By Nagaru Tanigawa and Noizi Ito. Released in Japan as “Suzumiya Haruhi no Chokkan” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.
Been a long time, hasn’t it? In fact, this is my first time reviewing one of the novels, despite my Haruhi Suzumiya tag being filled with manga, 4-koma, and alternate universes. Not that this is a novel either. The first book to come out since 2011 is a collection of three short stories; one short, one medium, and one long. In terms of writing style and narrative voice, it’s a welcome return to form. Kyon sounds exactly like he always does, making arcane references to obscure topics in his metaphors while also professing to be the dumb one in the group. That said, I will note that anyone who is reading this wanting to see what happens after the Sasaki books, i.e. actual plot or character development, is going to find this quite lacking. There is a token mention of those books at the end of the final story, but for the most part that is not what Tanigawa is here to do. What is he here to do, you may ask? Tell us about Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr.
The first short, Random Numbers, features the SOS Brigade visiting shrines, and has the only Kyon/Haruhi ship tease in the book. It’s cute. The second short story, Seven Wonders Overtime, is the weakest. The Mystery Club brings news that the school has no “seven mysteries”, aka Toilet Hanako, piano that plays by itself, etc. The Brigade tries to think of interesting but explainable mysteries before Haruhi can create more dangerous ones. The final story is the longest, taking up over 2/3 of the book. Tsuruya’s Challenge is, as I noted before, a love letter to the early 20th century mystery writers who loved to create mysteries that were essentially puzzle boxes, and Koizumi and T (a new character, member of the mystery club and owner of a very short nickname) spend ages extolling their virtues to the point that readers may grow tired. After this, though, they get a number of emails from Tsuruya which tell anecdotes from her trips with her rich father and also have a secret inside them.
The book works best if you’re a fan of Tsuruya, adding a lot of background to her character while also keeping it essentially the same. (No, we don’t learn her first name.) I was also fond of T, who is a great new character, and her calling Kyon “Kyam” makes me smile. Given the nature of the final story involves both the cast and the reader figuring things out, I will not go into too much detail, except to say that there is a LOT of Koizumi and Haruhi theorizes for pages and pages. One of the two afterwords in the book is a tribute to the Kyoto Animation creators for the Haruhi anime who perished in the fire. I suspect that (plus possibly Endless Eight) has led Tanigawa to write a story that would be very, very difficult to film in a way that a) makes things interesting, and b) does not give away its secrets. Kudos to Andrew Cunningham, by the way – this must have been an absolute bear to translate.
This is a hefty Haruhi book (not counting the 10-11 omnibus, only Book 7 is longer), so readers are getting good value for money. Whether they appreciate that value is another matter. As for me, I’m just happy to see the author writing again. The series is left open, so I hope it is not another nine years before the next in the series.