Connections: Quasar (Ghostwritten)
Name: Keisuke Tanaka
Aliases: Quasar, The Harbinger, Buntaro Tokunaga
Age: Late 20s
Affiliations: The Fellowship, His Serendipity
First appearance: Ghostwritten, Okinawa; Ghostwritten, Underground
Quasar, real name Keisuke Tanaka, is a member of a doomsday cult called The Fellowship, headed by a man who calls himself His Serendipity. Quasar is the first narrator of David Mitchell’s first novel, Ghostwritten.
The reader meets Quasar in Okinawa, after he’s fled mainland Japan to lie low after helping execute a terrorist attack on a subway. The attack and the cult mirror the real-life, March 20, 1995 sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway by the cult Aum Shinrikyo.
It soon becomes obvious that Quasar is paranoid and delusional — he believes he can communicate with his “brothers” telepathically, and seems to genuinely believe that his cult and its leaders will evade justice from the authorities despite the death toll and magnitude of the sarin attack. The attack was necessary, His Serendipty tells his followers, to wage war against the “unclean myriad” and purge the Earth of nonbelievers ahead of a new age of utopia.
On Okinawa, Quasar poses as a businessman, invents meetings to attend during the day, and generally keeps to himself, closing the blinds in his hotel room and reasoning that “You never know whose telephoto lens might be looking in.”
As the chapter unfolds, Quasar reveals little bits of his previous life through internal monologue. Looking in the mirror after the sarin attack, Quasar admires his “hawkish nose” and “ridged eyebrows,” highlighting his “samurai legacy.” But the reader also starts to understand what led Quasar down the path he chose, as the narrator recounts his loneliness, memories of being bullied at school, his sense of isolation from his biological family, and general dissatisfaction with life.
Quasar describes his family’s reaction upon learning he joined The Fellowship:
“I had signed the papers releasing me from the prison of materialism. Now the Fellowship owned my house and its contents, my savings, pension funds, my golf membership, and my car.
My family — my unclean, biological family, my skin family — predictably failed to understand. All my life, they had measured every last millimeter of failure and success, and here I was snapping their rule across my knee. The last letter I ever received from my mother informed me that my father had written me out of his will. But as His Serendipity writes in the 71st Sacred Revelation, The fury of the damned is as impotent as a rat gnawing a holy mountain.
They never loved me anyway. They wouldn’t know of the world’s existence if they hadn’t seen it on the TV.”
In the fallout from the sarin attacks the police and media focus on the Fellowship, but Quasar assures himself His Serendipity cannot be imprisoned by mere mortal men:
“A Bodhisattva who can make Himself invisible at will, a yogic flier, a divine being who can breathe the underwater. Bring Him and His servants to ‘justice’? We are the floating ministers of justice!”
A member of the Fellowship tells Quasar that, should he be arrested, he is to insist he carried out the attack on his own, taking the fall for the terrorist attack until His Serendipity teleports him out of custody. He orders Quasar to retreat further into rural Japan, so Quasar departs Okinawa for the island of Kumejima.
However, the Japanese government gets to the Fellowship first, and authorities track down Quasar’s colleagues until he’s the last remaining fugitive from the sarin gas attack. Soon it becomes clear Quasar himself was poisoned by the sarin, and symptoms are beginning to manifest.
Quasar, whose “role was to pulse at the edge of the universe of the faithful, alone in the darkness,” was once again truly alone. As the chapter ends and Quasar finds himself with dwindling funds and nowhere else to go, he darkly observes that he has “run out of Japan.”
Quasar misdials at one point when he tries to contact the Fellowship, and reaches Satoru, the second chapter’s narrator, just as he’s closing up his jazz shop for the day. It’s the call — and the delay in closing the store — that leads to Satoru’s second encounter with Tomoyo.
His Serendipity is one of Bat Segundo’s many callers in Ghostwritten’s second-to-last chapter, Night Train. Using Segundo’s show to get the attention of the Zookeeper, His Serendipity asks the rogue artificial intelligence to join him in his crusade. Zookeeper responds by destroying His Serendipity almost immediately, demonstrating its power and globuuual reach.