The seventh Fuminori Nakamura novel to be translated into English is the one fans have been waiting for. "Cult X" is the story of Toru Narazaki, whose infatuation with the disappearance of his girlfriend, Ryoko Tachibana, leads him deep into the swampy waters of religious cults and apocalyptic terrorism.

Cult X, by Fuminori Nakamura, Translated by Kalau Almony.
528 pages

SOHO CRIME, Fiction.

It seems that at some point all of Japan's great contemporary authors are drawn to the subject of cults, often with mixed results. The complex and contentious issue has become a rite of passage, a ring in which writers can prove themselves heavyweights.

In that regard, "Cult X" proves Nakamura's talent admirably. The familiar cult tropes are there — long passages of philosophizing, the day-to-day politics of organizing a group of fractious people and the lashings of sex and violence — but Nakamura is up to something different here.

The philosophical monologues are a ruse to smuggle in criticisms of contemporary Japanese society and politics. The sex and violence never descend into the cartoonish; few writers explore the reality of violence as well as Nakamura.

On one level this is a fast-paced thriller with an explosive climax, crying out for cinematic treatment, but it is also a sign of the author moving to a higher plane. His talent has always been for exploring the lives of those on the fringes of society, the damaged and the ostracized, and that remains at the heart of this work.

In "Cult X," Nakamura has stretched his muscles, broadened his canvas and proved he can step up to the next level.