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Trim: 5 1/4 x 8 ISBN: 978-1-4215-3441-1
The year is 2025 and Gotoba General Constructiona firm that has built structures to survive the Antarctic and the Saharahas received its most daunting challenge yet. Sennosuke Touenji, the chairman of one of the world's largest leisure conglomerates, wants a moon base fit for civilian use, and he wants his granddaughter Taé to be his eyes and ears on the harsh lunar surface. Taé and Gotoba engineer Aomine head to the moon where adventure, trouble, and perhaps romance await.
Issui Ogawa is known as one of Japan's premier SF writers. His 1996 debut, First a Letter from Popular Palace, won the Shueisha JUMP Novel Grand Prix. The Next Continent (2003, Haikasoru 2010) garnered the 35th Seiun Prize. A collection of his short stories won the 2005 Best SF Poll, and The Drifting Man, included in that collection, was awarded the 37th Seiun Prize for domestic short stories. Other works include Land of Resurrection, Free Lunch Era, and The Lord of the Sands of Time (Haikasoru 2009). Ogawa is a principal member of the Space Authors Club.
The evening meal was punctually observed. In fact, this was the only part of the schedule that was. Like clockwork, the five Chinese strictly adhered to the two-hour meal period, but there was no private time afterward. The five crew members never observed the scheduled start of the sleep period at 22:00. Instead of private time, they worked late into the night on facility repairs, harvesting the experiments in the White Tiger module and preparing for the next day’s tasks. Once, around 4:00 a.m., Sohya woke to use the toilet and heard the animated voices of Peng and Cui coming from the White Tiger module, audible over the round-the-clock basso profundo hum of fans that pervaded the base. It sounded more like an argument than a discussion.
And after every task was completed, there was communication with Beijing Flight Control. Cui had constantly checked his wearcom during that first day’s tour―not only to monitor the time, but to send text updates to Beijing. His refusal to do updates via voice link reflected his irritation with having to do it at all. This was not hard to understand. It was his duty to contact Control even when he visited the toilet.
Yet there were times when Cui set aside his usual dour mood. One evening after dinner, Ma suggested they watch a movie together, and Cui revealed another side to his personality.
The movie was not streamed from Earth. Ma had carried it with him on a memory card. It was not the kind of entertainment Beijing would have transmitted via one of their communications satellites; it was an erotic comedy from Hong Kong. Taé averted her face in confusion. Sohya was embarrassed for her, but Cui paid no attention. For a short time, he became a different person, exploding with laughter throughout the film. Still, the rest of the time he remained difficult to approach, while Commander Peng and Jiang were easy to deal with.
After several days, the reason for the irregular scheduling suddenly dawned on Sohya.
Hard SF, now WITH girl cooties!
Here at Haikasoru HQ it looks like Valentine’s Day will never end, as love is in the air and this week we’re featured on Romantic Times Book Reviews. Not only is there a little interview with yours truly, there are two great reviews:
got four stars Nojiri himself appears to be nearly as forceful a proponent of space flight as the SSA; he has tried to play fair with the limits imposed by real world science without ever losing sight of his comedic goals.
Then The Next Continent
got a stunning four-and-a-half stars: The Next Continent, translated by Jim Hubbert, is a welcome holiday from the relentlessly pessimistic and bitter tone of North America SF. What could be a tedious exercise in engineering porn is humanized focus by its principle characters: Junior Engineer Aomine, who finds himself drafted into a central role in this grand undertaking, and Tae, the determined young woman whose vision frames and defines the Sixth Continent Project.
These reviews are especially gratifying coming from a venue primarily interested in the romance genre. For a long time, a retrograde fear of what author Debra Doyle calls girl cooties has infected the world of science fiction, and hard SF—science fiction that uses and privileges real science—was the worst of all: “Hard sf” is their science fiction of choice, because it has the fewest girl cooties of any of the sf subgenres. No subjectivity, no mushy bits, none of that messy relationship stuff getting in the way of the classic sf values of hardness and rigor (and no, I don’t think the elevation of those particular values is coincidental.), Doyle writes.
Romance, of course, is wall-to-wall girl cooties. Perhaps not surprisingly, the feeling was often mutual—hard SF was seen as the precinct of uber-nerds and nobody interested in human relationships would want to ever want to read any. Sometimes this fear of girl cooties even enters into the world of real speculative science, as biologist Athena Andreadis points out with her essay (with a not-safe-for-work drawing) on 2009’s Singularity Summit. (The Singularity being a concept beloved of hard SF fans and, increasingly, policymakers and scientists.)
But in Japan, at least as far as SF literature is concerned, girl cooties and hard SF mix just fine. Why, one might say that the units of “girlishness” in books like The Next Continent and Rocket Girls aren’t an infection at all, but actually an organic part of the human condition. Science is for everyone, after all, as it increases our understanding of the universe in which we live, and as it can potentially be used to improve all our lives. Indeed, if we want science to improve our lives rather than destroy them, we’d all better have an interest in the field and its implications for policy, health, and the environment. That’s why hard SF needs to be written for a wide variety of readers, not just for the nerdcore hardcore of those men who are afraid of “girl cooties.” Publishing hard SF titles that can be reviewed and championed by Romantic Times is one reason why I love my job.
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!