Friday, April 15, 2016

James Review -- United States of Japan

This week I decided to review United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas.
The story is set in a timeline where Japan won World War II and conquered the US. It opens on July 1st 1948, the day the war ends, in an internment camp for Americans from Japan or with Japanese ancestry. As the war has gone badly, the treatment of the internees has grown worse, including torture and executions, and a Japanese liberation force arrives soon after the atomic strikes that end the war.
However, the former prisoners soon discover that their rescuers are just as brutal as their former captors. The story then follows a couple from the camp on their journey to their former home, only to discover it was destroyed in a nuclear blast.
The tale then jumps forward four decades to Beniko Ishimura, the son of said couple. Beniko is widely known for having betrayed the treason of his parents to the government, and is an officer assigned to censoring portical--their counterpart to computers--games. Dissidents have launched a new game based in a version of World War II that matches that our own history, apparently created by General Mutsuraga, a renowned game programmer whose simulation software is widely used in military planning.
Beniko and Tokko agent Akiko Tsukino set out to find the renegade general, whose daughter, a close friend of Beniko’s, had recently committed suicide. Eventually, their journey takes them into the depths of the new world’s society, including a variety of horrible biological experiments, before they are captured by the rebels. Akiko is tortured and maimed while Beniko tries to negotiate with the rebels.
There is then a flash back to the San Diego Uprising ten years prior to the main story. Major Wakana, later to become a general, is seeking to bring a peaceful end to the fighting, but then Lieutenant Colonel Mutsuraga put vengeance for his wife’s affair with one of the rebel leaders above all else and while Wakana, aided by Beniko, was able to stop one strike, he couldn’t halt a second or the bloodbath that followed.
In the present, despite the torture she suffered, Akiko is suspected of being a traitor and Beniko rescues her from government agents. Left with no other way to redeem themselves, the duo sets out for the ruins of San Diego to find Mutsuraga. But they face many dangers along the way, including a squadron of military mecha, and a game tournament where losers are executed. And even if they survive that, the true secret behind the illegal game awaits them…
I give the book  7.5 out of 10. It doe a great job of blending a manga-style setting with pieces of novels like 1984 and Brave New World. However while it does a good job explaining where its history diverged from ours, with Germany and Japan teaming up against the Soviet Union before moving on to the US, there are a number of technological changes from the 1940s, and some changes in Japanese society, like female soldiers in combat roles in the 40s, that are left utterly unexplained.

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