Prophecy Volume 2
Clearly, Prophecy is not a series you can dip in and out of. I hadn’t paid enough attention to the specifics of some of the disaffected men introduced in volume 1, so I found myself wanting to reread both books as soon as I finished this new volume.
However, there’s also a change in focus that means that much of volume 2 deals with different situations and characters than the first book did. The first scene, for example, effectively portrays the torment and despair of the terminally shy, as author Tetsuya Tsutsui contrasts the man’s thoughts with his inability to actually say anything to the waitress he finds cute. That’s just a prelude, though, to the main showdown between the hackers and the detective chasing them.
I didn’t find the primary conflict this issue that compelling. The Paperboy hackers decide to attack a Greenpeace-like environmental group because the group used the occasion of the Japanese tsunami to attack Japan’s whaling practices instead of demonstrating sympathy for the people surviving the disaster. The group’s leader is a media-hungry womanizer more concerned with his own fame than really helping the environment.
Everybody, including the police trying to protect him, hates him. Which is no wonder, since he’s a two-dimensional caricature, loaded with reasons to feel sympathetic to the attempts to humiliate him. When thwarted, he even resorts to media manipulation to take his own revenge. I like this series better when it’s more nuanced, less resorting to short-cut stereotypes.
For example, the cops’ dragnet fails because one of the employees they’re relying on to report suspicious activity has more sympathy for the hunted than the government. That aspect, exploring the nature of public support and how it can be swayed, is one of the title’s strengths.
We also learn more about the female detective leading the investigation, but it’s a shame that she’s the only significant woman in the series. Much is made of her good looks, which distract those around her, a quality she uses to her advantage. Again, this characterization isn’t as nuanced as I’d hope for. I don’t have an idea of her inner motivations, but perhaps that is intentional, to keep her at the same level as those she’s chasing. Much speculation happens throughout the book as to why people make particular choices, but some things we can never know, which appears to be something the author is reinforcing.
I found this volume slightly disappointing, perhaps because my expectations were incorrect. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that parts of it were more significant than I thought after reading the next, final book. Based on the situation set up here — a politician is faking support for his proposal to prevent anonymous internet use, only to be threatened with death by Paperboy — things will become even more dramatic in the next book. Particularly since the hacker coalition may be falling apart, due to a small act of kindness.
Hmm. This series intrigued me, but as someone who’s adamantly anti-whaling, this sounds a bit much like straw-manning propaganda.
It’s not a particularly balanced portrayal, that’s for sure.