I’m trying something new! I’ve decided to start writing book reviews on the blog. What, you may ask, is Toni J doing, writing book reviews? Well, I’ve got a couple reasons. First, it’ll get me to read more books consistently. Second, writing about other people’s books might just help me think and write about my own work. Oh, and third, maybe you’ll find a book in my reading pile that interests you! Look for one of these to pop up every month.
My scale, so far as I figure it right now, goes like this
Devoured! – When I find a book so awesome I just can’t put it down.
Beachable – When I’ve got time to fill and just want to read something (like on a beach!).
Couldn’t Finish – Maybe this would work for you, but I couldn’t get into it at all.
I got a rather large bag of books when I went to the Nebulas this year, so that’s where I’m going to start. Top of the stack was the United States of Japan, by Peter Tieryas.
It’s a novel that explores the question of what would happen is Japan made all the right choices in WW2. Also, if they had giant mechas to help in the fight. It was an interesting concept, very Man in the High Castle, and kept me reading even when I wasn’t all that attached to the characters.
The story begins just as the Japanese enter California, signaling the end of the war. We meet a young couple (I could never get a real bead on their ages, they seem really young, but the chick’s pregnant, so can’t be terribly so) who are liberated from an internment camp for Japanese Americans.
We then flash forward to the late ’80s where we meet Beniko, the couple’s lazy tech genius of a son. He monitors video games for unpatriotic actions the players take. He is contacted by an old superior in the army, which puts him in agent Akiko Tsukino’s spotlight. She thinks he’s criminally useless, or maybe just criminal. Ben proves to be the only one who can help uncover clues at a murder scene, so Akiko’s forced to bring him along as she tries to root out the George Washingtons, the last American resistance group.
The investigation sets off a chain of events that propels the two through a weird, sometimes cold and oppressive, sometimes colorfully wild landscape.
It’s a fascinating cyberpunk world. I enjoyed all the little tech elements, and the dark atmosphere of the alternate SoCal. The concept driving the story was interesting to think about. And I’m a sucker for mecha fights. But, the plot itself just didn’t catch me. I kept wondering if one or another character was going to die, and if I would care if it happened. I read for the worldbuilding, not for the story itself, but the worldbuilding was enough for me.
My rating for United States of Japan: Beachable