Thursday, December 15, 2016

Book Review -- The Isolator: The Trancer

Back in March I reviewed a novel by Reki Kawahara entitled The Isolator: Volume II: The Igniter. Well, they recently released Volume 3: The Trancer. Is it any good? Let's find out (for my review of the previous volume, see

The story takes place not long after Igniter. Minoru Utsugi (code-named Isolator) continues to battle the evil alien parasites known as the Ruby Eyes and their Syndicate for the branch of the Japanese government called the Specialized Forces Division. When the book opens, Minoru and fellow SFD member Yumiko Azu (AKA Accelerator) find themselves venturing into a nuclear power plant that was abandoned after the tsunami of 2011 in order to retrieve a robot that has gone silent. Normally the extreme radiation levels would kill anyone who set foot in there, but Minoru's impenetrable barrier keeps out everything but light. This allows him to enter and search for the robot.

Later, Minoru meets Suu Komura (Refractor), said to be the strongest of the Jet Eyes (the good alien parasites). Suu has the ability to turn invisible and does this with just about everyone because she's terrified of being seen due to childhood trauma. The two hit it off and Minoru even manages to take her inside his barrier, something he hasn't been able to do with Yumiko. With the combination of their powers, this seems to make them undetectable and unstoppable, so team leader Professor Riri (Speculator) decides to send them on a mission to infiltrate a Syndicate safe house to find clues to the location of the bad guys' HQ. 

But it won't be easy. The Syndicate has a particularly talented and dangerous agent named Ryuu Mikawa (Trancer) who can weaponize water. Also, Mikawa's mentor, the mysterious Liquidizer, has a frightening power of her own and brains to match. Can the good guys hope to win against this fearsome duo?

Trancer is an engaging story which manages to top the previous volume because it has double the antagonists, each of which interesting in his/her own right. The powers on display are also quite clever and, in fact, are a source of character development, giving us a look into their users' psyches and why their respective abilities manifested in the first place. 

In addition, I appreciate the research that went into this story. Kawahara clearly did his homework, demonstrating an impressive knowledge of chemistry. Pay attention and you just might learn something.

In summary: Trancer is a fun, smart story.

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