United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas and The Destructives by Matthew De Abaitua. Book Reviews
United States of Japan and The Destructives are books about dystopias. Although very different in style they both elicit the type of uncomfortable visceral feeling in a reader that any quality dystopic novel should.
United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas
Japan wins the Second World War and decades later the Americans follow where the Emperor leads. That is except the George Washingtons, a resistance group who are fighting for their freedom. Amidst all the violence that ensues on both sides, the George Washingtons have created a computer game that presents a scenario where the United States won the war and they are now hacking into the approved games to plant this subversive version of the current outcome. Ben Ishimura, along with Major Akiko Tsukino, is tasked with hunting down the source of this worrying development in the George Washington’s ongoing terrorism.
Ben and Akiko are two opposites. Ben just wants to get by and keep his head down. He is far from an exceptional officer, doing just enough to keep himself into a relatively comfortable position censoring video games. As Major in the Tokubetsu Koto Keisatsu, or Tokko, the secret police, Akiko Tsukino could not be more different. She is fanatic when it comes to revering the Emperor and a ruthless interrogator. But neither is as straightforward as they at first seem, and must learn to get on with each other if they are complete their mission.
The writing is literally startling. Ben and Akiko are on a mission that brings the readers face to face with some of the unspeakable horrors tolerated and employed by the authorities to keep control of their conquered land. At times it makes this fast-paced thriller, a rather grueling read. But there is a big difference between writing unimaginable horrors and cruelty for sensationalism and to immerse the reader in what the characters must live with on a daily basis and give a feel for what Ben and Akiko are going through on their dangerous mission. This is something Peter Tieryas is extremely skilled at doing and in a way that does not numb with reader with exposure. The whole set up of the world ensures that violence can only met with violence and humans become devalued. This is something seen by the way the population is locked in a hedonistic obsession with gaming and the way they are prepared to indenture their bodies and souls because of debts incurred. Everything about this world screams consumerism taken to a whole new and unpleasant level.
This is a relentless book because it never really allows the reader to relax. If it does, the relief is only temporary and there is a sense of something about to kick off at any moment. When he uses gadgets, Tieryas, deploys them well. The concepts of massive mechanoids used for combat could be so very Transformers, but comes over more like the Power Loader used by Ridley to fight the Alien, with the same gut wrenching effects.
This is not the sort of book I would actively set out to pick off a bookshelf, because I am squeamish and prefer my violence a little more off screen, but I’m glad I read it because it made me think. It also means that if I see anything with Tieryas’ name on it in the future I will read it because of the quality of his writing.
The Destructives by Matthew De Abaitua
Having squandered his privileged upbringing by indulging in the addictive and extreme drug weirdcore, Theodore Drown is now languishing as a lecturer at the University of the Moon. With him is his constant companion and artificial lifeform, Dr Easy, who has always been there. Theodore’s life from beginning to end is Dr Easy’s research.
Dr Easy is an emergence and represents the other emergences who have chosen to live beyond the orbit of Mercury in a Stapledon Sphere (otherwise known as a Dyson Sphere, which is a massive structure around a star which absorbs most of its power output). Dr Easy’s ‘home’ is called the University of the Sun.
When Theodore is approached by Patricia Maconochie to investigate some recently discovered pre-emergence data in a secret archive hidden from the University of the Sun, Theodore’s live takes an unexpected and radical turn.
What Theodore discovers takes him back to Earth and, eventually to a secret off-world colony where corporate wrangling and interference lead to some underhand and unpleasant outcomes. The question is can Theodore, damaged as he is, set humanity back on the right path?
The Destructives is the last of a loose trilogy, which began with The Red Men and continued with If Then, but the books can all be read as standalones.
Matthew De Abaitua Has the knack of delivering the most complex of concepts and diabolical leaps of imagination in a way that first entices then completely draws the reader in. Certainly this book asks a great deal at the beginning because there is an enormous amount of information to take onboard, given the complexity of Theodore’s world. Theodore is an interesting character, but so is Dr Easy, because you’re never allowed in his head and must try to divine what he is thinking by his actions (something Theodore is trying to do all the time).
There is unpleasantness, at first rumbling away as an uncomfortable undercurrent, until it finally erupts, as Theodore confronts the main corporate players. This is a thrilling book to read, but at the same time has a strange sense for the reader of entering into a kind of mediation state as the author allows you to take a look around and see what’s going on with the scenery Theodore finds himself in. Theodore’s world in many ways mirrors our own and what is happening with major corporations, political control and the erosion of the quality of life that might be occurring in subtle ways to the individual, so they might not notice problems until it’s too late.
Given the twists and turns of the narrative, the conclusion of the story is not something that can easily be worked out by the reader. It is one of those books where knowing the conclusion makes a re-read even more rewarding the second time around.
United States of Japan and The Destructives were courtesy of Angry Robot via NetGalley