This one was weird. After enjoying 夜市 and 秋の牢獄 as much as I did, I was super excited to read a full-length novel in the same style. The title had me intrigued from the moment I saw it, and I’ve had it on my shelf for almost a year now, and now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading it, I was surprised to find that I didn’t like it as much as I expected to. That’s not to say it’s a bad book, by any means, just that perhaps I had set the bar a bit too high.
The titular “thunder season” is a phenomenon unique to the town that the book focuses on, a remote Japanese village called 穏 (meaning something like “quiet” or “peaceful”). Of course that name is a complete lie: during the Thunder Season, demons roam the streets as the locals lock themselves in their homes; people go missing and that’s “just the way it is”. The book largely follows one character who has two people close to him go missing in this way, and as he starts to look into what actually happened to them, he stumbles into one mystery after the other.
The story is told from three perspectives (comprising about 50%, 40%, and 10% each) and they tie together in a satisfying and engaging way. I somewhat frequently see criticism about 恒川光太郎’s reliance on flashbacks to resolve twists, and I think the approach of weaving together multiple different stories (each one setting up or paying off for one of the others) is a great way to accomplish the same goal without bringing the whole thing to a screeching halt.
Ironically, I think the thing I was most looking forward to — the format switch — is actually the thing that weakened the whole experience. The momentum felt wildly inconsistent, with interesting story developments being punctuated with sections that just dragged on and sort of killed my motivation to keep reading. Thinking back, the parts that stuck in my memory were all enjoyable and well-written, so my overall opinion of the book is still good. I do feel like it could have done with a bit of fat-trimming, but perhaps if my reading speed was better I wouldn’t have gotten bogged down so much.
In any case, I would still recommend this book and will definitely be continuing to follow the author’s work in the future.