September 03, 2012
Starting only a few hours before a giant comet collides with the Earth, and jumping backwards and forwards through time, Fish Story documents a half-century chain of unpredictable cause and effect as it traces this trail of breadcrumbs to its near-apocalyptic conclusion.
A story that could have easily succumbed to art house ponderousness instead allows the absurd premise to play the straight man to the darkly comical cascade of not-quite-coincidences that follow. The result is a plot that is surprisingly comprehensible and thoroughly enjoyable.
By the time we get to the irresistibly cute Mikako Tabe, who resists being taken too seriously even when being held hostage on a ferry boat by a murderous doomsday religious cult, we're more than ready for a seat-of-the-pants solution straight out of Red Dwarf.
Despite its convoluted narrative structure, Fish Story never tries to be anything less than obvious. In the process, it quite cleverly points out how misunderstandings take on lives of their own, and how willing we are to read great meaning into literally nothing.
This is an important message for writers and politicians alike: what you wrote or said means what everybody but you thinks it means, not what you meant.
For those put off by non-linear storytelling, rest assured that a montage at the end knits the key incidents together into a single timeline, like the answer to a tricky algebra question at the back of the book. In any case, Fish Story just made me grin, and that's enough.