Don’t panic, Kyon.
I haven’t had so much fun since friends started babbling about this thing they’d seen called “The adventures of Asahina Mikuru”.
Perhaps because I pre-ordered a long time ago, RightStuf shipped my copy of Yen Press’s translation of the novel, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya so that it got to me a few days early. The novel is as good as the anime, perhaps better: more Kyon snark, more Kyon drooling over Mikuru, but not enough enigmatic Yuki. I read it with a big grin on my face and enjoyed every minute of it.
Fans of the anime won’t find any surprises: the anime was very faithful to this volume (which covers from the beginning up to the end of the Sleeping Beauty incident). This novel, while complete in itself, does give one the sense of the stage being set and the characters introduced. Not just characters, but framing concepts are introduced as well: of time as a series of interleaved planes; of existence being a series of moments, each one leading to a decision by God whether to create the next; the anthropic principle, and more. These are all ideas that the novel takes “seriously” and plays with.
The ideas are outlandish, but the prose and the plotting are not. The story is told in a straightforward fashion. Or, at least, it appears to be. I remember seeing speculation that it is actually Kyon that’s the prime mover of events, that Haruhi is his creation to make the mundane more interesting. I never really took that idea seriously from the evidence of the anime, but the novel practically begs for that interpretation. I think it will be several volumes more before we will be able to judge whether Kyon is a reliable narrator of events.
The translation (by Chris Pai) is flawless: colloquial without being overly slangy, Kyon’s voice comes through clear as a bell. In addition to reproducing the original edition’s illustrations and color pages, there is an excerpt from the manga (also published by Yen Press) included in the book.
Go buy it. Read it. Recommend it to your friends. Let Yen Press know they’ve got a winner on their hands, and that they want to rush the sequels into print.
Update: for an interesting take on Haruhi, see this comparison of Yukio Mishima’s Sea of Fertility tetrology to the Haruhi books.