by Dempow Torishima

Haika Soru

There’s this thought that Japan is the source of all things weird these days, and this collection of science fiction certainly reinforces that stereotype. This material originally appears in Japanese and now we can appreciate it in English. The eight or nine stories (some are half page fragments) exist in a unique yet consistent world, and like much of the Steam Punk genre it aims for atmosphere over adventure and projects a static world where change may occur on a local bias, but never on a global scale. The world view looks back with fondness, and forward with trepidation. Now, let’s talk weird…

Torishima’s world exists on a post-dystopian planet where everything is covered in mud and excrement and putrid garbage. It’s peopled by corporations that make things like “synthorgans” and “floatboats.” Good jobs include “Canvassers” or “roundfiler” but what their duties are remains mystery. “Coffin Eels” and “gloambugs” cover the world, and pages of scene description focus on rust, decayed garbage and disgusting bodily fluids. But no one seems to care, and the state of death is a temporary inconvenience so long as there’s enough of your corpse and your money remaining to pay for a new one. Like cars in Cuba, someone will always put a body back in motion if at all possible. The language spoken floats in the world between “Nadsat” and “Newspeak,” and it’s hard to say how much of its quirky charm is author intended and how much is Google translate weirdness to English.

Sisyphean offers near full-length stories to small fragments that feel more like authors notes than narration. They certainly follow a narrative arc but what I see here aims for the poetic creation of a world that lacks the physical stability of ours. Objects and terrain morphs and bends and the inhabitants accept these physical transformations as we accept different weather. The Sisypheans lack the stability of the dirt we walk on and the brutal, non-negotiable limits of life. It’s a fantasy that begs for a filmatic rendering. If your sci-fi collections are all about light sabers and tractor beams, this will truly be a new world to explore; one full of living objects and dead sentient beings.

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