Book Review: Last Stop Tokyo by James Buckler

Book Reviews copy

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Synopsis: The funny thing with suffering is just when you think you’ve suffered enough, you realize it’s only the beginning.

Alex thought running away would make everything better. Six thousand miles from the mistakes he’s made and the people he’s hurt, Tokyo seems like the perfect escape. A new life, a new Alex.

The bright lights and dark corners of this alien and fascinating city intoxicate him, and he finds himself transfixed by this country, which feels like a puzzle that no one can quite explain. And when Alex meets the enigmatic and alluring Naoko, the peace he sought slips ever further from his grasp.

After all, trust is just betrayal waiting to happen and Alex is about to find out that there’s no such thing as rock bottom. There’s always the chance it’ll get worse . . .

Author: James Buckler

Title: Last Stop Tokyo

Publisher: Doubleday

Date: 2017

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Last Stop Tokyo is the debut novel from James Buckler. Buckler has spent time in both Japan and England and I hoped his first-hand experiences and knowledge of the cultures would come across in the book, bringing across an authentic atmosphere for Japan.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get that feeling. Apart from a few words in Japanese, the plot, events and characters could have taken place anywhere: America or England, for example. I wasn’t made to feel Japan; the culture and society felt as if it was missing apart from the odd occasions where it was required to enhance and encourage the plot.

Regrettably, I felt the same occurred with the characters.

Alex has fled to Japan to escape his past, a time he is reluctant to talk about. Flash-backs reveal what really happened, adding depth to Alex’s character. But the flash-backs feel they are being used just as a plot device so Alex doesn’t come across as being a shady character – we never experience his emotions over his past.

Alex stopped shaking his head and slumped down in his chair, his eyes closed. He began to laugh at the absurdity of what the officer was reading.

Alex does, however, prove himself to be a loyal and determined character. He will do whatever it takes to protect those he cares about and will see something through to the end – regardless of the consequences for him.

Naoko is a successful art seller, despite working in a society that favours men. The fact she is a woman is exploited on several occasions, and her determination that she will not just be a pawn in a man’s game makes her a strong and independent character.

It is Naoko’s actions that put the entire plot into action. But it never felt genuine for me. There was never a proper reason given to explain her actions other than `she panicked` and considering the consequences for Alex, it made Naoko appear weak. She didn’t want to lose face, so she was prepared to put the man she supposedly loves through hell.

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It felt her actions were a plot-device. Alex needed to be in a dire situation, so why not make it because of Naoko? It was as if Buckler needed to get from A to B and had to throw something in to make it happen rather than coming up with a more plausible explanation that didn’t make the characters appear shallow. The quote sums up my reaction as well as Alex’s!

All this being said, however, I did find myself eager to keep reading as the heat was turned up. I wanted these characters (well, Alex more than Naoko), to get through the situation and be able to move on with their lives. The final few chapters added a twist that sets the book up for a sequel and I’d be interested to see how Buckler’s writing develops as he progresses with these characters.

Overall, an average book that did hook me in the end. Both the plot and characters, however, needed more depth to read as being plausible and I would have liked to have been drawn into Japan a little more.

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