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Praise For Slum Online [Archive]

Happy anniversary (again)!

Wait, wait, wasn’t my last post about a happy anniversary? Well, yes. Sorry for the lack of posts—we were moving office, but now I am back and able to blog. And the anniversary is…my own! Two years ago I started at VIZ to help launch Haikasoru. Of course, Haikasoru’s only been around for a year, but it’s not like I can publish books the way a chicken lays eggs. It took eleven months to get those first titles out, and even now we’re making decisions about what to publish in the summer of 2011 and even the early days of 2012.

I also spotted a good anniversary treat—an excellent review of Slum Online over at Strange Horizons, a magazine about to celebrate its own tenth anniversary. Who would have thought that an online science fiction magazine specializing in short stories and quality reviews could have lasted a decade, and as a non-profit organization? The review reads, in part:

It raises narratological issues about the representation of consciousness in game worlds. The problem is not too different from narrating the inner life of a mind, because our inner virtual realities are just as sensory-driven as Versus Town is action-driven. …

Perhaps a truly advanced tech will make the world simpler to negotiate, not more complicated. But what Slum Online sets out to show, I think, is that whether human worlds are simple or complicated, what makes them work are the usual invariants: friendships, compassion, and perseverance in the face of odds. The sound FX of applause.

See? It ain’t just kid’s stuff.

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A whole bunch of reviews!

Let’s see, over at the popular science fiction blog Bibliophile Stalker, it must be Haikasoru Week, because there are three reviews up since Sunday.

On Loups-Garous: Kyogoku makes the reader question the dystopic elements of the setting; the characters feel mortal and just when you’ve left your guard down, a twist in the plot keeps you unsettled.

On Slum Online: …excels in conveying the virtue of humble accomplishment, of proving to yourself that you’re the best, even if the public isn’t necessarily aware of it.

On The Next Continent: It harkens to conventions of a certain genre of science fiction [hard SF] and yet is nonetheless infused with Japanese optimism and culture. (I think this is the first review of The Next Continent I’ve seen, so I’m especially happy.)

Meanwhile, over at Otaku USA, we have reviews of different titles.

On The Stories of Ibis: I firmly believe in the importance of fiction and mythopoeia in helping people understand themselves, others, and the world around them, and in providing a safer environment to come to grips with complex, troubling issues…

On Usurper of the Sun: This frequently fascinating debate on alternative forms of consciousness permeates the novel, twining with the time limit until the Builders arrive in the solar system to provide the main narrative thrust.

Well, what are you waiting for? Consume!

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Slum Online review in Locus

A new month brings a new issue of Locus Magazine, and the July issue features a review of Slum Online. Locus is a paper magazine, so the review isn’t online, but here are snippets from it:

The novel (translated from its original 2005 Japanese publication) certainly depicts a way of life that is both science-fictional and increasingly common, with a main character who spends more time in his virtual life than his real life, and who has sufficient emotional investment in both worlds to blur the line between them.

Etsuro walks the streets of Shinjuku with Fumiko looking for the blue cat, and Tetsuo stalks the slums of Versus Town in search of Ganker Jack, but in both cases, he’s really searching for a sense of direction, purpose, and self-worth. While not published as a young adult book, Slum Online would certainly appeal to readers similarly wrestling with identity on the cusp of adulthood.

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And the hits just keep on comin’!

Thrilled to see an in-depth review essay of Slum Online by Paolo Chikiamco over at the Philippine Online Chronicles. (That’s right, we’re international!) Paolo sums it up here:

Slum Online is about the different worlds people inhabit, and how, despite that, we can still connect to something other than ourselves.

The reviewer goes on to say that Slum Online may not actually appeal to people looking for an action-packed fight novel or for people into following characters as they solve mysteries. And he’s right. When I was “selling” this novel last year—as an editor, I write catalog copy and make up clever little “selling points” for books that are taken by the sales department who then go to our distributor who then use the same lines on bookstore buyers who, I always hope, then lay the same rap on you on individual level—I decided that Slum Online was “Catcher in the Rye with virtual karate fights.”

In a way Slum Online isn’t science fiction as it is not primarily speculative—it’s not about future technology and its impact on life. Instead it’s a technologically aware novel about the way we live now, to use the old term. So the book, despite Sakurazaka’s success in the American movie biz, was a risk. Editing can be tedious; taking the occasional risk is what keeps our blood flowing here in Haikasoruland, and of course sometimes risks pay off. I’m glad that halfway around the world someone really “got” the book, and even better, that he happens to be a book reviewer! Thanks Paolo!

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