Ghost in the Shell STAND ALONE COMPLEX (novel) Vol. #03 - White Maze -

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Ghost in the Shell STAND ALONE COMPLEX (novel) Vol. #03 - White Maze

By Greg Hackmann     June 13, 2007
Release Date: November 08, 2006

Ghost in the Shell STAND ALONE COMPLEX (novel) Vol.#03 - White Maze
© Dark Horse

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Junichi Fujisaku
Translated by:Camellia Nieh
Adapted by:

What They Say
The year is 2030. Advances in robotics and cyberbrain technology have transformed the world into a miraculous place where almost anything is possible - even the melding of humans and machines. In this not-too-distant future, the crimes of flesh and metal are investigated by Section 9, an elite counterterrorist squad headed by Chief Aramaki and his cyborg sidekick, Major Motoko Kusanagi.

When dead bodies, drained of blood and with two bite marks on their necks, start turning up on the streets of Tokyo, it isn't long before the entire city is in a panic. As Major Kusanagi and the other members of Section 9 investigate the killings they begin to wonder: is the killer a real vampire or something much worse?

In a dark world of murder, where cyberbrain hacks and treacherous conspiracies reach to the furthest heights of government, Section 9 is all that stands between the people and anarchy.

The Review
Now this is the sort of thing that makes me look forward to new entries into the Ghost in the Shell franchise.

This novel brings us back to the single, full-length episode style of the first volume. In the novel's first act, Section 9 begins investigating a string of bizarre murders dubbed the Vampire Incidents. These murders are connected by the remarkable way that they are carried out: a wife or lover bites the victim in the neck, injecting micromachines into the victim's bloodstream that cause both parties to undergo cyberbrain death. Further investigation reveals connections to a top-secret virus developed at the Land SDF Cyberbrain Warfare Research Lab, to a diplomatic incident instigated by anti-China factions aboard the SS Hope, and even to the Kanto Refugee Residential Zone. Suspicion quickly falls on Roy Tairagi, a disgruntled researcher who vanished after denouncing the military's use of his work.

The second act follows Major Kusanagi as she heads undercover to the Kanto Refugee Zone in search of the virus's source. After a run-in with some residents, Kusanagi learns that the neighborhood is controlled by the elderly Won Pin, who has had recent dealings with militant anti-China groups. Kusanagi presses Pin for information, and is rewarded for her efforts by a visit from Pin's bodyguard. Kusanagi carelessly leaves herself open to a surprise attack, and finds herself totally dependent on others for survival.

Fujisaku's writing here is a step above the last volume in nearly every way -- atmosphere, plot complexity, dialogue, and character development. The narrative really shines in the second half, where the encounter with Pin's bodyguard forces Kusanagi to exploit her surroundings as much as possible. This twist adds another layer of tension to an already complex investigation, and gives the reader an insight into Kusanagi's line of thinking. If there's one disappointment here, it's that the ending is somewhat anticlimactic and doesn't really fit in with the rest of the novel's tone.

Highly recommended, especially for fans of the TV series.


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