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Trim: 5 1/4 x 8 ISBN: 978-1-4215-3439-8
Etsuro Sakagami is a college freshman who feels uncomfortable in reality, but when he logs onto the combat MMO Versus Town, he becomes "Tetsuo," a karate champ on his way to becoming the most powerful martial artist around. While his relationship with new classmate Fumiko goes nowhere, Etsuro spends his days and nights online in search of the invincible fighter Ganker Jack. Drifting between the virtual and the real, will Etsuro ever be ready to face his most formidable opponent?
Hiroshi Sakurazaka was born in 1970 in Tokyo. After a career in information technology, he published his first novel Modern Magic Made Simple (Yoku wakaru gendai mahou) in 2003 from Super Dash Bunko, a popular light novel imprint for young adult audiences. The first novel was quite successful is now an ongoing series of seven volumes. It has also been adapted as a manga, in 2008, and as a televised anime series in 2009. He published All You Need Is Kill with the same imprint in 2004, earning a Seiun Award nomination for best science fiction novel. His 2004 short story "Saitama Chainsaw Massacre" won the 16th SF Magazine Reader's Award. His other novels include Characters (co-written with Hiroki Azuma) and Slum Online, released in English in 2010 by Haikasoru.
In 2010, Sakurazaka started an experimental digital magazine AiR with Junji Hotta. He continues to be one of Japan's most exciting writers of both light novels and adult science fiction.
Tetsuo dropped into a fighting stance.
> Who the hell do you think you are?
> I don’t give a rat’s ass about the name of some scrub who does a speed dash inside a bar. Running indoors is for dogs and children too young to know better.
> You looking for a fight?
> I’d say I’m finding one.
> Leave the new guy alone, Ricky.
That was Masumi, butting in.
> That tournament’s bringing these guys out of the woodwork. I bet this one thinks he’s got the brass to take on the top four.
> I’m just here looking for Jack.
> To fight him, I know. You really want a fight, go to an arcade. You can find Pak out in Shinjuku.
> At an arcade?
> Don’t make me type it twice. A-R-C-A-D-E
> That’s a little behind the times, isn’t it?
> You just don’t get it, do you? Times may change, but holy ground is holy ground.
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.
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 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!
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.
Check it out!
And the hits just keep on comin’!
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!
Who loves ya baby? The DENVER POST, that’s who!
Ibis got the nod as an “excellent novel” “infused with the history of American science fiction.” Heck, that’s what I’ve been saying for months now! Columnist Fred Cleaver also dug Slum Online and especially enjoyed the novelette “Bonus Round”, which Sakurazaka wrote especially for you, to give Haikasoru readers a little something extra. (”Bonus Round” appeared in a Japanese-language anthology at almost the same time as our novel hit the shelves.)
Two out of three books reviewed in a leading newspaper’s book page are ours. The future is Japanese after all.