Lois Tilton reviews Short Fiction, late March
A mixed selection to close the month. The Good Story award goes to Interzone, to the Tem story, and to the Future is Japanese anthology, for the Sterling and the Valente.
- Tor.com, March 2012
- Interzone #239 March-April 2012
- Lightspeed, March 2012
- The Future is Japanese, edited by Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington
Tor.com, March 2012
Tor has done a Pretty Neat Thing, and they call it the Palencar Project: a series of five stories inspired by a painting by artist John Jude Palencar. These are not just the usual stories; they are the work of genre masters like Gene Wolfe, James Morrow, and Michael Swanwick.
The picture shows a young woman looking at an apparition in the sky ahead of her – something that looks, to me, like a Cthuloid tornado. But that’s the interest in a project of this sort, discovering what the same image means to such a variety of different viewers. Some have interpreted the picture quite literally, others have used it as an imaginative springboard into different territory. What they have in common is a central female character and the presence of something resembling, in some way, a tentacled monster. From that point, they have gone their separate ways.
“New World Blues” by L E Modesitt Jr
Aleisha has not-quite-volunteered to go through an experimental portal to another world where she has a mission to fulfill, confronting an angry god. Although that’s not exactly what’s supposed to be going on. The woman who went before her no longer speaks, and Aleisha is only doing it because she needs the money, needs the benefits for her daughter.
Not that different? The gloom is overwhelming, a form of hell in purple, even though it is really not that dark. She turns, but finds no sign of the portal through which she had been thrust, no sign of the platform. She takes several steps, but her footsteps only carry her across the browned grass that stretches levelly in all directions. The grass bends under her shoes, but does not crackle or snap, for all its brownness. If anything, her steps release a sighing sound.
The author has taken the scene very literally from the Palencar image, creating a tale of empowerment. It’s clear what Aleisha has gained from the exchange; not so clear is what she has given, willingly or otherwise, in trade.
“Dormanna” by Gene Wolfe
A voice comes to Ellie while she is asleep, and she takes it to be another imaginary friend.
“She came in a dream, only after I woke up—sort of woke up, anyway—she was still there. I’ve been trying to think of a name for an imaginary friend that comes when you’re asleep. Can you think of one?”
Her mother suggests “Dormanna.”
The striking thing about this story is the kindness and wisdom of the women characters, Ellie’s mother and her teacher. And Dormanna, if she can be so considered, as Ellie does. Wolfe inverts the impression of the artwork. Instead of something powerfully menacing, it is very much otherwise. A positive, inspiring tale.
“Thanatos Beach” by James Morrow
When Inez is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, conventional medicine offers her little hope. So she is receptive when she hears the theory of Dr Philoghast, that tumors are in fact independent organisms that can be persuaded to remove themselves from their host’s body, lest they perish along with it. But Dr Philoghast leaves some crucial details out of his contract with his patients.
Morrow’s inspiration takes him considerably further from the literal, well into the domain of the absurd. His story delights with its prose, with its wit.
A vigorous breeze wafted through the open window, cooling her bald head. Glancing toward the far corner, she noticed a pleated skirt, a long-sleeved blouse, and various undergarments folded neatly across the back of a cane chair. A pair of leather boots rested beneath the seat. She lost no time shedding the smock, that hideous uniform of the unwell, and arraying herself as a citizen of health’s holy empire.
“The Woman Who Shook the World-Tree” by Michael Swanwick
Mariella Coudy is a precocious genius who, as an adult scholar, has found her ideas on the nature of time not well-received. Everything changes when a young man named Richard Zhang volunteers to work with her and produce demonstrable proof of her theories. They first prove that time is not real, then produce a map of reality, and Richard has ambitious of developing instantaneous transport.
Richard called it the Monster. But in Mariella’s eyes it was not monstrous at all. It had the near-organic look of certain fractal mathematical formulae. It flowed and twisted elegantly, like branches frozen in the act of dancing in the breeze. It was what it was—and that was beautiful.
More important to Mariella, they become lovers. But the burdens of success threaten to come between them and destroy her happiness.
Here, the elements of the painting become more metaphorical. This is a love story, and it captures the loneliness inherent in the female figure standing in a landscape of [emotional] desolation.
“The Sigma Structure Symphony” by Gregory Benford
In an intriguing future, Ruth is a SETI librarian on Luna, working in the Library of collected and unread signals. Ajima, a junior dataminer, had been working on the advanced Sigma Structure, declaring it required “intuition, not analysis” before he inexplicably committed suicide. Now Ruth is assigned the task. She discovers the musical nature of the Sigma signals, and more.
“They’re not primarily pieces of music at all. They’re mathematical theorems. What we regard as sonic congruence and other instinctual responses to patterns, the Sigma Structure says are proofs of concepts dear to the hearts of its creators, which it calls the Overs.”
But the Structure has its own intentions, and Ruth finally learns what happened to Ajima.
In keeping with the musical nature of the signals, the story is structured symphonically, as a series of movements. There are a large number of hyperlinks to definitions of technical terms. The use of the Palencar image is, again, quite literal. The connection between mathematics and music has long been established; here, we see it mirrored in the conflict between the analytic and the emotional. What I have trouble reconciling, though, is the initial description of the Structures as impenetrably complex, far beyond the ability of the human mind to penetrate, and the emotionally present, yet so greatly reduced figure of Sigma as it seeks to communicate with Ruth.
Interzone #239, March-April 2012
A larger number of stories this time, with more of the fantastic and less of the futuristic and SFnal than usual. The overall quality is high, with fresh and original scenarios. A superior issue.
“Twember” by Steve Rasnic Tem
Strange and vast phenomena move across the land: towering, mostly insubstantial cliffs of fossilized time that Will calls “escarpments.” For the most part, they do no harm to humans, but Will’s son had once been caught in one and rendered helpless in body and mind; his wife still blames him. His mother calls the current state of the world “Twember,” because the seasons are all confused; the skies are dark and there are no leaves on the trees. And where the escarpments have passed, things have changed.
As he walked closer he could see how here and there sprays of the shiny stuff must have spewed out of the passing escarpment, suggesting contents escaping under pressure, like plumes of steam. He dropped to one knee and examined the spot: a mix of old coins, buttons, bits of glass small metal figures, toys, vacation mementos, souvenirs, suggesting the random debris left in the bottom of the miscellanea drawer after the good stuff has been packed away for some major house move – the stuff you threw in the trash or left behind for the next tenants.
This is fine prose, rendering the escarpments wondrous as well as inexplicable. The story shows us the people who have to find a way to keep on living in this changed landscape, coming to terms with each other and with themselves.
“Lips & Teeth” by Jon Wallace
The narrator is a political prisoner in a dystopian version of what seems to be North Korea. He has been re-educated, which is to say that he has forgotten who he is and why he is in the prison. The only one who speaks to him is the pickaxe with which he breaks stones; its name is Jin-Song, and it constantly urges him to resistance.
As pickaxes go his blade is blunt, but his words are sharp. He thinks our incarceration is unjustified, our labour pointless. He also gets mad and spews treason about the Dear Leader, which I guess is why he’s in here with me.
Then one day the Dear Leader dies and changes are set in motion.
Readers may suspect that Jin-Song is in fact the narrator’s displaced ego. It’s a harrowing story of the degree to which the human spirit can be crushed, and the means it may use for preservation.
“Tangerine, Nectarine, Clementine, Apocalypse” by Suzanne Palmer
We’re on a space station named Utopia, a name that many other worlds have given themselves. This one is based on the principle that “with adequate technology, cooperation supersedes competition.” The Apparatus that runs the station produces all it needs, and individuals are chosen to share the supply with others. Echa is the apprentice to Bota, an elderly fruit-sharer. Bota sees fruit-related visions; a nectarine means death, a tangerine means a broken vow. And the pomelo carries a terrible doom.
A nicely-realized setting, in which we learn that even Utopia can’t always be perfect.
“Bound in Place”
Haunted houses are in. The ghosts function as both servants and appliances; spells keep them confined, wipe their memories, and supply instructions. Jolene had not wanted to live in a haunted house, but her husband Derrick was attracted by the prestige. Derrick, however, is rarely home as he devotes himself to business, and Jolene succumbs to depression.
The dysfunctional marriage is not unusual, though it seems like something from another era, out of Mad Men. The ghosts, on the other hand, are something different, as we see the story from their point of view alternating with Jolene’s.
Ghosts roam the wide halls and large empty rooms of the Victorian on the hilltop. Their memories are so perishingly short that the place seems to unfold into new rooms without end. They pass each other and exchange quiet nods, neither knowing whether they had met before nor caring.
“Rail Riders” by Matthew Cook
Bindlestiffs in space. The scenario isn’t quite clear at first; there are no rail lines between planets. Our group of mostly-female hobos stow away in cargo holds between the worlds, then ride the rails between cities. Naturally, they are abused and exploited wherever they go, because some things never change. Which is the problem here – the author is simply lifting hobo life from a century in our past and transplanting it whole into a distant future. Not enough things ever change for this to be convincing as SF.
“One-Way Ticket” by Nigel Brown
It seems that an alien species has evolved a kind of quasi immortality that it has offered to humans suffering from incurable disease. At the end of a long journey, the pilgrims pass out of sight and disappear; no one knows for sure what happens to them. Kyra is a journalist dying of cancer whose last assignment is to record the end of the process and send it back. But on her way, she develops misgivings.
I find the grazers’ lifecycle potentially more interesting than Kyra’s journey of enlightenment, but the author doesn’t develop it. The ending is rather weak and moralistic.
Lightspeed, March 2012
Supposedly, there are two fantasy stories and two science fiction stories in this issue, as usual, but as I read them, there are two light fantasies and two horror stories, the SFnal elements being only nominal.
“Alarms” by S L Gilbow
Clara yearns to be a superhero, but instead she has developed a supercurse: she sets off alarms when she goes near them. This is a metaphor for being out of control; Clara’s real problem is OCD.
Establishing order meant lining up the books in the living room until their front edges made a neat line across the bookshelf. I liked things neat. I liked things straight. I liked things perfect. I thought it was my job to establish order in the bedroom, the house, the world.
One of those stories told in short sections and with lists, all numbering five, this being a number of significance to Clara, representing control. The fantastic element is well-enough developed for readers to credit it as something more than a metaphor, but that’s what it is. Told with a self-deprecating humor.
“Beauty” by David Barr Kirtley
Nicole meets a beast in a bar; he buys her a drink, she falls in love with him, which breaks the spell. Things aren’t the same anymore. More of a fable than anything. Readers will probably see this one coming.
“Test” by Steven Utley
A cursed voyage.
Soon after the Stephen W. Hawking left normal space on the first manned faster-than-light voyage to the stars, the terrible dreams began, dreams of black tentacles coiling about the ship, reaching into it, touching us in our sleep, dreams of choking darkness.
Things aren’t working onboard. The narrator believes that a monster has trapped them in hyperspace and is pulling the ship – and its crew – apart. The engineer thinks it’s a gremlin and crawls inside the engine trying to find it.
Space horror, an ambiguous fantasy in which either the entire crew has just gone crazy, or the monsters in space have made the entire crew go crazy. Which isn’t really much of a distinction.
“The Day They Came” by Kali Wallace
In this case, the 2nd-person narrator is actually telling the story. It seems there has been an alien invasion. It happened the day the narrator’s father died. Now everyone is restricted to a five-mile radius and picks up rations at a distribution point. Every week, there are fewer people there.
You’ve explored the boundaries along your invisible border. You’ve walked to an intersection that marks the extent of your five-mile radius. Nothing stopped you, but there were shadows darting at the edge of your vision. They hid behind fence posts, crouched in the ditch, ducked into a culvert when you turned your head. They were watching. You didn’t cross the road.
The nature and purpose of the invasion and the aliens – if aliens they are – is obscure. The story is about the narrator, alone in her dead father’s house, watching the lights go off in the other houses, remembering how it used to be, before. Which wasn’t really so great, but it looks good in retrospect, as is often the case.
The Future is Japanese, edited by Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington
My first thought on seeing this title was that the Future was Japanese in the past. That is, it was back in the 80s that SF writers were imagining the Japanese economic empire dominating the earth. In these recessionary days, this particular future seems much less likely. But such visions were largely the product of western imaginations who were often, the editorial introduction suggests, not well informed about Japan itself. The authors here are divided between Japanese and others, the latter, we are to assume, being the well informed sort.
The introduction claims that the anthology is meant to bridge a gap, but rather than bridging, this collection seems to create a one. There are more western authors than Japanese, and while the non-Japanese have made their stories, in one way or another, about Japan or Japanese characters, the Japanese authors as often as not, haven’t. So that it’s not really clear what the subject matter here is supposed to be. Japan in the future? Japanese SF? Japan however? None of the above? It would have seemed that a volume like this one would have presented an opportunity for readers to see Japanese SF authors writing about the future of Japan, but not so.
The quality of the fiction is mixed. Some of the stories are quite good. Others are not. Fortunately, the good ones make the collection worth it.
“Mono no aware” by Ken Liu
Hiroto calls the Hopeful his world, but it seems in fact to be a generation ship propelled by a solar sail on its way to 61 Virginis. It seems that Earth suffered an asteroid strike, and Hiroto was one of the few who made it onto an American evacuation ship, where he now spends much of his time reminiscing about the past and the superiority of the Japanese people, as taught to him by his father.
“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.”
I can’t help thinking this piece is unbearably smug. While inferior nations riot and break into wars at the prospect of annihilation, the Japanese line up in an orderly fashion, reciting poetry. At least, as Hiroto recalls and idealizes the events from the perspective of the young child that he was at the time. It’s a sad situation. Isolated on the ship, he remembers his father’s lesson that life is transitory, but he clings so hard to what has already passed away that his connection to present and future is tenuous.
“The Sound of Breaking Up” by Felicity Savage
In a future where almost everyone lives totally virtual lives, Asuko is a sort of divorce agent, a go-between who keeps the breaking-up couples from having to confront each other directly. Suddenly, jarringly, she falls face-first into reality.
I wanted to go home. I’d spent my whole life chasing reality, trying not to get sucked into a WORLD-based existence like most people, but now I didn’t want this to be real.
The problem with reality is it doesn’t care what you want.
The shift between Asuko’s normal life and her introduction to reality is so abrupt readers are likely to get whiplash. The first part has a distinct Japanese tone to it [eg, natto icecream] while the second is a universal SFnal scenario. I can’t help wanting more integration between them.
“Chitai Heiki Koronbīn” by David Moles
It seems that Earth has been invaded by aliens who take the form of giant robots – actually, many different forms, although their “real” forms seem to be somewhat humanoid. It seems that for some reason no one understands, these aliens can only be fought effectively by specially selected and trained teenagers piloting giant robots. There are three Americans, who have joined the original Japanese teenage robot pilot, Tanimura the boy wonder, who is even more war-weary and screwed up than they are and keeps running away – either from the war or back to it.
Jacob is still wearing his helmet. He takes it off now and flings it across the tarmac. Some
of the Ländespolizei look round at the clatter and then hurriedly away. Without his big Malcolm X glasses Jacob’s face looks naked. Maddy and Abby can see that he’s crying.
What Moles is up to here is deconstructing manga, imagining how it might be if such scenarios were real, involving real people. None of it makes any sense, which is also real, as soldiers often feel their situation doesn’t make sense, can’t give a coherent answer to the question, “Why are you here?” when it’s likely to be unrequited love or some other teenage affliction that has sent them to war.
The setting is thoroughly multicultural and polyglot, with Japanese officials, Canadian doctors, possibly-German guards, and robots named after the classic characters of French pantomime, which is unexplained, as is the title, with which the author offers the clueless reader no assistance that I can catch. Colon beans?
“The Indifference Engine” by Project Itoh
Another war – tribal warfare in a future African nation with the odd name of Shelmikedmus, given by Dutch colonists. It’s so much like our own placetime that the fighters use the apparently immortal AK-47, but with American forces deploying advanced robotics. Enza was a child soldier of the Xema tribe, brought up to believe that killing the Hoa was the only reason for existing. Now peace has been imposed, and he’s supposed to coexist with the enemy.
The war is over, they would say. Gone is the necessity to fight and hate each other, they would say. So stop hating the Hoa and learn to study and work alongside them, they would say.
But Enza can’t survive in a world where he can no longer tell Hoa from Xema.
There’s a good idea at the core of this, but it would have been better with less repetitiveness in the narrative.
“The Sea of Trees” by Rachel Swirsky
Aokigahara the suicide forest – haunted by its ghosts. Nao is haunted by her dead lover, who attempts to draw her into death with her.
Nothing stops Sayomi’s devouring kisses. Hair embraces me. Meat-lump tongue laps at my lips. She wants to pull me out through my mouth. Fill her ribcage with my heart. Fill her bones with my marrow.
Nao is also a scavenger, looting the bodies of the suicides, but this doesn’t pay well, so she accepts the offer of an American teenager searching for the ghost of her father. But the ghosts have turned dangerous, and the trees have closed in on them, refuse to let them go.
Japanese ghosts are a fascinating lot, more so than western ones, and the ghost forest is a real place. That makes this one contemporary horror, nothing SFnal.
“Endoastronomy” by Toh Enjoe
The narrator and his friend Leo spend a lot of time staring at the celestial bodies, which don’t seem to be the same as they are today. The moon doesn’t go through phases, Saturn isn’t in the right place, and the earth may be flat. Leo claims to have proved it is. In a world in which humanity has apparently devolved, Leo and the old guy who committed the heresy of subtraction are creating not only astronomy but mathematics and philosophy, all from bare logic. The narrator doesn’t quite know what to think of them.
Only then do I remember that Leo and the old man have been working on those calculations. That had been a formal pronouncement of theirs, I concede. In a universe that has lost its sanity, they have discovered laws that govern this activity, and they have predicted the next manifestation. The logic of delusion is incapable of predicting actual results, but if Leo and the old man’s astronomy correctly forecasts this lunar eclipse, then it must contain at least some part of the truth.
There’s almost no physical action here. The characters look at the moon and stars, speculate, and argue. They decide what’s important to them, to each other. Readers are left wondering what happened to the universe they used to know, but that’s not what the story is about; it’s about thinking about thinking. Heavy on idea, light on storyness.
“In Plain Sight” by Pat Cadigan
Cyberpunk. Goku Mura is an investigator for Interpol who receives a fraud case from his detective [?] friend Konstantin, whom he hasn’t seen in too long, even virtually. It hardly seems like a case for Interpol, and he wonders why she sent it to him. Perhaps a way of making contact? But her office insists that Konstantin couldn’t have sent him the case because she has been in the hospital, in what may be a vegetative state. Goku takes on the fraud case primarily as an excuse for visiting Konstantin, then he talks and talk and talks with the perp and the victim, distracted all the time by flashes of contact with her through his Artificial/Augmented Reality link. She’s still there, and trying to reach him.
Reading this one is an exercise in enduring extreme tedium as Goku’s interviews go on and on and on about the inconsequential fraud case, painfully extended dialogues that exist essentially to be interrupted for a few instants. The point being perhaps that police work is boring, though I’m not sure why the reader has to suffer for it. We learn a bit about Goku’s character, but it’s not worth the time. I note that the story has nothing to do with Japan, except to note that it has broken up and washed away, with people of Japanese descent like Goku assimilated into other nations.
“Golden Bread” by Issui Ogawa
The first story here by a Japanese author that explicitly involves Japanese characters, although taking place in the colonized asteroid belt. Yakuta is a fighter pilot from aggressive, expansionist Yamoto, who has crashed by accident into a remote asteroid inhabited by people of the neutral Kalif culture, destroying the communal food warehouse. Now he is stranded there among people of different customs and diet, and ungrateful about it.
Ainella, sitting across from Yutaka with her legs folded, coldly slid the dish of boiled
greens across the tea table. There was also some smoked fish and pickled red berries of some kind. As meager as the portions were, Yutaka tried to pack away as many calories as he could. And yet, he couldn’t help but ask, “Do you have any meat?”
I got a sinking feeling almost from the beginning, fearing that this would be another iteration of the Kipling novel about the spoiled kid who Learns His Lesson. So it proves. There is also excessive engineering infodump, and ridiculously obvious lectures from Yakuta on the superiority of his culture, intended by the author to indict it. The author also employs the leaden irony of Yamato culture being derived from European sources, while the superior, ecologically conscious Kalif have adopted traditional Japanese ways, despite their Caucasian genetic heritage. Just awfully bad.
“One Breath, One Stroke” by Catherynne M Valente
1. In a peach grove the House of Second-Hand Carnelian casts half a shadow. This is
because half of the house is in the human world, and half of it is in another place. The other place has no name. It is where unhuman things happen. It is where tricksters go when they are tired. A modest screen divides the world. It is the color of plums. There are silver tigers on it, leaping after plum petals. If you stand in the other place, you can see a hundred eyes peering through the silk.
In the human half of the house lives the calligrapher Ko. In the other half, he is a calligraphy brush named Yuu, who compulsively writes poems on the house’s other denizens. Ko the human calligrapher cannot write because he has no brush. Ko is lonely. The other side of the house is full of lively company, but Yuu the brush is not content.
Gorgeously done, poetic and poignant images inspired by Japanese legend. Nothing involving the future.
“Whale Meat” by Ekaterina Sedia
The narrator’s American mother divorced her Japanese father when she was six years old, and whenever she visits, she has felt the guilt of deserting him. On this trip, they go to the Kurils where tension exists between Japanese and Russians over, among other matters, a dead fisherman and Japanese whale hunting. Russians have salvaged the meat from a Japanese kill.
The whale proves to be a disappointment though: it turns gray when cooked and smells
sour, and it tastes like fish but has a confusing beef texture to it. It tastes like the ocean tinged with blood. It tastes like sin.
Set in a present Japan, the story is directed, not towards the future but the past – the past of a failed marriage, the past before Japan lost hegemony over the islands, the past when they weren’t forbidden to consume endangered species. A depressing piece that seems rather like a poem to guilt, as the narrator can’t help thinking of her father dying alone.
“Mountain People, Ocean People” by Hideyuki Kikuchi
Long after an apocalypse, winged humans live and fly on Earth’s mountains, where the children learn to glide from an early age, despite attacks by air monsters from above. Kanaan is a hunter for Everest village, but he yearns to fly higher, as his father did before he died.
“A good wind,” his father had said. “How I’ve longed to be swept up in that wind. It is a
wind that goes up to heaven. The villagers swept away in that current have all glimpsed heaven. I couldn’t attempt it when I was a hunter. The village and your mother and you have no use for me now, and for that, I am glad. Now I am free to go.”
But there are also humans living at a lower altitude, and one day an explorer appears from below, wanting to make contact.
The physical setting is interesting, but the rest of the scenario is oversimplified. It’s not clear whether the mountain people grow their wings or make them, as they are said to be invented, but a torn wing appears to be a kind of death sentence, as the old and disabled are begrudged a living. Kanaan takes one look at the city of world below and instantly considers it paradise, which is probably not the case if human history is any guide. Some characters have Japanese names, but the island itself has probably been long ago washed away.
“Goddess of Mercy” by Bruce Sterling
An actual story about Japan in the future, after North Korea smashes Tokyo with a single Bomb. In the aftermath, the island Tshushima is abandoned to the forces of lawlessness and disorder.
In the wake of the Korean [refugee] invasion came all of Asia’s waterborne criminals: Taiwanese arms dealers, South Korean drug merchants, and Hong Kong triads. Even the Russian mafia drifted south from the Kurile Islands. These network-savvy global marauders shared a single goal. They all came to rob Japan, a land without a government or a capital, the world’s richest and newest “failed state.”
The pirates take hostages, including Mrs Onegai from the Nagoya government. Now Miss Sato from the Federation of Nine Relief Societies has come to Tsushima to negotiate for her release. Her guide is an underground journalist and self-declared expert on world piracy, looking for a publisher and a payout. Adventures and mayhem ensue.
An interest-packed action piece, rich with dark, cynical humor rendered in lively, energetic prose. Despite the tone of absurdity, scraping off the mud reveals a lot of truth about the nastier sides of human nature, many of which are recognizable from today.
“Autogenic Dreaming: Interview with the Columns of Clouds” by TOBI Hirotaka
This story—leaving aside the question of whether this is in fact a story—is the record of an extended interview with that renowned man of letters and murderer, Jundo Mamiya. I can’t post the complete transcript, please bear with me. The interview can’t be related in a sequence of orderly sentences. It’s not even an interview in the usual sense. The subject—Jundo Mamiya— died thirty years before the conversation took place. And the interviewers—I and I—are not human either, in the ordinary sense of the word.
The actual story is not quite as complicated or obscure as the introduction above would indicate. It seems that all literature, in the most extensive sense of the term – words and images – has been computerized, and a myriad of search engines constantly generates cross-references, creating secondary works. In a sense the system becomes the entire world of expressed thought. But it generates a monster, rather like a cancer, destroying its own substance. To save itself and its universe, the autonomous collective of search engines recreates a myriad of copies of the one human whose power with words might overcome the monster.
Jundo Mamiya is a strong character who strikingly evokes the image of a Hannibal Lecter, superhuman in his physical and mental abilities. It is in part his works that have generated the process of destruction that threatens all literary works. Rather than realism, this one falls into the domain of the psychological, the story of power too strong to contain.
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