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Escape from Amsterdam

Escape from Amsterdam - Barrie Sherwood I got Escape from Amsterdam through the early reviewers program. I found it enjoyable, in a cotton-candy kind of way - it was superficially tasty but disappeared quickly and didn't leave much behind. Sherwood can throw off the verbal pyrotechnics with ease. The book revolves around a young Japanese student Aozora, and his attempts to spirit his sister away from her new environment, near a Japanese theme park called Amsterdam. Aozora is a punk, no two ways about it. Self-centered, disrespectful, congenitally unable to tell the truth or keep his mouth shut at the right time. Frankly it was hard to like him much or care about him. The book itself is like a carnival ride - wild, crazy swings, odd encounters, memorable characters who spring out of nowhere. The format of the book is a bit unique - there are photos and diagrams and manga scattered throughout. Sherman can turn a phrase, there's no doubt. Describing a decrepit old hotel Aozora was staying in (alongside some of these photos), Sherman writes: "I could probably go on at length, but these snapshots I took do the place a kind of vigilante justice". In the end though, I didn't really get it. The book didn't really seem to have a point - I think maybe the carnival ride was the point. Aozora didn't really go anywhere as a character - he didn't grow up, he wasn't rewarded or punished for being a self-centered young punk, other than getting half a million dollars in an inheritance. I didn't really feel edified about some underlying phenomenon of modern Japanese culture.