My Natively review of it is my major-spoiler-free take on it. The short take is that I thought parts of the book were 4-star worthy but what the author seemed to really want to write about was not those parts but instead a theme and character that was really not what I wanted to read about (to an “I got through those parts by treating them as a speed reading exercise” level), and overall it seemed to me a complete waste of the premise/scenario.
My impression is that この本を盗む者は also drew out some contrasting opinions from different readers, although we didn’t poll for them, so this isn’t the first ABC pick that’s been like that.
Can’t say I loved it. I think the reviews on Natively capture a lot of my issues with it. There’s a certain character who the author really wanted to focus on who was interesting enough to be a unique addition to the zany cast, but not nearly as interesting as the author seemed to think. It feels like Isaka is trying to explore some sort of moral philosophy through this character, but the philosophical “payoff” at the end just feels kind of trite.
Some have complained about tonal inconsistency, but that doesn’t inherently bother me. I think the disconnect comes from the fact that the characters’ motivations feel entirely disjointed and don’t feed into any coherent theme. The teenage sociopath trying to understand morality and the single father fighting alcoholism might be interesting character concepts in their own right, but setting the former up as a foil to the latter provides almost no additional value. Perhaps it would have been more interesting if other characters represented competing moral philosophies, but as it stands each character just has their own backstory and personality quirks that they mostly work through on their own.
There were moments that were genuinely funny and characters that I found amusing or even grew to care about. I can imagine a stripped down version or a rebalanced version of this book where these characters really get their chance to shine, but as it stands by the time we got about halfway through I had mostly lost interest. Reading felt more like studying and I wanted to get through it so I had more time to read other things.
I’ve seen bits and pieces of the movie and it seemed enjoyable and very different, so I’m excited to watch that again and compare.