Nakamura Reality by Alex Austin

Reading Nakamura Reality by Alex Austin is like riding a perfect wave. In its exhilarating, grips-you-from-the-get-go prologue, "slabs of water, rhinos the surfers called them" are booming off shore. Closer, the shore break "sounded sharply like a gunshot."  As you read Nakamura Reality (and do know it will be difficult not to complete it in one sitting), keep in mind this dualism Austin first evokes here with the imagery of waves: inside versus outside, far versus near.  Incoming infinitely, ephemeral as they are, Austin's waves foreshadow and harbor clues in Nakamura Reality's epic prologue.

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Alex Austin is a practiced illusionist in words and images. He's been a playwright; he's witnessed his words and images staged in Los Angeles and New York.  He's published many stories both online and in print, including publication in two issues of Black Clock.  You could safely say, as I will, because yes I know Alex, that he has a special way with words and images; employing them both to pull the wave over your eyes! Tricking you over and over again, for 272 mesmerizing pages — I wished it would never end. For Nakamura Reality amazes me, as I consider how many intricate, interwoven, parallel dramas, realities, and confabulations of fiction and fact are introduced already in action simultaneously.  Even seemingly insignificant details Austin includes are imbued with foreboding, or longing or loss, like those pesky seagulls we'll see "swooping down" and "mewing insistently" throughout the mysterious narrative(s) of the novel.  I just can't help wondering what the seagulls portend.

We meet at least three (but maybe more) of the major players in the prologue: Hugh and his twin sons Takumi and Hitoshi.  They are on the beach in a supposed paradise in southern California, surveying those "rhinos" whose "chaotic" enormity is reminiscent to me of those magnificent rhinos in the grand finale of Big Wednesday.  Once in a lifetime day.  And what a likewise rare day for two boys and their Dad. To surf, or not to surf? That is the question; the question that preoccupied the double-minded indecisive Hugh who must decide for his eleven year old sons.

Twelve years pass from the prologue to chapter one. Hugh's sons, you probably figured, are long gone.  Presumed dead.  Disappeared.  Likely drowned.  Hugh's Japanese wife, Setsuko, resultantly divorces him.  How could Hugh, she must have thought even if she never exactly stated so, though her relatively swift abandonment of Hugh clearly implied as much, be so reckless, so irresponsible, so stupid as to let Takumi and Hitoshi, her only sons, her defenseless children senselessly put in unnecessary danger for crying out loud!; how could Hugh let them paddle out into the surf that goddamnable day? And if it wasn't the recklessness of that dangerous surf, it was bows and arrows, and who knows what else!  How could Hugh — a schoolteacher for junior high punks because he couldn't make it as a writer; couldn't make it like her father —let her boys play at archery unsupervised?  What a dunce!  Ergo, divorce was predictable.  Perhaps her return to Japan, where she had first met Hugh at the university, was inevitable too.  Home to the house of her famous father, a man of unimaginable power and influence as we'll soon find out; and whom, if we're to believe the boasting of his bodyguard, has "fans among the Yakuza — big fans," Japan's most popular literary author next to Haruki Murakami, the magical realist, Kazuki Ono.

Once we meet Kazuki Ono, Nakamura Reality goes rogue wave.  A novel-within-a-novel emerges. Fingal's Cave, Kazuki Ono's novel-in-progress, the novel we get to see him write and we get to read as we turn each successive page in the parallel kingdom of Kazuki Ono's malicious realityfiction.  A manipulative realityfiction as believable and plausibly enacted as, say, The Truman Show's realityfiction.  I can't help being reminded also of the cosmic puppeteers in Frank Herbert's The Heaven Makers, jaded and bored by eternity, playing God in the finite realities of pathetic little earthlings.  Let's just say Kazuki Ono treats his former son-in-law, Hugh, like a pathetic little earthling and leave it at that.

What an experience, reading a novel that's really two novels in one, the second novel (Fingal's Cave) like some experimental commentary on the first novel (Nakamura Reality); the former serving as both a biography and fantasy future history in the fated life of an unfortunate and unjustly bereaved man who did not deserve, no matter how many idiotic and impulsive and regrettable flings and affairs he had, the cold and bewildering punishment served him by that shady conglomerate we never really see and can only imagine, known as "Nakamura Reality".


Nakamura Reality is slated for publication by The Permanent Press in February, 2016.  Heartfelt thanks to Alex Austin for titling the novel that was Fingal's Cave's predecessor what he did -- I like it a lot! -- and for thinking enough of the novel (was it Kazuki Ono's tenth?) that Kazuki read an excerpt from it at Pasadena's revered independent bookstore, Huddle's (I think that was 2010 or 2011, right?), when Ono's book tour arrived in Los Angeles.  May that novel of Kazuki Ono's, the one preceding Fingal's Cave, come out of realityfiction someday soon and shine like the brilliance that is Nakamura Reality's.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed Nakamura Reality when I read it and still think about the very things you talk about in this review.

    You have done an awesome book justice with this well written review. I want to read it again...NOW.

    Alex is a truly talented story weaver. He doesn't tell, he weaves and ensnares the reader from the beginning of the book.

    Jill Corley

  2. Thank you, Jill, for your great comment! Story weaver. I like that. That's Alex Austin in a nutshell isn't it. Happy to help spread the word about an extraordinary novel and writer I'm excited about. Hoping readers (and maybe more importantly bookstore buyers) give Nakamura Reality the chance it deserves.


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