The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories

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9780942637069: The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories

Thirteen science fiction stories deal with Japan's ability to cope with new technology, and the westernization of their culture

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Language Notes:

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Japanese

Review:

In her foreword consulting editor Grania Davis discusses the resistance that the proposal for this collection met over the past few years from prospective publishers. Davis's reasoning for the publishers' eventual concession serves as an enticing comment on the stories gathered here: "...gradually Americans realized that the Japanese are already living in a version of the fiaure-with its overcrowding, micro-electronic gadgets, Polluted environment and efficient group-minds. 'Me problems--and solutions-of the future are happening in Japan right now." Unfortunately, the interest generated by this remark is not fulfilled by the fiction that follows. Whether this is the fault of writers, translators, or both is not clear. What is clear is that several of these tales are quite amateurish. Kobo Abe's ... The Flood," which leads off the book and loosely relates the sudden liquefaction of the world's populace with the reemergence of Noah's Ark, is a prime example of this failing. Ryo Harunura's "Cardboard Box" initially generates interest through its projection of emotional needs and sexual desires onto a most unlikely target--the cardboard box of the tide-but is, ultimately, pointless. Other tales-such as "Boko-chan," the story of a bar owner's female robot who unintentionally teases the customers through her programmed "bimbo" actions-show promise, but, eventually, fall short. Thankfully, the collection does contain a couple of diamonds in the rough that are worth seeking. 'The Legend of the Paper Spaceship" is an oddly poetic tale of a homesick woman whose weary, careless actions are wrongly interpreted by locals. "Standing Woman" is a captivating tale of a future society where nonconformists are "vegetized" and planted as "manpillars," slowly losing emotion and volition. Perhaps the most notable tale is "Me Savage Mouth," in which the protagonist seeks to demonstrate man's innate barbarian nature by, literally, eating himself. 'Me characters in these stories are the epitome of everyman: faceless, often nameless, characters who amble along, almost undistinguishable from their surroundings. Sometimes this technique serves to enhance; more often, it renders these stories little more than vignettes. -- From Independent Publisher

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