It might seem a racy plot in itself except that it’s made exceptional in the context of rising tensions within the framework of a worsening American-Japanese relations and resentment of a perceived impending takeover of America by corporate Japan that was in vogue in the early years of this century. I don’t know what the latest developments on that front are or whether such fears were well founded but perhaps declining Japanese economic fortunes in current times might well have saved the day.
A not so attractive feature of this novel is that there’s a lot of background research material on video imaging technology which while well researched is not easily comprehensible to non-specialists. Simplification of such technology to a layman’s level would have made a whole lot of difference and made an immensely readable book even more so. Nevertheless the unfolding plot would make very little sense without it. Also there’s much Japanese dialogue, not all of which has been translated. Did Mr. Crichton aim for a purely Japanese audience for his book? Well if not his publisher could have been more considerate to non-Japanese speakers.
Be that as it may what makes ‘The Rising Sun’ worthwhile reading in comparison to similar novels is that it has overt political undertones. Politics itself might not be unique to thrillers like this but that it is combined with subtle stereotypes of how dissimilar races view one another culturally, particularly in a scenario where “business is war” as Crichton puts it, makes it an unforgettable experience.
Within this context the characters are also complex. Concealment seems to be the name of the game at every stage with each doing so for his own reasons. Even those supposed to be on the same side in investigating the case don’t seem to reveal all their cards to one another,at least not immediately.
The characters in this novel may be best described as ambiguous in behaviour with their being no heroes. For example detective Graham is overtly racist while John Connor has a compromised reputation and Peter Smith possesses a controversial past. In the midst of all this there is a very human story of divorce and child custody and we see the constant interplay between personal and professional life and vice-versa and of how sometimes things don’t always work out smoothly or as anticipated. If a novel could be described as an embodiment of variety is the spice of life, this would be it.