Saturday, June 10, 2017

United States of Japan

Published in 2016, United States of Japanby Peter Tieryas is an alternate history novel in which Japan has won World War II.  Last summer, I brought this book to Japan when we visited my daughter, Jasmine, who works as an English teacher there.  I only managed to read part of the book then, though, because we traveled around Japan quite a bit, and the book was in my checked bag during flights (so I read short stories instead on my phone).  There is so much to see and do in Japan!  We had a wonderful trip, and I posted many photos on Instagram. We spent a few days in Hiroshima, and I took this photo of the Atomic Dome Memorial, which is part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.



Not surprisingly, United States of Japan is a best-seller in Japan, although Japan is a peace-loving nation (at the Peace Park Memorial in Hiroshima, you are immediately asked to sign a petition to ban nuclear weapons upon entrance).  There are numerous glowing reviews of this book.  I finished reading the book a few months ago, and although I'm not sure what I can add to this collection, I'm quite overdue to post something; the author has been remarkably patient with me!

Here is a very brief synopsis of the book, followed by my thoughts.

United States of Japan (USJ) is a successor to Phillip K. Dick's classic novel, The Man in the High Castle (1962).  USJ begins in 1948, and takes place in (various parts of) California, which is controlled by Japan. After a few chapters we jump ahead forty years, to 1988. Americans seem to worship their Emperor, although a group of rebels called the George Washingtons are fighting for their freedom. They distribute an illegal video game that asks players to imagine what the world would be like if the USA had won the war, instead of Japan.  Captain Beniko Ishimura's formidable task is to censor these video games, and to solve the mysteries of the revolutionaries, with the help of Akiko Tsukino.

This book kicked me out of my comfort zone.  Way, way, way out!  Although I've read many fictional war stories, from the very first chapter, this book is notably brutal and violent at times.  Peter (yes, we're on an informal, first name basis; I've read and reviewed a lot of his work over the past few years) did warn me about the level of violence in this book a while ago.  Still, it was definitely disturbing.  Secondly, I've read some science fiction (such as by Ray Bradbury), but I've not read The Man in the High Castle by Philip B. Dick. I've now at least read about it, and have learned that there's a 2015 TV series based on it.  USJ focuses on video games, and I must admit that I'm not a gamer; in fact, I've never played a video game (I do love to play Words with Friends on my phone).  In spite of all of this, USJ is fantastic, imaginative, and brilliant.  This exciting, fast-paced book held my attention at all times, and I think it would make an incredible movie.  It's a hard book to classify.  It's definitely multi-genre.  It could be described in many ways, as listed below.


ALT-HISTORY

Mystery
 
PSYCHO THRILLER
(Qu'est-ce que c'est?)

 Science Fiction

TECHNO THRILLER
 
War Fiction

and more 


While I was thinking about my review post for USJ, I emailed a question to Peter. 

If you could add, or subtract, one thing from USJ, what would it be and why?

PT:  If I were to add one thing, it would be that since I've written the next book in the USJ universe (it's a standalone novel and not a direct sequel), I know so much more about the world and I'd like to plug some of that information back in, especially related to the mechas and their history.

If I were to subtract? I would probably modify the dream sequences the characters have to make it a little more clear that this is the replacement for the I Ching from The Man in the High Castle and is meant to be symbolic of the subconsciousness connection to our own world.


Thank you, Peter, for your thoughtful responses, for the photo above of you and your wife, Angela, at an E3 with a Persona character, and for your tremendous patience.  I'm thrilled that you have written a new book, and look forward to reading it!

Your comments are welcomed, as always.  Thanks for reading! 

14 comments:

  1. I'm not sure this is for me but I bet my son would love it.

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  2. I also have been following Peter's work for years. I love this and Bald New World. Glad to hear of your trip to Japan

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  3. The tile of the book caught my attention. I think I would like this one except I don't like graphic violence. I've never been to Japan and hope to go someday.

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  4. An interesting concept. It would definitely kick me out of my comfort zone too. You did a great job reviewing it.

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  5. I'm not big on graphic violence, but it does sound interesting!

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  6. Fascinating commentary on this book Suko.

    I love Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. Thus this sounds very interesting. I have not seen the television series.

    I consider that book more of a post modernist look into the nature of reality as opposed to a political thriller. If you go on to read it I would be curios as to what you thought about it.

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  7. This would definitely be out of my reading comfort zone but kudos to you for going there!

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  8. This sounds like a complex and imaginative novel and an original idea. I don't play video games either. I imagine a gamer would be in tuned with this novel. Thanks for sharing your terrific review.

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  9. A book that took me by surprise as it isn't the usual kind of read that we see on your blog so it came as no big surprise to read that it 'kicked you out of your comfort zone'.

    Not a book I could ever see myself reading but then never say never. As Mary says kudos to you for going there.

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  10. Thank you for this post, I think that many people today know very little about WW2 history. I would like to learn more about this story, and hopefully learn some new lessons from the experiences of WW2.

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  11. What a fascinating premise for a book! Thanks for telling us about it. And, I love thinking about you actually in Japan. How wonderful that must have been!

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    Replies
    1. Bellezza, thanks for stopping by. Our trip to Japan was incredible in so many ways.

      I posted this review before you posted the new Japanese Literature Challenge; otherwise, I'd have added this one to the Linky. ;)

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  12. United States of Japan sounds interesting and Japan must be incredible to visit! How wonderful that your daughter teaches there!
    Great post as always.

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  13. Very interesting. I've wanted to read The Man in the High Castle and I'll have to add United States of Japan to my must read list as well! Thanks for the great review - I love books that cross genre lines.

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