Haikasoru: SF From Japan

Battle Royale

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Fans of science fiction here in North America are frequently presented with only originally English language fiction, particularly from America, Canada, and Britain.  However, there is far, far more out there than just that, obviously.  Some of it is starting to appear, such as Stanisaw Lem’s Solaris, or, on the fantasy side, Alexey Pehov’s Shadow Prowler or Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Last Wish.  However, even with all of that, much of the science fiction appearing stateside is from very Western, European cultures.  So what is going on with the rest of the world?

So great science fiction, that’s what’s going on!  Luckily, some of it is finally beginning to appear translated into English for readers not able to read it in its original language.  Much of this began with comics, especially the massive influx of manga, but now even prose fiction is on the rise.  One publisher in particular is focusing on this trend, as it regards Japan.  Haikasoru, owned by famous manga publisher Viz Media, is bringing out Japanese science fiction and fantasy in new English translations.

Some of their highlights include:

Koushun Takami’s cult favorite, Battle Royale: A modern Lord of the Flies set in a future Japan, Takami explores the violence and emotion of growing up as a teenager in modern society.  Many people compare this one to the excellent The Hunger Games, although this one is, in this writer’s opinion, better.

Two of Miyuki Miyabe’s classic novels for young adult readers, Brave Story and The Book of Heroes:  Originally published as “light novels,” novels sold alongside manga and featuring a large number of manga drawings as illustrations, these two books made their way stateside without the art, but still with great stories.  Both feature younger characters in search of an escape from the hardships of cruel lives, and the success of discovering yourself.

Sayuri Ueda’s The Cage of Zeus:  An intricate look at gender in a spacefaring future, one that likely would have won a James Tiptree, Jr. Award if it had originally appeared in English.  Ueda focuses on a group of people created artificially to tests the limits of people in space, and who, because of their altered gender identities, no longer are viewed as “normal,” and are ostracized because of it.

Chōhei Kambayashi’s Yukikaze and Good Luck, Yukikaze:  Kambayashi’s books are both brilliant military science fiction and extraordinary explorations of what it means to be human in a technological society.  Fighting the evil alien JAM, Yukikaze’s pilot Rei struggles with why human’s fight wars, while his superior’s begin to question whether they are simply tools of their computers.  Highly recommended.

ICO: Castle in the Mist, a novelization of the popular Playstation 2 video game, by the aforementioned Miyuki Miyabe:  An interesting look at tie-in fiction from other countries, and another chance to experience a great author’s work.

Issui Ogawa’s The Lord of the Sands of Time:  My first novel read from Haikasoru, I thoroughly enjoyed this take on alternate universes, time travel, and the cost of beings created and uncared for.  An exciting, fast paced, and engaging novel.  Those not convinced can find a longer review over at Luke Reviews (www.lukereviews.webs.com).

Do yourself a favor and check out some of the excellent offerings from Haikasoru, along with some other non-Western science fiction.  An alternative take on the science fiction you are used to, you will find a thrilling, fresh new experience.

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