Monday, January 30, 2012
"The elevator continued its impossibly slow ascent."
Just in the nick of time, I finished one Japanese book in translation for the Japanese Literature Challenge 5, hosted by Bellezza, which ends tomorrow. Unexpectedly, this book also worked for the 2012 Science Fiction Experience so I was able to get double credit out of this one. The novel was recommended to me by Natalie after my first experience with Haruki Murakami and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and she did a great job. I liked this one even more than that one!
I'm not sure that I will be able to give a good summary of the plot because information is slowly doled out and part of the enjoyment of reading this book is going on that journey with the unnamed main character. He is a mentally-altered man whose job is to process and encode sensitive data for a corporation called The System. His most recent client is a man known only as Grandfather and his data must be something truly special because, as soon as the main character gets home, his world is literally turned upside down. And in alternating chapters, we learn of another main character -- another unnamed man who moves to a city surrounded by a Wall. It's a unique place full of unicorns and detached shadows. This man is assigned to be the Dreamreader, a job with a mysterious purpose. The intersection of these two mens' lives might just be the End of the World.
As Japanese literature, I really enjoyed this one. The translation (by Alfred Birnbaum) was very smooth and readable. I didn't have any issues with it. The bits of the story that happened around normal Japanese culture were interesting and enlightening. There was definitely a non-Western sensibility to it but it never felt completely unfamiliar.
As a science fiction book, this was also a really good story. There were a couple of long scientific explanations that actually didn't bore me and the ideas of human modification for financial gain were sufficiently frightening to make me hope that this scenario stays in the realm of fiction. I'm actually surprised that this book isn't talked about more in the science fiction world. It's one that I will be thinking about for a long time.
Searching for a happy, peaceful wonderland,