The Future is Japanese: Science Fiction Futures and Brand New Fantasies from and about Japan
Through tranquil walks in nature, snippets of Japanese poetry, and the ancient game of Go, the father patiently teaches his son what it means to be Japanese, the importance of a person's place among a network of relationships, rather than as an individual, and the understanding and acceptance that our ephemeral human existence is profoundly interconnected and beautiful; meanwhile the destruction of the Earth is imminent.
Then, by a somewhat unexpected turn of events the young son is allowed to join the only spaceship, made by the USA, to make it off the planet, en route to a new star system with habitable planets, a centuries-long journey. As Hiroto grows up within an American dominated population of a thousand souls on the ship, he struggles to remember his Japanese roots, language, writing and, above all, its essence. But when the ship is faced with a potential disaster he draws on his father's dimly remembered lessons to make a decision that will affect humanity's last hope for survival.(less)
"Mono no aware" is a Hugo-award winning short story from the amazing Ken Liu. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature. This story is free online at Lightspeed Magazine:
~ Ken Liu's "Mono no Aware" sets a gentle, sorrowful, uplifting start. It also showcases an important cultural difference:
“All the stones look the same,” Bobby says, “and they don’t move. They’re boring.”...more
“What game do you like?” I ask.
(...) “Chess, I guess. I like the queen. She’s powerful and different from everyone else. She’s a hero.”
“Chess is a game of skirmishes,” I say. “The perspective of Go is bigger. It encompasses entire battles.”
The plot is about sacrifice and prioritize the welfare of many/society above the welfare of an individual. The beautiful part is the flashback (view spoiler)[to justify why the protagonist choose to self sacrifice (hide spoiler)], and some Japanese/Chinese philosophy for literary storytelling.
PS: I read this story on the same day as If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love and can't help comparing these two stories. At the first read, the ...more
Mono no Aware is a bizarre short story that can be summarized as a Japanese guy who thinks in Japanese and does Japanese things. Ken Liu is not Japanese; he is American Chinese. So unsurprisingly, there were many strange mistakes even the novice Japanese student will notice.
For example, the first kanji is something every child should know by heart. It's the kanji for umbrella. Umbrellas are quite important -- imagine a world ...more
Ken Liu has done it again. This story should win awards this year. Here, Liu explores the Japanese cultural concept of acceptance of the transience of all things, in the face of an Earth facing imminent destruction from a rogue asteroid - and characters who make the decisions they believe to be right. I'm not usually a big proponent of self-sacrifice, but the examples in this story make a good case. Emotionally wrenching, and ...more
What this book actually was: A book of mostly science fiction stories, about half written by Japanese authors (and may well have been translated for the first time), the other half written by Western authors (many of whom have a particular connection to Japan) in English but set in Japan or using Japanese characters.
The difference between what I ...more
The setting is set in space, where a civilization was on a annihilating collision course with an asteroid. Eight-year old Hiroto, through his family’s sacrifice, was able to escape in a starship for a habitable star, 300 light years away. Fast-forward to present ...more
I love Japan. Anime. Mecha. Heian-kyo. Kanji. Fantasy. This seemed like a great book to pick up.
Mono no Aware by Ken Liu
This is a story of young Hiroto in the midst of worldwide turmoil due to a meteor on a collision course with Earth. He, along with everyone else on the planet is trying to evacuate into space - and of adult Hiroto on board the spaceship Hopeful en route to 61 Virginis where...more
 Mono no Aware, Ken Liu: 5/5 stars
-This was a great story. I loved the premise and it was engaging and well written. It made me have the feels and not many short stories can make me do that, so well done Mr. Liu! I don't want to say much about it because it's better to just read ...more
Some of these are genuinely moving - "Mono no Aware" is wonderful and gives this shameless affection for one's own culture and "Whale Meat" is possibly autobiograhical and has a whimsical Haruki Murakami-esque sense of introspection. Issui Ogawa (author ...more
Mono no Aware - a story about a generation ship, identity, and the world just before the end. I think I heard this on Clarkesworld Magazine's podcast. It was still moving to read because I had forgotten the details.
The sound of breaking up - this story takes a sharp right ...more
“There are a thousand ways of phrasing everything,” Dad used to say, “each appropriate to an occasion.” He taught me that our language is full of nuances and supple grace, each sentence a poem. The language folds in on itself, the unspoken words as meaningful as the spoken, context within context, layer upon layer, like the steel in samurai swords....more
I wish Dad were around so that I could ask him: How do you say “I miss you” in a way that is appropriate to the occasion of your twenty-fifth
Go check it out. It will take you less than half an hour to read it and you will be enriched by it whether you like sci fi or not.
And I'll end the review here because it's a short so I don't want it to get too spoilery.
alas, most of the stories in here were not actually translated from the japanese. which is a bummer, you know? 'cause international sf is da bomb. but pretty much all have something to do with japan, anyway, which is the next best thing.
there are two standout tales in here, for me: The Indifference Engine, by ...more