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Tengu

Novel by Graham Masterton (Scotland) 1983.

When the Berlin Wall fell and Gorbachev invented perestroika, the traditional Cold War thriller didn't carry much weight any more; so whilst most thriller writers moved their locations to the Middle East, some stopped off for the odd Japanese story. Most detailed an organised Japanese quest for vengeance for the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Graham Masterton's entry into this subgenre predates Clive Cussler's Dragon and Michael Crichton's Rising Sun and most others. But whatever the similarities, of which there are many, there is also one large difference: far from being a hardboiled adventure story like Dragon or a financially-based thriller like Rising Sun, this is an out-and-out horror novel.

Hideously disfigured at birth as a result of being carried in his mother's womb close to the Hiroshima bomb blast, the being known as Kappa (named after a Japanese water demon who also starred in his own film) plans revenge on America through the huge and influential organisation called the Circle of Burned Doves. His idea is to torture young volunteers to the point where they are most susceptible to possession by the most dangerous Japanese demon of all, the tengu. With a few of these possessed volunteers, literally berserk with strength and oblivious to pain, Kappa can put into place a larger plan. Jerry Sennett is one of only two people in the United States who remember the tengus used by the Japanese at the end of World War II, so of course he becomes the first victim. But the tengu sent to rip him apart kills the wrong person and Sennett, understanding what is happening, searches for the people responsible.

With Red Indian demons and Aztec demons under his belt, Masterton starts on Japanese demons with startling results. Written at a furious pace, with some classic characters (El Krusho the circus strongman, Nancy the Japanese woman who has done incredible things in the name of Shinto to try to attain spiritual perfection), and a downbeat ending a la Plague, this is exactly what you would expect from Graham Masterton, a well-paced, controlled, thoroughly enjoyable read.


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