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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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10/30/2005 Archived Entry: "Book review: Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence After The Long Goodbye"

Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence
After The Long Goodbye

by Masaki Yamada
translated by Yuji Oniki with Carl Gustav Horn
Published by VIZ Media

Review by Tom Good

Sometimes a hard-boiled cyborg detective just wants to do the right thing for his dog. He'll go out in the rain to get her favorite dog food. And if his dog goes missing, he'll do anything to track her down. His electronic brain gives him superior reflexes, but it has its vulnerabilites. Hackers can insert false data into his memories. And his love for his dog may lead him into great danger.

This story features Batou, a character from the Ghost In The Shell series. But it is not a novelization of Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence. Rather, it takes place just before that movie, and reveals a lot about the inner life of Batou. Yamada writes in a style reminiscent of Raymond Chandler. Even the subtitle, "After The Long Goodbye," is a reference to the title of Chandler's last novel, The Long Goodbye. The first few chapters had me worried that this book would be little more than an attempt to imitate Chandler in a sci-fi setting, but it proved to be more interesting than that. Yamada conjures up some intriguing ideas, like a future in which rival fast food chains mount paramilitary operations against each other, or a form of dog racing where the "rabbit" exists only as a virtual reality inside the mind of the cyber-greyhound. And the story, told by Batou in the first person, contains some gems like this:

"The smart drinks of the previous century were a brief fad indeed -- no one could convince themselves for long that drinking could make you smarter. But people always trusted drink to make them sadder, angrier, happier, and lovelier. So the emortinis and psychopolitans on the bill at the God Dog hardly needed marketing. They're supposedly non-addictive and free of side effects, which is an odd claim, considering this isn't true of actual emotions."

While I enjoyed the Ghost In The Shell animated movies, Batou never really came alive for me as a character until I read this book. Here he has a very introspective personality, constantly aware of the limitations of his cybernetic enhancements and the unreliability of his emotions and memories. This book makes a great companion to the anime, and for those unfamiliar with the series, it may be a good place to start.

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