to go into the future and then finding worm holes to get to the past. Instead they use devices, or in the case of Yuki Nagato, time is frozen in one particular area, much like time stands still at the event horizon, according to NASA. Also, if fiction were realistic, I doubt that it would actually create that escape from reality that readers of any subgenre of fiction wants. People are better off reading a textbook than reading fiction if they want things realistic, though I question a lot of things about them, since they talk about man-made global warming, as if it were not a hoax, when all the things that they are talking about involves carbon, one of the most important elements for life, otherwise there would not be a branch of science known as Organic chemistry, and the fact that history books emphasizes some trivial things as more important than major events and even written by people who actually do not know what really happened in the past, though some acknowledge that they do not. Even newspapers, which other than domain names with TLDs of edu and gov, are considered creditable by public schools, skew the truth. Another thing that was pretty nice was the fact that it showed that Kyon had finally encountered the same beings he always wanted to meet as a kid, but gave up in his adolescent life. It is funny how we give up our imaginations so quickly and start saying things like “there is no god” and “there is no such thing as miracles”, or even lose our ability to see the truth within truth. Of course, those are the same people who think that science, which is something created by mankind, has all of the answers. I cannot really say one way or the other if there is a deity, because many are intolerant of religion and put on the guise of being tolerant of the beliefs of others, but I do have a question regarding one of the latter. What exactly is a miracle? If nobody can answer that, then they have no right say that there are no miracles. This book, on the other hand, leans towards something similar to the first item, though it does not talk about anybody being godlike besides Haruhi. After having no encounters with the things of fiction, Kyon started to believe that it was all made up. Because of this, he was surprised that they did exist. I would certainly like for aliens, espers, and time travelers to all exist, but aliens probably would not be as much fun as Yuki Nagato or martians, since they would be just like us. The fact that the fight between Yuki and Ryoko was much more interesting in the book than the anime and that Haruhi was not a normal girl, as well as the fact that Kyon seems to be like us a bit, certainly made this interesting.

Although there were things that I liked about the book, there were certainly some issues. First, there really was not much I could picture. There were a few things that were explained well enough that I could picture them, but had I not seen the anime, I doubt I would have been able to picture anything. As nice as it is to leave things up to the imagination of readers, there needs to be enough detail so that things can be drawn. As I believe I said before on this blog, I have the opposite problem in my own writing, but I find it better to have too much described than too little. Having a few images literally in the mix of a bunch of text, which is how light novels are, most of the time, does not really help things out as much. Another problem I had was that there were a few typos present in the book. Yes, I know that neither humans nor their creations are perfect, but depending on the amount and the situation, typos can really damage a book, especially when it comes from traditional publishers, like this one does. In this case though, the damage done is minimal, so I will just label this as a minor issue. Another thing that seemed annoying was that the ellipsis showed up in a lot of the textual dialogue. While this may be a nice thing for comics, it is unnecessary in books that the average person reads. When characters do not reply, the writer can simply just say so, and not put an ellipsis in quotes. Things just seem to get slowed down when it is used by itself in quotes. I cannot even count the number of times it has happened in this book alone, but it was definitely unnecessary. The thing that bugs me the most about this book is that things were a bit difficult to follow. Throughout the book, we have the thoughts of the narrator, Kyon, Kyon in the current portion of the story, dialogue, and things that tell the reader what is going on. However, there is no way to distinguish Kyon's thoughts from any of that. Most of the time, thoughts appear in italics, while other stuff is not. This helps clue the reader in as to whether they are the character's thoughts or not, but no such thing happens here. Everything was stylized normally. I want to know whether something actually is a character's thought, instead of having to interpret it myself. I think that most readers will agree with me on this that we should be told what is and is not a thought. The fact that things were not always described well enough, in order to draw a picture in my mind, and that the ellipsis was used unnecessary, as well as a few typos and the fact Kyon's thoughts were not italicized, did a lot damage to the quality of this book.

Despites the issues, this was a nice book to waste some time. I recommend this to fans of Haruhi Suzumiya and those who want to check it out. As for everyone else, I am not too sure if I would recommend this book, mainly because it is difficult to tell whether something is a thought or not.

What are your thoughts on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya? Do you agree or disagree with my views? Do you have anything to add? Feel free to comment.

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