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Speculative fiction set mainly in TOKYO

30th May 2023

Beautiful Shining People by Michael Grothaus, speculative fiction set mainly in Tokyo.

Speculative fiction set mainly in TOKYO

This is a novel, set well into the future where a very different world beckons.

John, a very young coder, is in Tokyo to meet with Sony. He has come up with a code that they want to buy from him for a crazy sum of money and he knows that, with the sums involved, he can afford to take care of his mother and live a pretty good life going forward.

He decides on a whim to pop into a café that offers ear cleaning for only 4900 yen and he decides it might ease his jet lag. At the counter there is a large man whom he comes to know as Goeida, an erstwhile Sumo wrestler. The young woman, who will minister the treatment is Neotnia, to whom he is drawn. Supervising the proceedings (not literally) is Inu the dog.

John has a very personal secret, but nothing compared to what Neotnia is keeping from him, and as their friendship develops, they find themselves getting under each others’ skins.

Given that AI is a really hot topic at the moment, this is a novel that capitalises on fears and mistrust, yet somehow adds a dimension of normality to a concept that is only just finding its feet. The author presumably knows what he is talking about, as he competently delivers a story that could well be a vision of the future (yikes, unimaginable, but who knows what lies ahead!). A little went over my head, which didn’t matter as the gist was well laid out. Perhaps the point at which the toaster (!) comes into its own was a little overworked and drawn out but hey, how often do you find a toaster with a starring part!

Speculative fiction set mainly in TOKYOJapan has always been a leader in technical advances and here, in the author’s future, there is a culture of robots who are part and parcel of society and serve the residents of Tokyo. The humans look back on the years when people drove cars themselves – in the novel, the driverless cars are called up and ferry passengers to their destination, which is already a burgeoning phenomenon in the present; in the novel, however, it is quite another and very different level.

The setting of Japan – and mainly Tokyo – therefore, offers a very credible backdrop because of the tech savviness with which the country is associated. His characters trawl the metropolis, making their way through the different areas, taking the train to the suburbs, where Neotnia has a volunteer job caring for the residents in a seniors’ home, and heading out to Hiroshima and Nagano. The author clearly knows the country because he captures it evocatively and convincingly and references kami and elements that are integral to Japanese culture (as well as a lot of noodle slurping, which made we want to eat some Japanese noodles)

This novel feels like a very relevant and well thought out read, with a very humane touch.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

Catch the author on Twitter @michaelgrothaus 

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