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The Future is Japanese: Science Fiction Futures and Brand New Fantasies from and about Japan

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A web browser that threatens to conquer the world. The longest, loneliest railroad on Earth. A North Korean nuke hitting Tokyo, a hollow asteroid full of automated rice paddies, and a specialist in breaking up “virtual” marriages. And yes, giant robots. These thirteen stories from and about the Land of the Rising Sun run the gamut from fantasy to cyberpunk, and will leave A web browser that threatens to conquer the world. The longest, loneliest railroad on Earth. A North Korean nuke hitting Tokyo, a hollow asteroid full of automated rice paddies, and a specialist in breaking up “virtual” marriages. And yes, giant robots. These thirteen stories from and about the Land of the Rising Sun run the gamut from fantasy to cyberpunk, and will leave you knowing that the future is Japanese! Contributors: -Pat Cadigan -Toh EnJoe -Project Itoh -Hideyuki Kikuchi -Ken Liu -David Moles -Issui Ogawa -Felicity Savage -Ekaterina Sedia -Bruce Sterling -Rachel Swirsky -TOBI Hirotaka -Catherynne M. Valente


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A web browser that threatens to conquer the world. The longest, loneliest railroad on Earth. A North Korean nuke hitting Tokyo, a hollow asteroid full of automated rice paddies, and a specialist in breaking up “virtual” marriages. And yes, giant robots. These thirteen stories from and about the Land of the Rising Sun run the gamut from fantasy to cyberpunk, and will leave A web browser that threatens to conquer the world. The longest, loneliest railroad on Earth. A North Korean nuke hitting Tokyo, a hollow asteroid full of automated rice paddies, and a specialist in breaking up “virtual” marriages. And yes, giant robots. These thirteen stories from and about the Land of the Rising Sun run the gamut from fantasy to cyberpunk, and will leave you knowing that the future is Japanese! Contributors: -Pat Cadigan -Toh EnJoe -Project Itoh -Hideyuki Kikuchi -Ken Liu -David Moles -Issui Ogawa -Felicity Savage -Ekaterina Sedia -Bruce Sterling -Rachel Swirsky -TOBI Hirotaka -Catherynne M. Valente

30 review for The Future is Japanese: Science Fiction Futures and Brand New Fantasies from and about Japan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    Disclaimer: I've only read the Hugo-winning short story by Ken Liu in this volume, "Mono no aware." The GR librarians did that thing again where they lump short story reviews into a collection where they were published, because they have this clearly unreasonable dislike for individual review spaces for shorter works. = "Mono no aware" is a Hugo-award winning short story from the amazing Ken Liu. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature. This story is free online at Lightspeed Magazine: Hiroto Disclaimer: I've only read the Hugo-winning short story by Ken Liu in this volume, "Mono no aware." The GR librarians did that thing again where they lump short story reviews into a collection where they were published, because they have this clearly unreasonable dislike for individual review spaces for shorter works. = "Mono no aware" is a Hugo-award winning short story from the amazing Ken Liu. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature. This story is free online at Lightspeed Magazine: Hiroto Shimizu is a twenty-five year old man living on a generation spaceship that left Earth when Hiroto was eight years old, just before an asteroid destroyed our planet and the rest of humanity. The ship is traveling to a star called 61 Virginis (an actual star about 27.5 lightyears away from our Earth, with a composition nearly identical to our sun). The trip that is expected to take about three hundred years, with the ship using a vast solar sail for propulsion. The story alternates between Hiroto’s current life on board the starship ― teaching children about Japanese culture, pursuing a relationship with another survivor of the disaster, and monitoring the grid of indicator lights that show any problems with the solar sail ― and his experiences as a young boy in Japan, during the last months before our world was destroyed, revealing both the best and worst of humanity. Most of all, Hiroto remembers his father: his faith in the Japanese people, and the way they are defined by their relationships and their concern for the group above their own individual needs. When it becomes clear that disaster is inevitable, his father teaches Hiroto about finding joy even in the impermanence of all things:“Everything passes, Hiroto,” Dad said. “That feeling in your heart: It’s called mono no aware. It is a sense of the transience of all things in life. The sun, the dandelion, the cicada, the Hammer, and all of us: We are all subject to the equations of James Clerk Maxwell and we are all ephemeral patterns destined to eventually fade, whether in a second or an eon.”Ken Liu explores an impressively wide array of ideas in this short story, including concern for others, pride in a culture, the definition of being a hero. Viewed in one way, this is a simple story, but the exploration of these themes and multiple sublime details, including the initial comparison of the solar sail-powered ship to the kanji for “umbrella,” some lovely haiku and the reflection of the themes in the Asian game Go, make this an extraordinary story. Liu’s interview with Lightspeed, in which he discusses these ideas and themes further, shouldn’t be missed.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kalin

    Varied and different and deeply satisfying. See: ~ Ken Liu's "Mono no Aware" sets a gentle, sorrowful, uplifting start. It also showcases an important cultural difference: “All the stones look the same,” Bobby says, “and they don’t move. They’re boring.” “What game do you like?” I ask. (...) “Chess, I guess. I like the queen. She’s powerful and different from everyone else. She’s a hero.” “Chess is a game of skirmishes,” I say. “The perspective of Go is bigger. It encompasses entire battles.” “There a Varied and different and deeply satisfying. See: ~ Ken Liu's "Mono no Aware" sets a gentle, sorrowful, uplifting start. It also showcases an important cultural difference: “All the stones look the same,” Bobby says, “and they don’t move. They’re boring.” “What game do you like?” I ask. (...) “Chess, I guess. I like the queen. She’s powerful and different from everyone else. She’s a hero.” “Chess is a game of skirmishes,” I say. “The perspective of Go is bigger. It encompasses entire battles.” “There are no heroes in Go,” Bobby says stubbornly. I don’t know how to answer him. (...) “Maybe there are heroes in Go,” Bobby’s voice says. Mindy called me a hero. But I was simply a man in the right place at the right time. Dr. Hamilton is also a hero because he designed the Hopeful. Mindy is also a hero because she kept me awake. My mother is also a hero because she was willing to give me up so that I could survive. My father is also a hero because he showed me the right thing to do. We are defined by the places we hold in the web of others’ lives. ~ Do I catch a sniff or Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic in David Moles's "Chitai Heiki Koronbīn"? ~ This excerpt from Project Itoh's novella "The Indifference Engine" captures, I believe, a fundamental aspect of Asian thought: “What you have to understand is that no one had any conception of a history between us before the war actually started. Not us Xema, not the Hoa. Until the war began, no one cared less what sort of history their tribe may or may not have been shouldering. It’s only when we constructed a concept of history that the Xema started to hate the Hoa. And vice versa. History is just a backdrop to pin your wars on, nothing more, nothing less. Wars don’t start because of history, but you do need history to start a war. You need a pretext to fight, to find a way, however tenuous, to differentiate yourselves from the other side. And not just history either. The same goes for countries. Even tribal distinctions such as Xema and Hoa, all artificial constructs. You can even take this to its logical conclusion—even distinctions between ‘you’ and ‘I’ exist only to make war possible. Think about it. In order to kill each other, the ‘each’ needs to be distinct from the ‘other.’ Wars don’t start because ‘you’ and ‘I’ hate each other, oh no, that’s the wrong way round. Better to say the very concept of ‘I’ exists purely in order to fuel war.” The novella itself was too chaotic for my taste, even if I had been able to swallow the idea of forever-scarred characters. An intentional parallel to wars? ~ Rachel Swirski's "The Sea of Trees" contains an infinitely sad and saddening instance of not-quite-love-making: Two AM. The ghost hour. The whistling of wind wakes me. The sound comes alone, unaccompanied by breeze. Then she’s there. My Sayomi. My onryo. Dead lips on mine. Cold fingers stroking my thighs. Prehensile tendrils of hair circling my waist, teasing my nipples, trailing my spine. Creep-shudder, gullet to gut. Body does not like being touched by the dead. But my Sayomi. Body likes being touched by my Sayomi. Timeless at twenty-one. Smooth-cheeked, willow-bodied, bloodlessly pale. Eyes shining with tears a decade old. A long skirt flows to her ankles, Western-style but cut from white-flowered silk. Low-cut lace shows the apple-tops of her breasts. Lipstick stains her mouth; she opens to moan; blood-color smears her teeth. She dressed up to die, my Sayomi. Ashen tongue in my mouth like a cold lump of meat. Hair busy undoing the zip of my jeans, her obi-style waistband. Night air breathes cold on flesh usually hidden. She pushes me to the ground, roots sharp in my back. Sayomi on top of me. Her hair parting my lips. Her fingers inside me. I moan. She always makes me moan. The creeping horror of her hair. The unchanging beauty of her face. My body tightens. That moment, near arriving. Her unfinished business with me nearly resolved. It takes a great deal of will to shove her away before it comes. She screams. Her hair ties itself in angry knots. I squirm out from underneath. Her fingernails claw the dirt where I’ve been. Someday, I won’t get away. Someday I won’t want to. ... Legs scissoring. Pelvises matched. Lips to lips. Pleasure fluttering. Hovering. Rising. I should go with her. I should let her make me come. I should come; I should go; at least then I’d be somewhere. ~ Toh EnJoe's "Endoastronomy" captures the rare sense of shifting paradigms, or plainly speaking, seeing the world as new again. It's a hard story, requiring us to constantly think and check its claims against our own knowledge (What is this elevator paradox anyway?) and come up with hypotheses about what may have caused the discrepancies. (What must have happened to the Solar System so that the MC says, "The moon we see is always full. That too is common sense"?) At the same time, it fills me with the joy of discovery usually reserved for visual novels and their wacky logic (post-logic?). There's even more: that fleeting, fleeing glimpse of emotion at the end, which opens up a wholly new dimension for interpreting--experiencing--the story. Special kudos to Terry Gallagher, the translator, for making a tangibly complex original digestible. ~ Issui Ogawa's "Golden Bread" presents an interesting conflict of cultures based on the difference in their digestive genes. Of course, it's a parable. ;) ~ Catherynne M. Valente's "One Breath, One Stroke" is a lovely act of phantasmagoria and whimsy, crammed full of folklore. The kind of fantasy that liberates the mind, much like koans. Just listen to the Giant Hornet poem: Everything is venom, even sweetness. Everything is sweet, even venom. Death is illiterate and a hayseed bum. No excuse to leave the nest unguarded. What are you, some silly jade lion? ~ Ekaterina Sedia's "Whale Meat" is an odd, umm, fish. It's too short for proper character development, barely has any plot--and yet its sense of loss permeates/per-meat-es, like the song of that last whale. ~ This conversation sums up the spirit of Bruce Sterling's "Goddess of Mercy": “I can sing,” Miss Sato volunteered. “That would be a kindness, since we blind men are so appreciative of music. What songs do you sing?” “I sing protest songs,” said Miss Sato. “Peace songs, resistance songs, nuclear disarmament songs, and civil rights songs. Also, many personal singer-songwriter songs about how difficult it is to be a contemporary Japanese woman.” Zeta One cocked his head. “Don’t you know any happy songs?” “You mean children’s songs? Yes, I still remember a few.” (The novella itself is directionless, leaving me wondering, what was the point of these 60 pages? Another meta-commentary on the nature of conflict?) ~ Consider the strangeness of TOBI Hirotaka's "Autogenic Dreaming": “I’d like you to take a look at this.” I take a book from my bag, an old, heavy book. Moby-Dick. The tome is large and thick. The surface of the massive leather cover is a jumble of bulges and furrows: tree roots, knots, an old man’s veins. The pages are swollen, bursting from the covers. “Waterlogged?” asks Jundo. “You’ll take a look?” I put the book in the meal tray and slide it into the cell. As Jundo opens the book, the pages separate with a sickening, gelatinous sound. His face contorts with disgust. “What is this, the work of some author who thinks he’s an artist?” He holds the book out to me. The letters multiply, spill out of their lines, overlap, devour each other, get bigger, turn pages black, metastasize to the cover, penetrate it, fuse into knots. “No. It’s an ordinary book. No gimmicks. One day it changed. In the end, it became what you see. No outside agent did that. The letters did it themselves. “Mostly it starts unnoticed. Letters in a line multiply. Closer examination shows the letters overlapping and replicating. Spaces open up in words, splitting them into terms with unknown meanings. The process accelerates. Soon the letters spill into the gaps between lines. They can’t be contained. The letters begin to overlap. Words join and swallow each other up or divide into new words.” The phenomenon manifests in a variety of forms. Sentences on a page might intertwine into a helix. Chapters shrink or explode. Letters expand or flake off the page. New pages form, letters invade the new space and breed there. Further detail would be pointless. That corpse of a book sprawled in Jundo’s cell—that tumor-devoured carcass—testifies to this bizarre destruction more eloquently than anything. But the carcass is not the final stage. And that's just the beginning. There're references to Google (aptly renamed Gödel) and GEB and who knows how many others that my fever-addled brain has missed. The ending, though ... it can't be missed. No fever can fuzz its impact. The Japanese contributors to this anthology--with the possible exception of Catherynne M. Valente--easily dominate the originality scoreboard. Now should I go and finish reading Wonderful Everyday?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jokoloyo

    I thank Althea Ann for her review that introduce me to this work. The plot is about sacrifice and prioritize the welfare of many/society above the welfare of an individual. The beautiful part is the flashback (view spoiler)[to justify why the protagonist choose to self sacrifice (hide spoiler)] , and some Japanese/Chinese philosophy for literary storytelling. PS: I read this story on the same day as If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love and can't help comparing these two stories. At the first read, the p I thank Althea Ann for her review that introduce me to this work. The plot is about sacrifice and prioritize the welfare of many/society above the welfare of an individual. The beautiful part is the flashback (view spoiler)[to justify why the protagonist choose to self sacrifice (hide spoiler)] , and some Japanese/Chinese philosophy for literary storytelling. PS: I read this story on the same day as If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love and can't help comparing these two stories. At the first read, the plot, emotion, and idea of Mono no Aware is superior. But when I read the "If You..." the second time, I see "If You..." has better re-read value than "Mono no Aware".

  4. 4 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    I was blown away by the first short story in this anthology, a story by Ken Liu entitled "Mono No Aware", in which survivors of a world-ending asteroid that destroyed Earth roam the universe in a starship for another Earth-like planet. The protagonist, Hiroto, was a young boy when he left Earth, and he is a grown man at the outset of the story, in which he comes across a situation that requires a decision that will have unalterable consequences for himself and those on board his ship. The story I was blown away by the first short story in this anthology, a story by Ken Liu entitled "Mono No Aware", in which survivors of a world-ending asteroid that destroyed Earth roam the universe in a starship for another Earth-like planet. The protagonist, Hiroto, was a young boy when he left Earth, and he is a grown man at the outset of the story, in which he comes across a situation that requires a decision that will have unalterable consequences for himself and those on board his ship. The story is beautifully written and an interesting perspective on true heroism. It is truly one of the best science fiction short stories I have ever read. The twelve other stories in "The Future is Japanese" are a mixed bag. I liked all of the stories to varying degrees, but some of them had a a tenuous (at best) connection to Japanese culture. Stories are either American writers writing science fiction stories set in or about Japan in the near future or Japanese writers (translated into English) writing about whatever, and not even necessarily science fiction. At least two stories in this collection would definitely not be considered sci-fi, despite how beautifully written they are. This is a dubious complaint because, as stated, I enjoyed every story in the collection. Editors Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington attempt to represent a wide spectrum of fiction in their choices. David Moles' "Chitai Heiki Koronbin" is, surprisingly, the only short story to represent the kaiju subgenre. Kaiju has become ridiculously popular thanks to movies like "Pacific Rim" and the "Godzilla" reboot, as well as a resurgence of kaiju fiction. Moles' story is great, but it strikes me as obviously being an excerpted piece from a longer work. The kaidan genre (the Japanese ghost story genre popularized by movies like "The Ring" and "The Grudge") is represented by a creepy little story called "The Sea of Trees" by Rachel Swirsky, about a young girl who befriends a dead girl in a forest notorious for being a popular suicide spot in Japan. Several other stories follow in the cyberpunk tradition. Indeed, cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling's "Goddess of Mercy" foresees a frightening near future in which the War on Terror has made terrorism and international piracy a big business. The two best stories---Project Itoh's "The Indifference Engine" and TOBI Hirotaka's "Autogenic Dreaming: Interview with the Columns of Clouds"---may be as different as night in day in their subject matter, but they are both memorable for creating two hauntingly unforgettable anti-heroes.

  5. 4 out of 5

    C.

    Hmm, what a mixed bag. To be honest, it mostly struck me that "random authors writing sf in English about Japan or Japanese characters" and "random authors writing sf in Japanese about anything they would normally write about, pretty much everything except Japan" made uneasy companions in this anthology. I would have rather read an entire anthology of Japanese sf authors or gotten some stories by Japanese sf authors that focused on Japan a little more, if only to see the contrast in how they han Hmm, what a mixed bag. To be honest, it mostly struck me that "random authors writing sf in English about Japan or Japanese characters" and "random authors writing sf in Japanese about anything they would normally write about, pretty much everything except Japan" made uneasy companions in this anthology. I would have rather read an entire anthology of Japanese sf authors or gotten some stories by Japanese sf authors that focused on Japan a little more, if only to see the contrast in how they handled it. (A notable exception is "Golden Bread," which seems like commentary on nihonjinron, or Japanese exceptionalism theories.) Overall, it was entertaining, and I look forward to more translated work from Haikasoru. It's a real shame that the US has so little translated sf (or prose in general). But I was really tempted to make a ticky list/drinking game of Japanophile cliches to apply to the English stories, because those authors were doing a terrible job of avoiding cliches. Cherry blossoms, neon, harakiri, kamikaze, calligraphy on skin, repeated mentions of "mono no aware" (which is to Japanophiles as "defenestrate" is to geek teens), Aokigahara, etc. etc. By the way, Bruce Sterling got 4 out of 6 above; I kind of think he did it on purpose, especially since parts of his story were written in a way that sounded as though it was translated from Japanese. Maybe I'm fooling myself because it was one of the better English stories. I am a little curious as to whether the editor had to either turn down or edit out any stories with panty vending machines. Of the English stories, I thought Pat Cadigan's was the best, and the final Japanese story was definitely the most engrossing. (Can't remember the author.) I also liked Hideyuki Kikuchi's story and was pleased to see that he writes things other than the uncomfortably retrogressive Vampire Hunter D stories.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kastel

    "I think of myself as a giant Japanese robot in a manga and smile." Mono no Aware is a bizarre short story that can be summarized as a Japanese guy who thinks in Japanese and does Japanese things. Ken Liu is not Japanese; he is American Chinese. So unsurprisingly, there were many strange mistakes even the novice Japanese student will notice. For example, the first kanji is something every child should know by heart. It's the kanji for umbrella. Umbrellas are quite important -- imagine a world wit "I think of myself as a giant Japanese robot in a manga and smile." Mono no Aware is a bizarre short story that can be summarized as a Japanese guy who thinks in Japanese and does Japanese things. Ken Liu is not Japanese; he is American Chinese. So unsurprisingly, there were many strange mistakes even the novice Japanese student will notice. For example, the first kanji is something every child should know by heart. It's the kanji for umbrella. Umbrellas are quite important -- imagine a world without umbrellas -- and not being able to write the kanji for umbrella is pretty sad. Writing that kanji is kids' stuff. The protagonist's handwriting is atrociously bad even for someone who hasn't written Japanese in years. Go has no "villains" whatsoever. And the "giant Japanese robot" lines are so cheesy and corny. While one may argue they're done for literary effect, it's undeniably racist to let this go. Imagine an American writer writing a story about France: he or she would make all the characters talk cryptically everyday. Mono no Aware is similar in that aspect: it's shallow in personifying the essence of Japanese culture. So in the end, Mono no Aware is a sappy short story that tries to be Japanese. Ken Liu may be a decent writer for all I know, but he uses his Asian heritage too liberally. Mono no Aware is a nonsensical piece of fiction that shouldn't have won the Hugo Award.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few - or the one." Ken Liu has done it again. This story should win awards this year. Here, Liu explores the Japanese cultural concept of acceptance of the transience of all things, in the face of an Earth facing imminent destruction from a rogue asteroid - and characters who make the decisions they believe to be right. I'm not usually a big proponent of self-sacrifice, but the examples in this story make a good case. Emotionally wrenching, and bea "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few - or the one." Ken Liu has done it again. This story should win awards this year. Here, Liu explores the Japanese cultural concept of acceptance of the transience of all things, in the face of an Earth facing imminent destruction from a rogue asteroid - and characters who make the decisions they believe to be right. I'm not usually a big proponent of self-sacrifice, but the examples in this story make a good case. Emotionally wrenching, and beautiful.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    What I thought this book was: A book of science fiction stories mostly by Japanese authors, many of which translated into English for the first time. What this book actually was: A book of mostly science fiction stories, about half written by Japanese authors (and may well have been translated for the first time), the other half written by Western authors (many of whom have a particular connection to Japan) in English but set in Japan or using Japanese characters. The difference between what I tho What I thought this book was: A book of science fiction stories mostly by Japanese authors, many of which translated into English for the first time. What this book actually was: A book of mostly science fiction stories, about half written by Japanese authors (and may well have been translated for the first time), the other half written by Western authors (many of whom have a particular connection to Japan) in English but set in Japan or using Japanese characters. The difference between what I thought this book was and what it actually was, was a big disappointment. It's not that I've got anything against the Western authors, just... I don't know, the reason I was excited about the book wasn't because I wanted to read stories set in Japan, or using Japanese mythology, although that's a nice bonus, it's to discover authors I may never have encountered if they hadn't been translated, to experience different points of view from wholly different upbringings. Instead I got a bunch of stories from authors I already knew (even many of the Japanese authors were ones who I've read novels translated into English already), and many of whom felt like, even if the stories were often very well done, were participating in a writing prompt game where the challenge was "include Japanese culture in some way!" And of course, the usual annoyance that at least one of the stories had no science fiction content whatsoever, but was instead a simple fantasy/ghost story. That's not to say the collection's bad, but collections are always a mixed bag, where some stories connect and others don't, and a little thing like feeling misled about the theme (even if not deliberate... a close reading of the description reveals they were fairly open about it) can sour your experience some. The stories I most enjoyed, regardless of origin of the author: "Mono no aware" by Ken Liu, "Autogenic Dreaming" by TOBI Hirotaka, "Golden Bread" by Issui Ogawa For rating? I don't know. I think on quality of stories, compared to other short stories collection, it rates a low 3. But my disappointment really makes me want to rate it 2 stars, "it was okay." I think I'll resist my disappointment and score it as a 3.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alfred Haplo

    Pay it forward, as they say. A kindness received is a kindness given. So it is with sacrifices made for love. In this story, which alternates between the past and present, is ultimately about one sacrifice paying forward for another. The setting is set in space, where a civilization was on a annihilating collision course with an asteroid. Eight-year old Hiroto, through his family’s sacrifice, was able to escape in a starship for a habitable star, 300 light years away. Fast-forward to present tim Pay it forward, as they say. A kindness received is a kindness given. So it is with sacrifices made for love. In this story, which alternates between the past and present, is ultimately about one sacrifice paying forward for another. The setting is set in space, where a civilization was on a annihilating collision course with an asteroid. Eight-year old Hiroto, through his family’s sacrifice, was able to escape in a starship for a habitable star, 300 light years away. Fast-forward to present time, Hiroto is now a technician and the only person capable of repairing a fatal rend in the solar sails propelling the star ship. And so he did, replicating an act that so long ago was selflessly made for him. Liu’s story is emotional and nuanced, but also impactful. It is not unlike the simple and purposeful beauty of the kanji, upon which Hiroto’s name is revealed and analogized. Winner of the Hugo 2012, Mono no aware can be read free online.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tokio Myers

    I really enjoyed this more then The Paper Menagerie. They aren't that comparable other then having the same author but still. Highly recommend.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    (under construction; still reading - be forewarned that this will be looooong. Edit: Nevermind. Dropped.) I love Japan. Anime. Mecha. Heian-kyo. Kanji. Fantasy. This seemed like a great book to pick up. Mono no Aware by Ken LiuThis is a story of young Hiroto in the midst of worldwide turmoil due to a meteor on a collision course with Earth. He, along with everyone else on the planet is trying to evacuate into space - and of adult Hiroto on board the spaceship Hopeful en route to 61 Virginis where (under construction; still reading - be forewarned that this will be looooong. Edit: Nevermind. Dropped.) I love Japan. Anime. Mecha. Heian-kyo. Kanji. Fantasy. This seemed like a great book to pick up. Mono no Aware by Ken LiuThis is a story of young Hiroto in the midst of worldwide turmoil due to a meteor on a collision course with Earth. He, along with everyone else on the planet is trying to evacuate into space - and of adult Hiroto on board the spaceship Hopeful en route to 61 Virginis where his great-great-great grandchildren might have a future. Hiroto was able to be on the ship due to his mother's past connection with Dr. Hamilton, an American, because the Japanese shipbuilders took the money and could not (or did not) build what was promised but America has ships. On the ship Hiroto stares at indicator lights to make sure the solar sails are where they need to be. However, one light is a fraction of a second off marking the ship off course. This was a lovely, well-written space opera-esque story. I am not a huge fan of sci-fi but this did not focus on the technology but rather the human story unfolding in front of us. Two thumbs up. The Sound of Breaking Up by Felicity SavageThe future is now. A woman has a job as a "professional proxy" specializing in proxy breakups to refrain from meiwaku, or troubling her clients further; "She doesn't ever want to see you again. She's divorcing you today. She's also unfanning you and canceling your access to her WORLD." People can be killed and not die, children that were never alive liquidized into the ether, one can marry and divorce without ever setting eyes on their intended, and surgical face-lifts are a norm. Her next client takes the divorce easily but ends up bringing our narrator to 2417 where she thinks is an out-of-the-box WORLD set in the Warring States Era but... is actually the past. Resources in the future are scarce and people are time-traveling for those resources to whatever era they can to get whatever commodities they need. Our narrator finds herself becoming part of this struggle and her life changes as she moves downstream into a war between upstream and down. This story reminded me in some ways of the prior story. It takes place in the future - and the past, but the past that is still our future - where Asuko (should that be Atsuko?) made a very hard decision to change the past - and the future. It was a little short but I did like it. Chitai Heiki Koronbin by David MolesA group of young people are at a secret robot base somewhere in the Arctic ocean where they have to go on long deployments to the edge of various zones on the planet to help the civilians and kill the monsters of the future. We follow Maddy, a teenager, on a mission that goes wrong and her mecha, her Columbine is broken. We get thrown in the middle of this story and have to figure out who the characters are and what the verbiage means. It was also very reminiscent of Neon Genesis Evangelion. It was a brief glimpse into a futuristic life but honestly I found it really boring. I didn't care about Maddy, nor her experiences, nor the world-building. Not my cup of tea at all. Pass. The Indifference Engine by Project Itoh (trans. Edwin Hawkes) Dead bodies. Gunsmoke. The stench of blood and guts. The war has ended, the war between the Hoa and the Xema tribes. Xenophobic, nationalistic, and worried about the purity of bloodlines. Our narrator had order to wipe out the enemy that he could find - including the comfort women of his tribe. Ndunga's sister is one of those women. That's when things go bad. Ndunga does not do what he needs to. He is a traitor. Our narrator has a choice to make and then live with what happens afterwards. Another story that I wasn't a huge fan of. Good for those that like military stories. It was rough around the edges, with rigid and unyielding characters, and full of war as told by a lowly soldier. I don't like reading about gun-toting, propaganda-spewing, child-killing war - or even what the future has in store when the war is over. This story was far too long and I had zero interest in it. Nooooo, thank you. The Sea of Trees by Rachel Swirsky The protagonist can see and speak to yūrei, Japanese ghosts with long black hair wearing white Edo-style kimono. She is in Aokigahara, known as Suicide Forest, at the bottom of Mount Fuji. Going from body to body, she scavenges the forest to live but gets caught by a Japanese-American named Melon (of all things) traipsing around looking for her father who is a yūrei himself. As she is usually broke, she listens to the girl if a job is involved. They go further into the forest to find her father but will the forest let the both out alive again? An adventure story with little twists along the way. A soft sort of dreamy story full of longing for things that can never be. This is the first story in this collection that did not have a sci-fi edge to it but pulled in myths instead. I'm a fan. "All roads lead to Aokigahara. You may as well well slowly." Endoastronomy by Toh EnJoe (trans. Terry Gallagher) The story unfolds in a "universe that is apparently making a showy display of crushing the laws of physics, and unquestionably even the concept of numbers is perhaps on the verge of collapse." It is a world that has regressed back into the days of the world being seen as flat and even the moon might not be what it seems. Our main character seems to be in the company of Leo and the old man a lot but the way they view the world - and the night sky in particular - seems quite peculiar. But what if what they see is correct?I'm sorry, I had a really hard time trying to explain this story. It felt like a rather existential foray into a world that seemed reminiscent of A Wind Named Amnesia. I don't really have strong feelings for it either way. A kind of 'meh' story and one that didn't feel like it had anything to do with Japan besides being written by a Japanese person. In Plain Sight by Pat Cadigan This is another futuristic world following Goku Mura, an Interpol agent, who was just sent a case to review by Konstantin, though he doesn't know why, as it should just go through the "local law machinery". Her office says she couldn't have sent the case to him as the DA's office just exported it but Goku got it 12 hours ago and Konstantin couldn't have sent it because she was shot. He goes to prison to talk to Pretty Howitzer to see what she had to say then to the victim, Emmy Eto, and go from there. Again, not another good explanation of the story but this whole book is just losing my interest rapidly. I thought I'd really like it but I just don't care about most of the stories here and I'm already getting bored. I'm about halfway through now so maybe things will perk up a little later on... Golden Bread by Issui Ogawa (trans. by Takami Nieda) We step into this story where Yutaka, a hurt captive, is staring into a bowl of... something that is distinctly not what he is used to. It was horrible, really, and he said as much but as a prisoner - and one that crashed his fighter into their storeroom full of rice - there is little sympathy. After ascertaining a bit more info, Yutaka realized that he needs to get back to his squadron which assumed he was dead and moved on.Yeah, my blurb sucks but I got so bored with this story that I just dropped it and moved on part-way through. This was a rather odd story of Yutaka from colonizing Yamato and Ainella from the backwater Kalifornia nation, which is apparently rather lacking in many "first world" necessities unlike industrial Yamato that has meat all year round. It seems like many American and Japanese traditions are switched in this futuristic world, with the Yamatoese man (with American traditions) in the wrong. Hm. I wasn't drawn into the story at all and the translation seemed to lack something for me. Not particularly impressed. Pass again. One Breath, One Stroke by Catherynne M. Valente In the House of Second-Hand Carnelian half resides in the human world, the other half, well, a different nameless place. Ko, a "mustached gentleman calligrapher", lives alone on the human side. On the other side he is but a calligraphic brush named Yuu. But Ko has a problem: on the human side he has no brush, the other side no breath. As all great calligraphers know it is one breath per calligraphic stroke. Ko will never be a great calligrapher. Yuu, however, as a brush on the kami-side of the house is usually not lonely with all of these deities and mythical creatures visiting: kitsune, tengu, tanuki, kirin, Yuki-Onna and those that live in the house, as well. And then the Night Parade comes. This! This story was a huge reason why I purchased this anthology for my Kindle. I love Catherynne Valente; she is one of my favorite writers and novelists. And this story very much makes this purchase worthwhile, even if I am not a huge fan of most of the other stories. It is clearer to me than say The Labyrinth but it still takes you on a journey into this hazy Japan-that-does-not-exist or perhaps a Japan that lives only in dreams and serene forest wells surrounded by bears. It was a lovely story that I enjoyed immensely! Whale Meat by Ekaterina Sedia An American travels to Japan to see her father in Hokkaido en route from Tokyo, where she stops to pick up goth loli gear for her blog to keep her working and paying bills. Instead of the usual two hour trip north with her father they end up going west to Sakhalin on a new assignment for her father. At Sakhalin eating whale meat is still quite normal, but disgusting according to the narrator; "finally I see: black and red, torn raw, revolting." But she tried whale anyway stating that it "tastes like the ocean tinged with blood. It takes like sin." She then realized that the harpooned whale by the Japanese fleet - the whale she tried - was the last representative of the species. The first thing that 'pinged' with me - besides the mention of goth loli fashion - was that having recently finished Murakami's 1Q84 I remember the mention of Sakhalin which was quoted from Chekhov's Sakhalin Island. And the final lurch for me was, not surprisingly, the description of whale meat which conjures up a rather visceral reaction from me not only because I used to live in Japan and have seen whale ("kujira") sushi but also because I currently work for an environmental non-profit that is trying very hard to abolish Japan's scientific whaling program. I fear I am too close to this issue to give an unbiased review but I can say that I do like Ekaterina Sedia's work as a whole and while I squirmed a bit with this story due to the nature of it, it was not bad in any way, shape or form. Mountain People, Ocean People by Hideyuki Kikuichi (trans. Takami Nieda) A young man named Kanaan tells us his story of flying, of wanting to glide higher in the sky. What today brought was intruders, sky sharks that Kanaan and his village tries to kill. Ten down and sent to the factory for processing. And Kanaan still looks to the sky, to see what lies beyond all that blue. His father, known as a valiant hunter, disappeared after Kanaan's first flight. While his mother thinks he plummeted to the ocean, Kanaan believes that he went up to heaven. He then meets a man named Taka that lives far under the sea in a different 'world' where his planet became a dystopian wasteland full of deadly chemicals. Much of human technology was lost or forgotten, flight being one of them. It took ten thousand years for technology to catch up and curiosity brought Taka back up. He wants to show his world to those above him; show them that there is a world below the ocean. Kanaan considers following him down. Speaking of A Wind Named Amnesia we get a story by the famous Hideyuki Kikuichi, which is also, not surprisingly, dystopian in nature with a "mad wind". I felt this to be a decent story but I could tell that it was translated; some of the wording seemed a bit stilted and the paragraphs didn't flow as well as I would hope for. I'm not sure if this is from Kikuichi's writing style (having never read it in it's original Japanese) or from the translation. I don't recall feeling that as an issue with A Wind Named Amnesia. Well, anyway, another very decent story that I generally enjoyed (translation issues aside). Goddess of Mercy by Bruce Sterling

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cary Kostka

    I'm loved the plot and the story flowed so smoothly that I read this in one sitting. The visuals created by the author makes this one of those stories that could easily be transferred to the screen. A job well done indeed.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Overall thoughts: It was alright. The stories were all really hit or miss, which was a shame because I was really hoping to love this collection. I either really loved the stories, thought they were okay, or DNF them. [1] Mono no Aware, Ken Liu: 5/5 stars -This was a great story. I loved the premise and it was engaging and well written. It made me have the feels and not many short stories can make me do that, so well done Mr. Liu! I don't want to say much about it because it's better to just read Overall thoughts: It was alright. The stories were all really hit or miss, which was a shame because I was really hoping to love this collection. I either really loved the stories, thought they were okay, or DNF them. [1] Mono no Aware, Ken Liu: 5/5 stars -This was a great story. I loved the premise and it was engaging and well written. It made me have the feels and not many short stories can make me do that, so well done Mr. Liu! I don't want to say much about it because it's better to just read this one and see for yourself :) [2] The Sound of Breaking Up, Felicity Savage: 1/5 stars -Look at my status update for this one first. This story was a MESS. I understand that the novel is supposed to be a compilation of stories about the future, but this jumped around so much and so often that it was confusing as hell. (And this is written by an American woman who lives in Japan, so it's not confusing from a translation error or anything.) The story was all over the place and the writing was awful. [3] Chitai Heiki Koronbin, David Moles: 2/5 stars -Though not quite as bad as Felicity Savage's story, this one was still pretty rough. It was all over the place plot wise and made little sense. The constant mentions of robots and mecha anime were annoying, we get that you're trying to make it seem like a Japanese inspired story - it could've gone without those. Altogether, this was like fitting puzzle pieces that didn't quite belong together, making it frustrating but altogether just barely bearable. The ending was equally as frustrating as the story itself. [4] The Indifference Engine, Project Itoh: 5/5 stars -Wow, just, wow. That was some very heavy subject material and without giving too much away I was both simultaneously engrossed in the story and horrified at the subject material. Now this is how you write a short story people! Take note. [5] The Sea of Trees, Rachel Swirsky: 5/5 stars -I think, like most people, stories involving Aokigahara forest (a.k.a. the Suicide Forest) are extremely interesting. Rahchel Swirsky's story was enamoring as well as well-written. I loved every second of it. [6] Endoastronomy, Toh EnJoh: 2/5 stars (GoodReads rating of "I Liked It") -This was okay. It was pretty boring and very pretentious. Here's a line from the story in which sums up my feelings for it: "It's more like a load of hogwash. Just what we percieve as fairy tales and what is mere bunkum depends to a great extent on our own process of perception." [7] In Plain Sigh, Pat Cadigan: DNF -I skipped this story. After reading a couple of pages, it started to remind me a lot of Rachel Swirsky's awful mess of a story (see above #2), and I decided not to waste my time. [8] Golden Bread, Issui Ogawa: 4/5 stars -This was an interesting concept and a very relaxing story as well. I loved the worldbuilding here and the characters were excellent as well. A cute, sweet story. [9] One Breath, One Stroke, Catherynne M. Valente: 4.5/5 stars -If you haven't read a story by Catherynne M. Valente, I don't know how else to explain this story other than that it was hers. And I loved it, exquisite. [10] Whale Meat, Ekaterina Sedia: 3.5/5 stars -I would have given this more stars is this didn't end so abruptly. Like, what the hell was that? I was enjoying the story and it just ended. I don't enjoy those kind of endings, thanks. [11] Mountain People, Ocean People, Hideyuki Kikuchi: DNF -Didn't catch my attention, and I just couldn't get into it. [12] Goddess of Mercy, Bruce Sterling: DNF -Again, really boring. Wasn't catching my attention so I skipped to the next story. [13] Autogenic Dreaming: Interview with the Columns of Clouds, TOBI Hirotaka: 2/5 stars -Really fucking strange. I had no idea what was going on half the time but the concept was interesting. At the point I wanted to be finished with the book so I skipped a lot and read mostly dialogue. #sorrynotsorry

  14. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Cases like this make me wish that Goodreads allowed us to do half stars because, although this is good enough overall to deserve more than three, there are enough stories in there that didn't work for me for it to be not quite deserving of four. Some of these are genuinely moving - "Mono no Aware" is wonderful and gives this shameless affection for one's own culture and "Whale Meat" is possibly autobiograhical and has a whimsical Haruki Murakami-esque sense of introspection. Issui Ogawa (author o Cases like this make me wish that Goodreads allowed us to do half stars because, although this is good enough overall to deserve more than three, there are enough stories in there that didn't work for me for it to be not quite deserving of four. Some of these are genuinely moving - "Mono no Aware" is wonderful and gives this shameless affection for one's own culture and "Whale Meat" is possibly autobiograhical and has a whimsical Haruki Murakami-esque sense of introspection. Issui Ogawa (author of "The Next Continent", one of my all-time favourite SF novels) exceeded my expectations with "Golden Bread", which is a truly satisfying mixture of hard science and sentimentality...very Clarke-ian. "The Sea of Trees" isn't really SF; it's an unsettling tale that nevertheless feels very Japanese and ends up being very creepy and atmospheric. An offering from the late Project Itoh, "The Indifference Engine", is very bleak indeed: it lacks even the black humour of "Harmony" (a novel I really enjoyed) but is unflinching and compelling nonetheless. Others fell flat and left me feeling frustrated, as though I missed something. "One Breath, One Stroke" is another one that's more folklore rather than SF but it didn't 'speak' to me. It's very poetic, so maybe I dont 'get' poetry? Similarly, I can't really comment on "In Plain Sight", "The Sound of Breaking Up" or "Autogenic Dreaming" because, quite honestly, I couldn't keep a grasp on what was happening. I read a lot of speculative fiction, quite a bit of which is translated from Japanese to English, so felt disappointed - and doubting in my own ability to comprehend it - when I felt lost when reading them. Overall I'd still recommend this, however. It's eclectic, features some well-known names and names that deserve to be more well-known and its variety should make it a hit with a wider audience than some of Haikasoru's more 'niche' titles have done.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Noor Al-Shanti

    EDIT: Edited to Add that this is a review of Mono no Aware, not all the stories I cried. I don't often do that when reading short stories. Especially if they're about space. But there you are. It was an excellent exploration of humanity, of what it means to be a hero, and an excellent little window into Japanese culture. Go check it out. It will take you less than half an hour to read it and you will be enriched by it whether you like sci fi or not. And I'll end the review here because it's a sho EDIT: Edited to Add that this is a review of Mono no Aware, not all the stories I cried. I don't often do that when reading short stories. Especially if they're about space. But there you are. It was an excellent exploration of humanity, of what it means to be a hero, and an excellent little window into Japanese culture. Go check it out. It will take you less than half an hour to read it and you will be enriched by it whether you like sci fi or not. And I'll end the review here because it's a short so I don't want it to get too spoilery.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Absolutely amazing. Short but sweet and poignant, and made me burst into tears more than once while reading. Loss, survival, nostalgia, remembrance, cultural preservation, and the spirit of the Japanese people. Human persistence.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Nominated for the Hugo, and of course Ken won the Hugo, Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award for his Paper Menagerie story. This story is not similar in subject matter at all, but his ability to combine story with emotion (and implied action) pervades it. My pick to win the Hugo this year.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    Ken Liu's prose is a beautiful thing, not overly flowery but impactful and pleasant to the extreme. This is a lovely little story - it has a few minor holes, but overall I really thought it was a nice piece to read. I'm so beyond excited for his full story this year.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Even though it is a very short read, this is INTENSE!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I have no words. Five stars. Freebie online. Just read it. It's a short one. Worth it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    I was really excited to read this when I found out about it when Ken Liu's story won the Hugo award in 2013. I thought the concept was great, and it seemed to be a wonderful opportunity to read some international authors. But it was mostly pretty disappointing. Anthologies are tricky, they need to a well edited so there's a flow and balance as you move from story to story. And this book didn't have that at all. There was really no connection between the Japanese and non-Japanese authors at all, I was really excited to read this when I found out about it when Ken Liu's story won the Hugo award in 2013. I thought the concept was great, and it seemed to be a wonderful opportunity to read some international authors. But it was mostly pretty disappointing. Anthologies are tricky, they need to a well edited so there's a flow and balance as you move from story to story. And this book didn't have that at all. There was really no connection between the Japanese and non-Japanese authors at all, the tone of their stories felt very different so that going from story to story was often quite jarring. And the tone of the book overall, if there was one, was just kind of sad and depressing. But maybe that was in part because I was so disappointed by so many of the stories. I'm glad I read it, there were a few gems, but overall the experience wasn't what I expected. It was also annoying that it didn't say when the stories were written. Context is important. Maybe the editor didn't want to make it seem like some of the Japanese stories were dated, but the information should be in the book somewhere. I know that Project Itoh sadly passed away in 2009, so I wanted to know when his story was written, it's relevant to the poignancy of the legacy of his story about child soldiers in Africa. I was reluctant to put my detailed review on Goodreads, I don't like to be so negative, but I have a terrible memory and I do want to remember a few of the specifics for the future. And now I'm glad I did because after going through the details again I decided that I have to give it three stars because I really did enjoy a couple of the stories. But the experience of trying to read the book straight through wasn't good at all. I'd recommend reading a couple of stories at a time in between other books with this one. Liu - The perspective of how the Japanese people would likely handle such a huge disaster and betrayal versus how other countries would was striking. Gradually, in an orderly fashion, the people packed up and went home. No looting, no soldiers mutinying. "This was Japan." Haunting. Some people are very critical in their reviews, saying that it's very cliché. Of course it won the Hugo award so some people didn't agree. I thought the connection to his father, poetry and nature rang very true, knowing how my Japanese cousins live their lives. Savage - A not very good time travel story. It started well, I liked some of the ideas, but it quickly lost me. Moles - This one made me curse a lot, I was really upset by it. It could have been really good if it was the beginning of a longer story, but to just end there was total crap. That isn't a short story, it's an aborted novella or novel and it sucked. And what was the point of having the girl say she was a dyke and making a lewd comment about the officer? It didn't have anything to do with the story. If it was the start of a longer story, sure, but again, it just starts without good anywhere. The whole story was a total let down. A waste of a well-created world and situation. I looked him up and he's included in a heck of a lot of big anthologies, so it looks like he should know better. Just total crap. Project Itoh - I had a hard time buying into the Captain lecturing about constructed histories and the very concept of "I" existing only to fuel war, a guy like that wouldn't be so self-aware. But it was a very good if depressing story. It was interesting to read about (imaginary) African child soldiers, from the perspective of a Japanese author. Imaginary isn't the right word. They were examples, everymen who could have been any boys from any tribes in any war in Africa or anywhere in history. It was disturbing on a deeply fundamentally level. This story really stuck with me. I read a terrific review of the story by a blogger that you might want to check out, it really identifies all of the complex elements that helped make the story so special. But in the end, it was the emotional impact that just punched me in the gut and won't let me forget it that really makes it so haunting. Swirsky - I have to remember the term, "bug-shudder," it's so perfectly descriptive. As in when the tendril of the ghost's hair grasped her shoulder and she bug-shuddered it off. It ceated both a physical and emotional sympathetic response, very effective. But she shouldn't have used it twice, it made it lose it's effectiveness. And the story wasn't to my taste, too melodramatic. EnJoe - Odd, confusing story. The language/ideas were hard to follow. It felt as though even though it was translated into English the subtleties of the original ideas didn't quite make it because it was supposed to be very nuanced. Either that or it was pretentious. I can't say I enjoyed it. Cadigan - I didn't think she pulled the plots together very well. Or the Japanese theme. The woman was part Japanese, the detective was part Japanese, but there wasn't any connection to Japanese culture at all. Ogawa - Good, except an eighteen year-old's awareness of the limitations of his society. "On Yamato, everything begins with setting ourselves up in opposition to others." They'd just think they were right, not that they were argumentative or too bold or whatever. He's too educated, reasonable, logical, philosophical. And the change was too abrupt at the end. But it was a good story. Valente - A very odd fairy tale. I enjoyed all of the mythology. It definitely made me want to finally read Deathless. Sedia - It could have been really cool to have a Russian/Japanese story from this Russian-born author. And it almost was, but then it was just disappointing. Like a lot of the stories in this book, it felt like a young author who was trying to hard to "say something." Which she certainly isn't, and most of them aren't, these are established pros. This book is just confusing me. Kikuchi - It was fine except the 10,000 year time frame seemed really extreme. Sterling - He edited the big cyberpunk book in the '80s, and now he's a big visionary and futurist. OK, sure. I was so close to just quitting when I saw how long the story still was after ten already confusing pages. Only thirty more pages to go! Is it the longest story in the book? Maybe it just felt that way after so many mediocre stories. Only stubbornness kept me going, to see if he could somehow pull it off, his rep is good, and I wanted to try the last Japanese author and really complete the book since I was so near the end. I decided to put it down and try it again the next day to see if it made any more sense. - Nope, it still sucked. TOBI - I was so discouraged by the whole book that I almost didn't even read this story, but I'm very glad that I did. It was a fascinating mix of technological sci-fi and psychological drama. Probably the best story in the book. Including the first one, which won the Hugo. This story won the Seiun Award, the Japanese equivalent of the Hugo, in 2010, and I'm not surprised.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eric Mesa

    Another anthology. As usual, I've included my status updates with some spelling fixes. Overall it was a very uneven collection in terms of what I enjoyed. The stories all seemed to run hot or cold for me with nothing lukewarm. Mono no Aware - a story about a generation ship, identity, and the world just before the end. I think I heard this on Clarkesworld Magazine's podcast. It was still moving to read because I had forgotten the details. The sound of breaking up - this story takes a sharp right a Another anthology. As usual, I've included my status updates with some spelling fixes. Overall it was a very uneven collection in terms of what I enjoyed. The stories all seemed to run hot or cold for me with nothing lukewarm. Mono no Aware - a story about a generation ship, identity, and the world just before the end. I think I heard this on Clarkesworld Magazine's podcast. It was still moving to read because I had forgotten the details. The sound of breaking up - this story takes a sharp right angle. WOW. Where will it end up....great ending to that time travel story Chitai... - I have no idea what that ending meant The indiference engine - a haunting tale of NGOs doing what they think is best regardless of the info on the ground. The SF aspects really bring the message home Sea of trees -a scary ghost story that takes place in a suicide forest in Japan Endoastronomy - boy do I hate that story. I have no idea what the eff was going on and it didn't even have an explanatory punchline. In Plain Site - having tons of fun with this detective story - way more than the previous one. Didn't like the ending, but leading up to it was fun Golden Bread - A pilot accidentally crash-lands onto an asteroid. Interesting that the author has switched the cultures of the people involved in the story relative to how it is now. Finally, all the incongruity makes sense with the final reveal One breath, one stroke - a lovely, whimsical tale of a house on the boundary between the human and non-human world. Great prose. Whale Meat - it's a touching story of an estranged father and daughter, but I'm not sure how it fits with the overall SF/fatasy theme of the book. Mountain people, ocean people" - interesting twist to the story. Very ambiguous ending Goddess of Mercy - this story seems horrifically more likely now than it did when written. the journalist had a strange was of speaking. But the story wound up pretty neat, even if it had the non-ending they many of the duties in this anthology do. Autogenic Dreaming - a strange story that reminds me somewhat of that Jasper Fforde series. So it's about Google under a different name. Still not sure I 100% understand what's going on.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christine Zarah

    “There are a thousand ways of phrasing everything,” Dad used to say, “each appropriate to an occasion.” He taught me that our language is full of nuances and supple grace, each sentence a poem. The language folds in on itself, the unspoken words as meaningful as the spoken, context within context, layer upon layer, like the steel in samurai swords. I wish Dad were around so that I could ask him: How do you say “I miss you” in a way that is appropriate to the occasion of your twenty-fifth birth “There are a thousand ways of phrasing everything,” Dad used to say, “each appropriate to an occasion.” He taught me that our language is full of nuances and supple grace, each sentence a poem. The language folds in on itself, the unspoken words as meaningful as the spoken, context within context, layer upon layer, like the steel in samurai swords. I wish Dad were around so that I could ask him: How do you say “I miss you” in a way that is appropriate to the occasion of your twenty-fifth birthday, as the last survivor of your race? A kitten’s tongue tickles the inside of my heart. “Yet it is this awareness of the closeness of death, of the beauty inherent in each moment, that allows us to endure. Mono no aware, my son, is an empathy with the universe. It is the soul of our nation. It has allowed us to endure Hiroshima, to endure the occupation, to endure deprivation and the prospect of annihilation without despair.” And so it goes. Everything passes. “The stars shine and blink. We are all guests passing through, A smile and a name.”

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tonia

    Some stories warrant 5*, but unfortunately there were a couple that I would have one-starred so I average this out as a 3* collection.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Pickle.

    Amazing reading by LeVar Burton, 4.5 shimmering stars https://tinyurl.com/y5je4zmv Amazing reading by LeVar Burton, 4.5 shimmering stars https://tinyurl.com/y5je4zmv

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kang

    Interesting collection with varied styles and different imagined worlds. Could be that "autogenic dreaming" was the last story but it held my attention for a while.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bookish Nessie

    Only read "Mono no aware" by Ken Liu.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Despite my current emphasis on reading books already on my TBR shelf, once smitten by the kitschy cover, I grabbed this as an end-of-year reward to myself. This is a collection of 13 new short stories (all but two written in 2012). As a reader, I enjoy fiction in all lengths, so anthologies are perfectly welcome before my eyes. Often a novel will lack the “punch” of a well-written short story, but lets the author develop themes (and characters) more fully – and some short stories seem to beg for Despite my current emphasis on reading books already on my TBR shelf, once smitten by the kitschy cover, I grabbed this as an end-of-year reward to myself. This is a collection of 13 new short stories (all but two written in 2012). As a reader, I enjoy fiction in all lengths, so anthologies are perfectly welcome before my eyes. Often a novel will lack the “punch” of a well-written short story, but lets the author develop themes (and characters) more fully – and some short stories seem to beg for further “extension”. These were all “sized-right” and complete within their pages. Every story in this collection is tied to “Japan” in various degrees. Some are set explicitly on its territory; others have Japanese characters, while a couple connect only through technology, popular culture, philosophy, or just authorship. Over half the stories were written by Western authors (although a couple did/do live in Japan) and in these we find more of the cultural “clichés” (example, Cherry Blossoms) that Westerners often associate with Japan. But, I have to say that these items did not spoil the stories for me. I treat them as “atmosphere” in a restaurant; nice but inconsequential to the preparation or taste of the meal. Although all held me interest, the style and flow of the stories varied enormously. As in most of my reviews I will not summarize the actual tales (there are beaucoup choices for anyone to find). They range from mystic or fantastic to hard Science Fiction. Included are some very good universe stretching Speculative Fiction and a stark and uncompromising look at war and hatred. If you are looking for a more obviously-themed (or more stylistically similar) collection you may be disappointed. Some of the stories flow easily into the reader’s awareness but a couple have complex “worlds” that make you work at assimilation. Here are a few specific thoughts. With “Endoastronomy” you either take on the characters’ universe or treat it as “bizarre” and follow the dialogue. As soon as I began it, I was certain that I had read “Sea of Trees” before and despite knowing that it was only written in 2012 (and hence unlikely that I did read it elsewhere) I still feel that it was familiar to me - either the sign of a great story, or a deteriorating mind. “Autogenic Dreaming” was very cyberpunk and one that I enjoyed working through its convolutions. I liked the detective story that was “In Plain Sight” both for its plot and for the strongly developed characters. And while “Golden Bread” was fairly transparent it was a nice story about human bias and short-sightedness set in a believable off-planet colony. I very much enjoyed how the “Kalifs” had designed their world and philosophy. Because of the unevenness of the stories, I can only rate this book a “3.5”, which means “3” stars. I think that the better stories would have done fine in any collection, but a couple really did not fit well with my expectations and the rest. Perhaps I am ignoring (or fighting) the intention of the Editors, but that’s my loss. It’s certainly a collection of edgy fiction and that alone makes it worth reading. Please do. (I’ll be keeping my eyes open for other titles by “Haikasoru”.)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ryandake

    i'm not much of a fan of short story collections, but i am a total sucker for anything japanese. or putatively japanese. or that has brushed up against japan. so i had to check this one out. alas, most of the stories in here were not actually translated from the japanese. which is a bummer, you know? 'cause international sf is da bomb. but pretty much all have something to do with japan, anyway, which is the next best thing. there are two standout tales in here, for me: The Indifference Engine, by i'm not much of a fan of short story collections, but i am a total sucker for anything japanese. or putatively japanese. or that has brushed up against japan. so i had to check this one out. alas, most of the stories in here were not actually translated from the japanese. which is a bummer, you know? 'cause international sf is da bomb. but pretty much all have something to do with japan, anyway, which is the next best thing. there are two standout tales in here, for me: The Indifference Engine, by Project Itoh; and The Sea of Trees by Rachel Swirsky. the first is a story told by a former child soldier in an unnamed African war. the soldier in question is "former" only because the war is declared over, not because he wants it to be. he still has vengeance he needs to wreak on whichever of the enemy he can get near--but an NGO has injected him with a drug that makes it impossible for him to recognize said enemy (there are apparently some differences in appearance between our young gent and his nemeses). but if you can't recognize the "bad guys," who do you kill? our hero comes up with a pretty chilling answer to that question. but the best part of the story is really his viewpoint--his unrelenting rage toward the enemy and all who might succor them. his tale includes a lot of the real-life story of child soldiers: indoctrination, drug use, the inevitable psychological scarring and intense (altho perhaps misplaced) loyalty of badly damaged children. it's not an easy story, and it won't make you feel warm and fuzzy, but it will take you to one of the darkest corners of the human quilt and shine a little light on it. the second story, The Sea of Trees, is about a real place south of Tokyo called Aokigahara, a dense and apparently very weird forest where people go to commit suicide. it's apparently the Golden Gate Bridge of Japan--lovely, and terribly attractive to people in overwhelming pain. Swirsky's young heroine is a scavenger of the recently-dead with some unhealthy relationships among the ghost-dwellers of Aokigahara. in the forest she meets a young american girl on a mission, which may or may not end very, very badly for all concerned. i don't know how a japanese person would feel about this tale--japanese view suicide differently than americans. i don't have a stereotypical american viewpoint (i pretty much believe that a person in intolerable pain, either physical or psychological, has a right to end it, even if it means ending themselves with it). swirsky's answer to the calculation of pain may or may not be japanese, i don't know. but the story itself is a deeply compassionate answer to the question. can't say i found any real stand-outs in the rest of the book... but i have become very short with short stories--if they don't sink claws into my spine in a page or two, i find i haven't the patience for them. the two stories above are probably worth the price of the book. the rest, if you like it, is gravy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

    my second of Ken Liu's short stories. Loved the way he linked the father son Go playing from the "old" earth to the son's ability to make his ultimate decision en route to a new one. Nicely constructed

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