Instructions given to Nanao was simple. Get on the train, take a suitcase from the luggage rack and get off at the next station. But as always, his luck was way off. Complications arise as he has to fight many assassins, a man avenging his kid, a gangster boss, a teenager hell bent on manipulating the world and his bad luck.
As name indicates, Bullet train, the black comedy by Japanese novelist Kotaro Isaka, which was recently made into a blockbuster movie starring Brad Pitt, is a thriller ride. Once it commences, it relentlessly chugs along to a satisfying climax. An eventful journey on Shinkansen, as the Japanese call bullet trains, it features colorful characters, over the top situations, nail biting suspence and a really vile teenager.
But the plot is not linear like the train ride. Each chapter of the novel happens in the POV of one of the major character(s) with the character name as it's title. So we have multiple chapters titled Prince, Kimura, Nanao, Fruit and Morning Glory. Once the action is described on the POV of one character, the next chapter may go back to another's perspective and describe what he was doing at that time and how he was affected. This exercise helps the reader to comprehend the plot but never slacken the pace.
There are many characters in the novel and many more are mentioned who makes minor appearances. Most of the characters possess some extreme trait that makes them standout. Back story of the main characters are given in very minute strokes. More emphasis is given on actions and words of the characters to display their traits. This, I feel was effective in the quick flowing plot.
This is a novel comprising of grey characters, with questionable morality. All of them are criminals operating in varying levels of hierarchy. No effort is made to justify the actions of any character. Inspite of that, the narration makes us feel an empathy with them. Its as if our own pent up desire for violence and anarchy finds an outlet through them and we feel grateful to these imaginary people for doing so.
Among the lot, the Prince is the most vivid character. He is a teenager who has this urge to control others, an unemotional problem child who goes to any extreme and exploit the weakness of those around him manipulating them to do whatever he needs. Another great character is Lemon, a hitman who is obsessed with the kid's show Thomas & Friends. Many other assassins with unique skill sets and modus operandi appears or are mentioned in the story. The world building in Bullet Train is awesome.
If you like reading thrillers with high octane action
and are suffering from craving for adrenaline rush, Bullet Train provides the best antidote.