Saturday, January 2, 2010

Book Review: Speculative Japan - Anthology

Speculative Japan
Edited by Genevan Troyer and Grania Davis
290 pages Kurodhan Press

This review is long overdue, but I got hung up on writing project. SJ is everything I wanted when I first read about the book online. Most of what I know about Japanese fiction comes from years of watching Japanese films. I also have a bit of experience with some of the really strange punk rock they have produced. I had imagined that Japan would produce very interesting Science Fiction. This book might have been more appropriately titled “Classic Speculative Japan,” as most come from the 60's and 70's.

That is fine since most of the stories are truly fantastic and not really dated at all. Perhaps the best thing about this book is the amount of pages and time the editors and publisher took to enlighten the reading to the history of not only the authors and translators but also the genre in Japan itself. I enjoyed reading about Canadian Science Fiction author Judith Merril and her struggle to bring attention to Japanese Science Fiction in our part of the world.

One thing I noticed, many of the genre authors were translators themselves, bring the works of Asimov, Clarke, Phillip K Dick and Larry Niven into their native Japanese. Thankfully you don't end up with Japanese rip-offs of those western authors. Japan's science fiction of that era is of course very influenced by being the world's only atomic victims and the general events of World War II.

That being said the first horrific story in the collection “The Savage Mouth by Komatsu Sakyo” was everything I expected in Bizarro Japanese Science Fiction. The second story “A Time for Revolution” was also a strange post-Apocalypse tale. Some of the other stand-out tales for me in this book are “The Legend of the Paperstarship” by Yano Tetsu which read like a folk tale. My second favorite entry “Reiko's Universe Box” by Kaijo Shiniji feels like a Twilight Zone episode. The diversity of the collection is strong, the ideas contains make for a very original collection of Science Fiction.

A second book in the series is already published and you can bet it is already on my list. This is the second book I have read by Kurodahan Press. They are committed to bringing Japanese cult and genre fiction in print in English they are doing an awesome job. As a press they deserve support because not only are they putting out great books but their mission is important. I excited by the stories in this book but also that I have a greater knowledge of Japanese Genre fiction's important history

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