by Koji Suzuki (Vertical, 281 pages, $24.95)

The tape is back. The spooky-ass, virus-of-afterworld-death-encoded-onto-VHS that creeped everyone out in Ring returns in Suzuki's sequel. Titled Rasen when it was first published in Japan in 1995, this story was made into a movie concurrently with Ringu, the film that spawned the Americanized version, The Ring. Rasen (the movie) wasn't nearly as successful as Ringu, but despite a lackluster cinematic adaptation, the book is still quite an engaging read. (The upcoming Ring 2 movie, by the way, is a sequel to the American movie, but is an altogether new story, not based on this book.)

Expanding and further refining the intricate horror universe Suzuki began drawing in the first book, Spiral/Rasen takes a more clinical approach to the problematic video, and it was this murder mystery-type exploration of the medical science involved with the story that derailed the film. But in this book - which functions quite well without any knowledge of Ring - Suzuki still conjures up the same horrifically creepy atmosphere, a sense that's magnified by the could-it-be-possible aspect of protagonist Ando's discoveries. Gripping and densely detailed, Spiral will not be a disappointment to the many fans of Ring. For those unfamiliar with the story (or simply numbed by the hype that accompanied it), Suzuki's rich storytelling abilities make Spiral a book that's as strangely compelling as the tape that it's about.

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