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Plum Rains

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  781 ratings  ·  163 reviews
2029: In Japan, a historically mono-cultural nation, childbirth rates are at a critical low and the elderly are living increasingly long lives. This population crisis has precipitated a mass immigration of foreign medical workers from all over Asia—as well as the development of refined artificial intelligence to step in where humans fall short.

In Tokyo, Angelica Navarro, a
Hardcover, 389 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Soho Press
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Kate A sequel please!
A sequel please!

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Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tokyo, Japan 2029. Childbirth rates are at an all-time low and the elderly are living increasingly longer lives. This combination of factors has precipitated the mass immigration of healthcare workers from other Asian countries, as well as the development of customized artificial intelligence androids to assist and take over when humans cannot.

In this near future world, the story builds into a detailed personal history of two women, Sayoko, a 110-year old woman, and her home nurse, Angelica, a F
Loring Wirbel
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
If Romano-Lax did nothing in this novel but create a new sub-genre of science fiction regarding international labor relations and sentient robots, that would be quite an accomplishment. But she attempts much more, in an understated work that explores relationships, dependencies and secrets, without trying to draw too much attention to itself.

The year is 2029, but most elements of this story already exist. Filipina women workers in Japan already are treated as chattel, and many in 2018 face uncer
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Memoirs of a Geisha meets 2001: A Space Odyssey. In near future Japan, an indebted Fillipina nurse finds her job in jeopardy when her 100-year-old patient develops a close relationship with a robot. What follows is a story of buried secrets, environmental destruction, and immigration.

Romano-Lax hooked me from the jump. I loved entering the world of near future Japan as it struggles with the twin crisis of an aging population and a plummeting birth rate. A lot of big questions hover on the perip
Peter Tillman
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Literary fiction and South Asian culture fans
This is the author's fourth novel but first SF. The SF part had jarring WSOD problems. Overall, the book worked pretty well. Weak 3 stars, for dumb WSOD stuff that the author or her editor really should have caught.

I think the first review you should read is from Kirkus:
And here’s the review that led me to read the book, by Jamesboggie: He liked it more than I did.

I’m having a hard time getting my thoughts in orde
Bryan Alexander
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
One way of looking at Plum Rains is as a near future novel. The plot concerns the introduction of an AI-driven robot into the relationship between an older Japanese woman and her Filipina caregiver. Andromeda Romano-Lax carefully establishes the bot's technology and its learning curve over time. The story also addresses unfolding demographics, given Japan's aging population and questions over immigration.

At the same time the novel could easily pass for a mainstream literary one, or as a historic
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I frequently skip between books when I read. I rarely read a novel straight through. Plum Rains is a rare exception. I loved it!

Plum Rains focuses on three characters: Sayoko is an elderly woman nearing her 100th birthday. Angelica is her Filipino nurse. Both lives have become robotic. Troubled by her past, Sayoko has switched off, her days spent in a stupor. Angelica, equally damaged by her past, has closed herself off, becoming blank, opaque; her care for Sayoko reduced to a script they repeat
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Plum Rains is a heavy book. It is more introspective than speculative science fiction. It does speculate about the future of aging and AI, but the story is more about how the science fiction elements reveal the nature of memory, aging, and relationships. These very human themes are explored deftly through the intertwined stories of the aging Sayoko, her Filipina nurse Angelica, and her new nursing robot Hiro. This is a book that demands reflection on some difficult topics, and I appreciated the ...more
In 2029 Japan, Angelica cares for 100-year-old Sayoku and is concerned that new robot Hiro will take over her job.

I liked this book. It's a quiet, slowly developing story about just how desperate people can get as well as how rough day-to-day life can be. The author did a good job of getting you to see through the eyes of both Angelica and Sayoku, who find that they share more in common than they realized. Hiro is more of a black box, but what is given about him is interesting. I do think automa
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio, overdrive
A really strange mishmash of artificial intelligence, the nature and future of humanity, a society with too many old people and too few babies, immigration and memories (including of lost families and forced prostitution). It was too odd a mix and too many issues for me and I didn't enjoy it. ...more
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars

Plum Rains is quiet genre-bending book. Historical fiction, sci-fi, and dystopian all at once, it takes place in the near future (merely a decade on from now) in Tokyo, in a world on the cusp of mainstreaming artificial intelligence into the workforce, and on the brink of disaster from toxic environmental conditions that take worker lives and sabotage white collar fertility. The story follows three characters. Angelica Navarro is a Filipina caregiver who has been working in Japan for fi
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Set in a not-too-distant future, Plum Rains shows readers Japan as a country of an aging population dependent on healthcare workers from other countries. There is also a nationwide problem with infertility due to contamination from chemicals and other hazards. The two ends of the spectrum have created a society that celebrates when another member reaches the century mark in birthdays, but also mourns every time a couple fails to conceive. And there is a resentment of those from less affluent cou ...more
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 23, 2019 rated it liked it
It's really a 3.75 but who's counting?
Why? It's derivative.

But, it's a uniquely female voice and perspective that explores territories worth visiting again.

It takes you right to the heart of how belongingness, relatedness, the shifting vagaries of power and the pinball-like trajectories of life create the human condition. How would the "perfectly learnable" brain interpret the ethics of fitting into contemporary society ? Would such a perfectly learnable brain come to love? to risk?

It's not t
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This started out a little slow/confusing, but I ended up really liking it, especially having a background in elderly home care. Super interesting and thought-provoking about a not so unbelievable potential future.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have a need to write a review of this book because, even now, almost three weeks after finishing, the story is still floating around in my head. Barring some unforeseen, amazing book, this may well turn out to be the best book of the year for me.

Let me talk about all the elements of this story that had great appeal to me....just the stuff that really gets me interested, excited and curious:

First, there is so much in our culture these days about how technology is going to destroy humanity, that
How far will we go to better our circumstances?
How far will we go to protect ourselves, or those we love? p210

That would include protecting a way of life to which we have grown accustomed.
ARL explores the ethics and the nuances of care and how this plays out in terms of privilege and indentured servitude in this startling and brisk dystopian fantasy set in Japan.

The time is the not so distant future and the complex challenges the world is now facing have not been solved. The fertility crises i
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This story, set in the near future, is also about the past, the history we share, and the history we bury.

When dropping birthrates intersect with increasing longevity, Japan faces the dilemma of caring for its aging population when the healthcare industry collapses. Their answer is to increase foreign workers while never allowing them become part of the homogenous Japanese society. And to search for a long-term solution that does not rely on humans.

This is the point where the centenarian Sayoko
Gabriela Francisco
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it
"Filipinas are immune from the most common international illness there is: spiritual despair caused by lack of purpose... Take it away, and things fall apart in the nation, in the family, in the head and in the heart."

Randomly saw it in the bookstore. When I read the blurb and saw that the protagonist was a Filipina OFW in Japan, and when I saw that it was by the author of THE SPANISH BOW, I bought it!

It's a unique hybrid of a novel. Part sci-fi, part romance, part history.

The best of sci-fi are
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

This world is highly technological and it drew me in. Plum Rains has questions of agency, technology, and robots. In the world of world building, I'd have to give it a full five. It's so rare, but I adored how the world was detailed and multi-dimensional.

World: 5, Writing: 4, Characters: 4, Plot: 4
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
4 stars!

If it weren't for spotting this book on the shelves while employees were restocking I doubt I would have ever known Plum Rains existed. I have heard no news concerning this book and when I read the back I was definitely intrigued. Plum Rains is a tapestry of a novel, blending genres and elements together to make a solid and emotional story. This book is half historical fiction and half science fiction, weaving contemporary issues into the mix. So despite all the technological advancemen
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is an odd book that's difficult to review. It's traditional science fiction written in the style of literary fiction. And because the literary voice is so strong in this one, I was bored more often than not. Literary fiction is not my favorite and this book is a perfect example of why lol. We have a good story, but it's inactive and completely bogged down by all this flowery language you have to sort through to comprehend.

It took way too long for this book to get off the ground. Every time
For a while I thought I would, or at least could, enjoy this book. I appreciated the characterization, but that's not enough.

And ultimately, this fell apart for a few reason. 1. The pacing. It was a mess. We start out slow, sedate, and waiting on anything to happen. (This is seen as a hallmark of literary fiction, but only the bad stuff actually fits that). So it goes for 70%, with minor events cropping up here and there. Until finally Angelica has to run away from her life and from the cops. An
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
Started off strong, but the more I read the more I felt lost in details and exposition and characters dwelling and I found the robot creepy for some reason.
In a few words: Like Speilberg's AI, if it were any good, and Pachinko, and the treatment of a sort of reckoning between a modern, or in this case future, Japan with its wartime and colonial past and the living that are left with those legacies of trauma, as well as how histories are still unfolding and repeating for others
Why: A large part due to the cover design, to be honest.
For: Going to use this to check off the Goodreads Summer Reading Challenge -- (#38) The Future is Bright: Read a book t
Oct 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not sorry I read it, but seriously- what was it about? Robots? Japanese comfort women in WWII? Elder abuse? Immigration abuse? Foreign worker abuse?

Told, yet again, by a female main character with no spine, no common sense, a glacially slow mind and so many personal issues it's hard to believe she can function at all even in her pitifully bad manner.

The same story could have been told with a competent, capable main character - even one with blind spots or personality flaws- and not taken the f
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, book-club
This book is slow, character focused, and not much happens...and I really enjoyed it! If you're looking for action or detailed world-building this isn't the book for you. What you get instead is a deep dive into the lives of two women, and a well-crafted exploration of what it means to be human, to have agency, and ultimately to belong. The writing was lush but not so much it bogged things down. The characters were well drawn. It was emotionally cathartic. And I liked the robot. It was a nice mi ...more
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian-lit
You know that weird label people use nowadays, like "literature of diversity," or books with/by people of color? I've always felt that as yet another label of "othering," meant as a tokenism that the Western world is now doing its part by paying attention to writers of color (there we go again), or celebrating Asia Pacific month, or just basically reading obscure writers who are now basking in the glory of their otherness, for better or worse.

But this book: this is how you do that. This packed s
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best things about the Science Fiction genre is the wide range of situations imagined, the different characters created, the creativity of the plot lines, and the philosophical/cultural/sociological issues addressed. Plum Rains hits so many of the right chords, one of which is that it is so different from every other Science Fiction Book I’ve ever read.

This is my first experience of Andromeda Romano-Lax’s writing, which is excellent. Her characters are engaging and extremely deep, her
Apr 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
After a month of slow reading, I finally finished this a couple of days ago. WHAT a blooming book it is! The premise: in 2029, a Filipina care worker named Angelica is employed in Japan, which is facing an aging population crisis and outsourcing much of its medical labour. Her client, Sayoko Itou, is about to turn 100 years old. One day, a gift from Sayoko's son arrives - a robot designed to learn from Sayoko and develop according to her needs. Angelica is terrified, struggling with debt and wor ...more
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Andromeda Romano-Lax worked as a freelance journalist and travel writer before turning to fiction. Her first novel, The Spanish Bow, was translated into eleven languages and was chosen as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, BookSense pick, and one of Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year. Among her nonfiction works are a dozen travel and natural history guidebooks to the public lands of Alaska, f ...more

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“Hiro said after a moment. “It hurts.”
“No, it’s fine. It will heal quickly.”
“Not your hand. The music.”
Angelica hesitated. Had she understood him? She said, “It does hurt. And it doesn’t. Maybe like all beautiful things.”
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