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Intern Michelle Reviews…the StoryBundle

 

If you follow us on social media, you know that we are currently running a Story Bundle for some of our most popular and acclaimed ebooks—you can buy five or all ten ebooks for your own price. Thanks to Intern Michelle, we were able to get the package together right away, and she wanted to share her thoughts on the books with you! Buy the bundle, and tell us what you think!

 

The Final Bundle Countdown

By: Michelle Yee

 

With eight days left of Haikasoru’s first storybundle, there’s still time to get many of Haikasoru’s favorites, including Project Itoh’s Genocidal Organ and Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Slum Online. Of course, the bonus books are equally impressive, especially Legend of the Galactic Heroes Vol. 1: Dawn.

 

With that in mind, let’s begin our short journey through the amazing books that make up Haikasoru’s first sci-fi bundle!

 

The Battle Royale Slam Book

 

I recently finished Battle Royale before reading this slam book so I do understand how all the essays relate to the story. Other than that, I don’t think it’s necessary to read Battle Royale before reading this book. While many of the writers constantly reference back to it, what really makes these stories interesting is how they all manage to bring in their own personal experiences. From John Skipp’s childhood recollection of dying kids to Jason Ridler’s discussion of professional wrestling, these contributors that come from all parts of the world are able to share how this crazy riveting story about children killing each other, has managed to change their lives.

 

The Future is Japanese

 

Since the title of the anthology of stories is called The Future is Japanese, you would expect these stories to have that futuristic techno tone, but to my pleasant surprise, I found myself imagining that these events could happen tomorrow or even by the end of today. Hugo Award-winning short story “Mono No Aware” by Ken Liu is a delight not just because there’s pictures of kanji scattered throughout the story, but also because of how heart-wrenchingly real it is.

 

Genocidal Organ

 

Dark, graphic and bloody from the first sentence, Project Itoh’s first novel takes you in for a ride through the dark references to Alice in Wonderland to the world of the afterlife. The story is as grim as the war on terror that creeps through the lives of the main character, but it still manages to pull you in due to the ingenious use of a multitude of genres from espionage to mystery to horror.

 

The Lord of the Sands of Time

 

What starts off as a historical novel about a young queen and her faithful servant quickly spirals into the story of the mysterious Messenger O who travels across time on a mission to unite different eras to defeat the future rampant alien invasion. Similar to his time jumps, the chapters themselves jump from different periods of his life, inviting the reader to piece together the enigmatic Messenger O and the people he meets along the way.

 

Slum Online

 

A novel for the modern age, Hiroshi Sakurazaka, author of hit novel All You Need Is Kill, creates the picture of young adolescence in Etsuro Sakagami, an awkward college freshman in real life and a formidable fighter in the combat MMO Versus Town. With the rise of social media platforms, online gaming and popular apps like Pokemon Go, it’s easy to get lost in the world of virtual reality. At any stage in life, we’re always searching for a sense of direction and reason for living and so we follow Etsuro on his journey to find his own life all the while finding ours.

 

 

Paying a little bit more for the bonus books is completely worth it, especially since you get another series of books that are equally amazing as the original bundle. Trust me when I say that it wasn’t a drag at all to get the bonus books; they were well worth the trouble.

 

Harmony

 

When I first looked at the Table of Contents, I thought I accidentally pulled up a chatroom before I realized that I was reading Harmony. Set years after the original events in Genocidal Organ, Project Itoh immediately draws you into the story of the perfect utopian future of Japan and the three girls that try to commit suicide to defy it. Scratch that—make that one girl that dies and the two girls that try to understand their lives afterwards. A thought-provoking commentary on society, this Philip K. Dick Award Special Citation winner makes us look at utopias in its entirety, all the while raising questions that make us question ourselves.

Gene Mapper

 

How far would you go to save your rice crop? Gene mapper Hayashida would go across Asia with a hired gun-hacker to do so. Taiyo Fujii’s world may be a future where reality is arranged through biology itself, but the idea of genetically modified food isn’t new. In fact, what makes this book so involving is the fact that reality can go in this direction. Gene Mapper pushes us to think about humanity’s consistent use of technology and what that does to society.

 

Hanzai Japan

 

Haikasoru’s most recent anthology, this collection brings together crime and mystery stories with the usual flair of science fiction and fantasy. Exploring different aspects of the fantastical, technology and psychology of both the detective and the criminal, Hanzai Japan makes for an entertaining series of short stories that can bring even the most uncaring reader to life. My personal favorite would have to be Carrie Vaughn’s “The Girl Who Loved Shonen Knife,” a story about a girl who will do anything to win her high school band contest and manages to solve a mystery along the way.

 

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Vol 1: Dawn

 

In humanity’s distant future, the monarchic Galactic Empire and democratic Free Planets Alliance fight in a continuous war, led by their respective military heroes: ambitious Reinhard von Lohengramm and strategic Yang Wen-li. Fans had petitioned the Legend of the Galactic Heroes series to be translated for a long time and I can see why. Engaging and action-packed with hints of Western space dramas, I find myself not being able to choose a side. Maybe in the next few novels, I’ll finally be able to make my decision. If you liked this book, Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Vol 2: Ambition just came out in bookstores, so check that out!

 

Phantasm Japan

 

As editor Nick Mamatas says in the introduction, “Phantasm Japan seeks to use the fantastic not to mystify, but to demystify,” and this anthology does just that. By incorporating the fantastical with science fiction, it blends together with the stories of ancient Japan and the mystical yokai that come along with it. However, my personal favorite story has to be Tim Pratt’s “Those Who Hunt Monsters.” Lighthearted and powerful, it is a modern exploration of racism and the face it hides behind, magical beings included.

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Cthulhu Is Japanese

This past weekend, I was the editorial guest of honor at Capclave 12, a literary science fiction convention held in the Washington D.C. area. Capclave is an old-school con—no masquerade and little hallway cosplay, no film or anime tracks, but tons of talk about books books books stories and authors and editors. So I fit right in!

Capclave is relatively small—a few hundred attendees—but is very professional, and the con attracts significant guests. Next year’s guest of honor, for example, is George R. R. Martin, who needs no introduction. There were also important guests this year: Michael Dirda of the Washington Post—the rare “mainstream” book reviewer who loves SF and writes about it frequently—appeared for example. The dealers room was quite nice—independent presses and bookstores were represented, as were gaming stores, and jewelry and apparel operations. And every attendee got a goodie bag with a free book and magazine of some sort, plus coupons to local shops. (Most smaller cons don’t do a goodie bag, so it was a pleasant surprise.)

Capclave is also a good convention to attend for anyone who aspires to be a writer, as editors and major writers appear, and there are panels oriented around writing and publishing, workshops, and plenty of time to make friends, or even, *gulp* to network. One advantage I had as guest of honor is that nobody tried to pitch me their manuscript. The only way I’m buying anyone’s novel is if they move to Japan, learn Japanese, publish in that country, and get famous over there, after all. I pity other editors who might make an appearance though!

Capclave also features parties every night, and the con is convenient to Washington D.C. tourist attractions and a decent little strip mall with a number of fast casual restaurants if one tires of hotel fare. It’s definitely worth attending, and perhaps even flying out for.

I had a great time hanging around with the author guest of honor John Scalzi (an early supporter of All You Need Is Kill and horror author Brian Keene (a lover of Otsuichi’s ZOO), and other writers as well. I gave a writing workshop on idea generation to a fully packed house, gave a solo panel about Haikasoru, where I gave away copies of Belka, Why Don’t You Bark? My sister even attended the convention, because, as she said, she “wanted to see people being nice to you.” She also brought cookies.

And treated nicely I was! In fact, here’s the ultimate symbol of honor, a handmade glass ornament made especially for me. Check it out:

Japanese-themed Cthulhu

Japanese-themed Cthulhu

As you can see, it’s Cthulhu from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft (I’m a Lovecraftian!) seeking enlightenment under the cherry blossoms, with a bottle of sake. Or perhaps it’s spinal fluid. John Scalzi received a similar gift based around some of the themes of his novels.

So definitely check out some old-school SF conventions if you have any in your area! They can definitely be as fun as an anime or manga convention, even if you’re not the guest of honor. (Though I also recommend working your way up to guest of honordom if you can.)

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Third Anniversary Giveaway Contest

Three years ago this week, Haikasoru launched with the publication of All You Need Is Kill and The Lord of the Sands of Time. Since then we’ve brought you the best in Japanese science fiction, fantasy, and horror, have experimented with hardcover releases and magical realism, brought you videogame tie-in novels for Ico and Metal Gear Solid and have even won a few awards. Heck, Good Luck, Yukikaze just received second place at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards over the weekend! And with our anthology The Future Is Japanese, we’ve started introducing original content!

To celebrate, we’re doing one of our famed giveaway essay contests! Just write a comment, in the comments section of this post, on the Haikasoru title you’ve enjoyed the most and why you liked it, and you may be among five lucky and talented winners will be able to select any Haikasoru title they want as their prize. (Make the little essay a good one; that’s how we judge the winners! This is not a random chance drawing!) We ship anywhere, and we read English, Japanese, Spanish, German, French, Greek, and Chinese. (And if you have all the Haikasoru titles already, I’ll flip you a copy of Genocidal Organ, which nobody has yet. We pick the winners on noon Friday, so get to typin’!

The Holiday Buyers’ Guide, 2011

We did a holiday shopping guide last year for our books, and now we’re doing another one. Sure, it’s a little late in the season, but let’s face it—many of you will be getting ebook readers and then actually buying books for yourselves the same day anyway. So here is our year in review.

Mardock Scramble
It’s an epic of post-cyberpunk. It’s also very strange. Yes, as is perhaps an inevitability in these post-Pokemon times, the main character has a little yellow mouse as a best friend and as a pocket-sized assistant badass. And yes, there is a three hundred page interlude of casino gambling. If you’re ready for weird SF, this is the one for you.

Rocket Girls: The Last Planet

A sequel to Rocket Girls but it can be read on its own. Lots of so-called “hard SF” isn’t very hard at all—it’s really just bellicose about tough decisions and that sort of thing. Thus, humorless, and with dubious science. The Rocket Girls series is different: it’s real hard science fiction with all the physics and rocket science intact, and is delightful and light and charming at the same time. If you have a kid, or are a kid, and want to encourage an interest in science, buy ’em both.

Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince

Epic fantasy, Japanese style. Not a sequel to Dragon Sword and Wind Child but set in the same ancient Japan, this is a story of conquest, betrayal and true love. It’s also heavily influenced by anime and traditional Japanese legends and folklore. I did a little interview with the fantasy magazine Black Gate in May, and that will get you up to speed.

Good Luck, Yukikaze

Yes, there were a lot of sequels and continuations in the summer of ’11. While Yukikaze was more a novel-in-stories, this sequel is a large philosophical novel. The real battle is in inner space, in the recesses of Rei’s mind. The alien JAM are as enigmatic as ever, though we do learn more about them, and who they are really at war with. A must for lovers of the anime, or the first book.

ICO: Castle in the Mist

This was a big hit for us! A novelization of the cult classic videogame, ICO was also a labor of love for its author, Miyuki Miyabe. She loved the game (and games in general) and really brought all the skills she does to any of her hit novels to this book. It’s not quite “canon”, but its interpretation of Ico’s quest and Yorda’s past is wonderful. You don’t need to be a fan of the game to read the book, but if you do love the game, you need this.

The Cage of Zeus

Hard SF with a gender theme. Nothing seems so natural as a world of men and women, but gender—how we act as men and women—isn’t nearly so permanent or obvious as we may think. This book explores those issues in a deep-space setting, and provides plenty of actions as a terrorist group targets the genetically engineered Rounds (for “round-trip gender”), who have the sex organs of both genders.

The Book of Heroes

Now in paperback! And in ebook form as well! Miyuki Miyabe’s story of school bullying, a bratty Chosen One, and the evil King in Yellow from the classic nineteenth century horror tales of Robert W. Chambers has never been less expensive, and makes a great present. (Or self-present.)

Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights

Japanese fans voted this the greatest Japanese SF novel of all time, for its epic sensibility and eon-spanning story. Here in the US National Public Radio loved it too. Indeed, we had to rush back to print already. And it makes a good Christmas present especially as cyber-Jesus and robo-Buddha have a high-tech laser battle twenty million years in the future! So, a holiday theme!

Keep an eye out online and in your local bookstore for our titles. They make great presents, and if you happen to get a gift certificate to a store or amazon or whatnot yourself, add our books to your list!

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