In Loop, the killer mimics both AIDS and cancer in a deadly new guise. Kaoru Futami, a youth mature beyond his years, must hope to find answers in the deserts of New Mexico and the Loop project, a virtual matrix created by scientists. The fate of more than just his loved ones depends on Kaoru's success.
In this suspense-filled follow-up to Ring and Spiral, Suzuki masterfully confounds the reader with a stunning new twist on the Ring mythology.
TL;DR Version: Not the most engaging book in the trilogy and a bit disillusioning, but still definitely worth a read for fans of Ring and Spiral.
Wall of Text Version: Santa Claus is your parents.
This is a revelation that most children in the western world experience eventually. It can be a bit harsh and it’s almost always a disappointment. Yet you have to admit it makes a fair amount of sense. The letter you so painstakingly wrote for Santa? Never got mailed, but gave your parents a nice shopping list. The presents under the tree? Purchased with the others and
dragged out by your parents after you go to bed. The missing milk and cookies? Mom and Dad split the cookies 50-50 and played rock-paper-scissors to see who got to wash it down with a glass of milk. The nibbled carrots? Hate to break it to you, kid, but not all grown-ups like to eat their vegetables. But what about that guy whose lap you sat in at the mall when you were five? Sorry, kiddo, just a stranger who probably isn’t getting paid enough. Once the initial shock is past, you find yourself wondering how you believed in some fat guy in a red suit delivering presents with his flying reindeer in the first place. You feel upset and disillusioned, but some part of you is a tiny bit satisfied because now you know the truth.
That’s the feeling you get from reading Loop, the final installment in Koji Suzuki’s Ring trilogy. Loop attempts to deconstruct a compelling horror/supernatural thriller by providing a scientific explanation for the apparently paranormal phenomena in Ring and Spiral. The feeling that the victims of the videotape got that some presence was watching them? A perfectly scientific explanation. A virus-type curse thingy that kills in exactly seven days? A perfectly scientific explanation. All of that eerie “Ryuji’s talking from beyond the grave WITH CODED MESSAGES” nonsense in Spiral? A perfectly scientific explanation. Sadako herself? We’ll never know for sure, but there’s probably a perfectly scientific explanation. Perhaps a better analogy would be if Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ended with Scooby-Doo and the gang making an appearance and unmasking Voldemort, revealing that he was really some innocuous space-filling character the whole time. A series where science and the paranormal made rather comfortable bedfellows ends with science stabbing the paranormal while it sleeps. The psychic Sadako is barely mentioned except in passing, while the logician Ryuji looms large in everyone’s minds.
Now, I’ve done a fair bit of hating on a book that I actually enjoyed very much. While I was disappointed with the way certain aspects of the series were handled in the end and it was definitely my least favorite book in the Ring trilogy, Loop was still an extremely entertaining (and in some ways, fitting) end to a series that I spent more than one late night with, desperate to know what happens next. I had some really high expectations for Loop and was somewhat disappointed.
Now, one more word of criticism before I move on to talking about the parts I liked: Because Loop was written as a book that could either stand alone or be read as the conclusion of the trilogy, there are multiple chapters that do nothing but summarize the first two books. While there is a logical reason for this, other than trying to expand the readership, it makes things a bit tedious at times for someone who has already read Ring and Spiral. However, Loop drops several bombshells that can only be fully appreciated by someone who has read this book. Yes, if you aren’t familiar with the names Asakawa, Takayama, and Yamamura, you’ll miss out on the biggest “holy shit” moment of the entire book. There’s really no winning in this situation, but I recommend reading the books in order and skimming through the recap chapters when you get there.
Now that I’ve thoroughly explored Loop’s flaws, I’ll talk about its strengths. It’s every bit a page-turner as its predecessors with fast pacing and suspense at every turn. The “holy shit” moment I vaguely alluded to before is by no means the only “holy shit” moment (Suzuki seems to have had fun devising various plot twists to throw in), so “boring” is definitely not a word that could be applied to this book.
After reading Loop, I’ve become convinced that Suzuki has played favorites with his characters and his favorite is also incidentally mine: Ryuji Takayama. Come on, who doesn’t enjoy reading about a college professor and maybe serial rapist whose lifelong dream is to view the extinction of humanity from atop a hill and ejaculate upon it? Okay, usually I don’t either, but somehow Ryuji became the exception. It isn’t that he’s likeable so much as he’s just fun to watch. He’s probably supposed to be symbolic of the dual nature of humanity, but sometimes I prefer my supernatural thrillers de-intellectualized and he works just fine whether you’re looking for symbolism or looking for a story. Ryuji dominates Loop more than any other character from the previous books and leaves you wondering until near the end exactly what his motives are.
Also, this may be either a good thing or a bad thing for you, but Loop contains more than its fair share of mindfuck. I personally enjoy the sensation, but I know not everyone does, so I give you fair warning. Hey, at least no one turns into Tang.
And so ends the Ring trilogy. As stated before, Loop makes a somewhat logical, but somewhat disappointing ending. And yes, the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are also your parents.