Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa

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Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa James Nicoll 6/17/11 7:51 AM
[Forgot to repost this here]

What is Haikasoru?
Space Opera. Dark Fantasy. Hard Science.

With a small, elite list of award-winners, classics, and new work
by the hottest young writers, Haikasoru is the first imprint
dedicated to bringing Japanese science fiction to America and beyond.
Featuring the action of anime and the thoughtfulness of the best
speculative fiction, Haikasoru aims to truly be the .high castle.
of science fiction and fantasy.

Added note: these are NOT manga but novels.

The Next Continent
Issui Ogawa (Trans. Jim Hubbert)
Haikasoru/VIZ Media LLC
416 pages
$16.99/$23.00/9.99 UK
ISBN 9781421534411

This is the book that turned me into a Haikasoru completist; I found it
stood up to a reread but since I have a splitting headache [added later:
cured by wasabi!) have my original review from way back in 2010.

I did find that it stood up to a reread and still quite like it.
Annoyingly, I get the impression this isn't selling particularly well.
I hope that the lack of sales, if there is a lack of sales, isn't because
Haikasoru decided to put Tae on the cover rather than, oh, Sohya striking
a Daring Engineer pose.

This novel depicts the construction by a trio of companies of a small base
on the Moon over the course of 12 years (2025 - 2037). Although the man
who approaches Gotoba Engineering about the project is Sennosuke Toenji,
the chairman of Eden Leisure Entertainment, it quickly becomes clear
the project is actually the brain-child of Tae Toenji, Sennosuke's 13-
year-old granddaughter. The primary viewpoint character is engineer
Aomine Sohya who gets drafted very early on seemingly because he is both
talented and much more expendable than his boss.

Although previous attempts to tap into the space tourism market have
failed, Tae believes she has the killer ap; a prestigious wedding chapel
to be built at one of the poles of the moon, for people who have more
money than sense [1]. Much than sense; the price tossed off early on is
200 million yen per person [2]. This price is unavoidable; even with
new technology, the cost to build the base will be well over a trillion
yen.

Enthusiasm for the project within the companies varies from Gotoba's glee
and Tae's determination to auditor Reika Hozume's pain whenever the massive
costs of the project are mentioned [3] and what appears to be terror on
Sohya's part when he learns he is going to visit the Chinese base on the
moon.

I think I will look at this from two angles. Wait, three:

From a world-building point of view, Ogawa takes what is a very
unfashionable approach and imagines a 2025 that is in many respects better
than 2010 (or 2003, when the book was published; in many ways this
should be looked at as an alternate history with a branch point around
2003). Population growth is declining (no surprise for a Japanese person
to be aware of that), military conflicts are declining, ecological
problems are being addressed and in general while nations and companies
can still be rivals, there has been an outbreak of increasing reasonableness
on the world stage but without some grand crisis to force this.

Oil is running out; the effect of this is that fuel prices are slowly
increasing and people are taking steps to manage this additional expense.

I am afraid that once or twice the Americans come off as perhaps not
quite as cooperative as they could be and that apparently GWB's
adventures in Asia developed not necessarily to the USA's advantage. That
said, the US is still a powerhouse, the source of many useful things
and a valuably ally when they see being one as in their best interests
(and also, nations are not monoliths; America has more than one
conflicting agenda, as for that matter does China).

I did get the impression that Ogawa may have some odd ideas about
Christianity; for one thing, that word seems to be mean Roman Catholic.
Fans of religious themes in SF may be interested in the case for Shinto
being the best faith for people going into space.

[added while posting: this may be related to something TV Tropes
calls All Nuns are Mikos:

"Few Japanese people today are overtly religious, and even fewer are
Christians (less than two percent of the population). Among them Roman
Catholicism and the collective Protestant denominations are the largest,
at about equal numbers of 509,000 each, with some Orthodox and
indigenous Japanese Christian denominations in the mix. So Christianity,
particularly the Roman Catholic type, tends to get used as an exotic
religion, especially if you can mix in mythology and folklore. Some writers
are fannish enough to do research, especially if a story takes place in a
Medieval European Fantasy. But most have only a basic understanding of
the religion, and few writers have a realistic idea of what a nun's life
is like."

and something called Christianity is Catholic, which is self-explanatory]

I am sure if I assert I don't recall the last SF recent book I read set in
2025 where 2025 was better than the year the book came out, people will
flock to remind me of all the examples I am forgetting [added later: not
really] and yet it seems to me that this is one of the most up-beat SF
books I have read in the last decade. Although there are setbacks and
tragic deaths, Sohya's comment

    As Sohya gazed out on the sparkling waters, he was struck by how
    bright the future seemed. Yes, life was good.

does accurately convey the tone of the book.

From a technical point of view, this is one of the better Let's Go to Space
novels in the last few decades. When I first mentioned it, I compared
it to Fountains of Paradise, one of the last Clarke novels to very nearly
have a plot and I'd stand by that. There are any number of common
misapprehensions in the space-fan crowd; Ogawa brings many of these
foolish beliefs up only to point out why and how they are wrong. Ogawa
gives every indication of being a hard SF author who can actually
calculate mass ratios and orbital periods and who actually bothers to do so.

It is true lunar helium three gets mentioned but not by anyone working on
the Sixth Continent. Also, it's mentioned in the context of the glorious
market that will exist after commercial fusion is developed, a development
that is a generation or two off.

This is the strongest aspect of the book. Happily for me, it's an aspect I
value highly.

The story part of the novel covers twelve years in 416 pages (ten days
per page). It is necessarily somewhat episodic. Unlike The Man Who Sold
the Moon while the dreamer behind the project is a major character,
much of the focus is on the people who have to turn a young woman's
dream into reality and what this effort entails. The advantage of this
is that Ogawa gets to go into the technical details rather than focusing
on boardroom dominance rituals.

I did quibble a bit over a plot development near the end of the book but
it is foreshadowed early on and I've seen similar developments in other
thrilling tales of space development. There must be some logic to its
inclusion that I cannot see but which authors can.

To be honest, I think I was supposed to find Tae more adorable than I did
and at one point I may have muttered "but surely therapy would have been
cheaper" but I should point out she has a moment of clarity when she
realizes the real-world implications of lesser people of her little
project.

I was a bit worried when Tae announced that Sohya was her boyfriend,
Tae being 13 and Sohya considerably older at the time, but the author
then added

    That was the real beginning of their relationship. Still, Tae was
    mature enough for her age not to fall into a girlish infatuation,
    and Soyha was not naive enough to lose his head over a girl a dozen
    years his junior.

You can imagine my relief.

The story was competent [4]; the characters can carry the story they are
called to carry and there weren't any WSB-killing moments. The
relationships are perhaps a bit conventional but they are not really the
focus of the story despite being its motive force.

This aspect of the book was much stronger than one would expect in
Anglospheric hard SF, from a Sargent, a Clement or a Clarke.

1: It's apparently significant that Tae comes from Nagoya, which is
seemingly notorious for the lavish weddings its people favour.

2: The author fits in a conversion for Americans and those familiar with
US currency but not Japanese: 80 yen = 1 dollar.

3: It's probably for the best that Reika is not within earshot when
Tae admits to Sohya that Reika was only included in the project because
her presence would help to create the plausible illusion that Sixth
Continent, as Tae calls the project, was intended to make a profit.

4: I need a stronger word for competent. For me, competent is praise.

--
http://www.livejournal.com/users/james_nicoll
http://www.cafepress.com/jdnicoll (For all your "The problem with
defending the English language [...]" T-shirt, cup and tote-bag needs)

Re: Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa Howard C 6/17/11 8:28 AM
On Jun 17, 9:51 am, jdnic...@panix.com (James Nicoll) wrote:
> The Next Continent


>
> This is the book that turned me into a Haikasoru completist; I found it
> stood up to a reread but since I have a splitting headache [added later:
> cured by wasabi!) have my original review from way back in 2010.
>


> I did find that it stood up to a reread and still quite like it.
> Annoyingly, I get the impression this isn't selling particularly well.
> I hope that the lack of sales, if there is a lack of sales, isn't because
> Haikasoru decided to put Tae on the cover rather than, oh, Sohya striking
> a Daring Engineer pose.
>
>


Oh...too bad that it's not selling.  I liked it a lot.  I'm trying to
recommend it, but little luck so far getting other people to read it.

>
> 4: I need a stronger word for competent. For me, competent is praise.
>

You don't gush very often, do you? :)

This is probably my second favorite of the Haikasoru books (I like
"Usurper of the Sun" a bit better), and it's actually the first one I
read.

Re: Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa James Nicoll 6/17/11 9:44 AM
In article <5749ea2b-b71e-4c51-bc7d-696554f69846@l18g2000yql.googlegroups.com>,

Howard C  <howard....@gmail.com> wrote:
>On Jun 17, 9:51�am, jdnic...@panix.com (James Nicoll) wrote:
>> 4: I need a stronger word for competent. For me, competent is praise.
>>
>
>You don't gush very often, do you? :)

I'm Canadian. We reserve displays of public enthusiasm for post-hockey
riots.

>This is probably my second favorite of the Haikasoru books (I like
>"Usurper of the Sun" a bit better), and it's actually the first one I
>read.

Yeah, similar for me.

I was a bit surprised by Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse, because
that sort of thing usually isn't my sort of thing but I quite liked it.

 


--
http://www.livejournal.com/users/james_nicoll
http://www.cafepress.com/jdnicoll (For all your "The problem with
defending the English language [...]" T-shirt, cup and tote-bag needs)

Re: Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa Kurt Busiek 6/17/11 10:13 PM
On 2011-06-17 07:51:21 -0700, jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) said:

> 4: I need a stronger word for competent. For me, competent is praise.

"Solid"?

kdb
--
Visit http://www.busiek.com -- for all your Busiek needs!

Re: Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa James Nicoll 6/18/11 8:25 AM
In article <ithc5p$fe7$1...@dont-email.me>, Kurt Busiek  <ku...@busiek.com> wrote:
>On 2011-06-17 07:51:21 -0700, jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) said:
>
>> 4: I need a stronger word for competent. For me, competent is praise.
>
>"Solid"?
>
Or !COMPETENT!... It's just such a relief to encounter authors who
aren't faking the details or copying from something they read in
1956.
Re: Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa Bill Snyder 6/20/11 6:23 AM
On Sat, 18 Jun 2011 15:25:05 +0000 (UTC), jdni...@panix.com (James
Nicoll) wrote:

>In article <ithc5p$fe7$1...@dont-email.me>, Kurt Busiek  <ku...@busiek.com> wrote:
>>On 2011-06-17 07:51:21 -0700, jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) said:
>>
>>> 4: I need a stronger word for competent. For me, competent is praise.
>>
>>"Solid"?
>>
>Or !COMPETENT!... It's just such a relief to encounter authors who
>aren't faking the details or copying from something they read in
>1956.

But, James, most authors today aren't old enough to have read anything
in 1956.

--
Bill Snyder [This space unintentionally left blank]

Re: Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa James Nicoll 6/20/11 7:19 AM
In article <8eiuv6pi50tiqfu0b3m3l7p43s9bsqvppj@4ax.com>,Really? The average age of your Analog reader is 59, which means a lot
of them are older than that; are the writers generally younger than
their audience?
Re: Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor) 6/20/11 9:00 AM
On 6/20/11 10:19 AM, James Nicoll wrote:
> In article<8eiuv6pi50tiqfu0b3m3l7p43s9bsqvppj@4ax.com>,
> Bill Snyder<bsn...@airmail.net>  wrote:
>> On Sat, 18 Jun 2011 15:25:05 +0000 (UTC), jdni...@panix.com (James
>> Nicoll) wrote:
>>
>>> In article<ithc5p$fe7$1...@dont-email.me>, Kurt Busiek
>> <ku...@busiek.com>  wrote:
>>>> On 2011-06-17 07:51:21 -0700, jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) said:
>>>>
>>>>> 4: I need a stronger word for competent. For me, competent is praise.
>>>>
>>>> "Solid"?
>>>>
>>> Or !COMPETENT!... It's just such a relief to encounter authors who
>>> aren't faking the details or copying from something they read in
>>> 1956.
>>
>> But, James, most authors today aren't old enough to have read anything
>> in 1956.
>>
> Really? The average age of your Analog reader is 59, which means a lot
> of them are older than that; are the writers generally younger than
> their audience?

        I'm not even 50 yet, and I got started pretty late in the game. Yeah, I
suspect the writers are now on average significantly younger.


--
                      Sea Wasp
                        /^\
                        ;;;        
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com  Blog:
http://seawasp.livejournal.com

Re: Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa James Nicoll 6/20/11 9:10 AM
In article <itnqrq$nkv$1...@dont-email.me>,

Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor) <sea...@sgeinc.invalid.com> wrote:
>On 6/20/11 10:19 AM, James Nicoll wrote:
>> In article<8eiuv6pi50tiqfu0b3m3l7p43s9bsqvppj@4ax.com>,
>> Bill Snyder<bsn...@airmail.net>  wrote:
>>> On Sat, 18 Jun 2011 15:25:05 +0000 (UTC), jdni...@panix.com (James
>>> Nicoll) wrote:
>>>
>>>> In article<ithc5p$fe7$1...@dont-email.me>, Kurt Busiek
>>> <ku...@busiek.com>  wrote:
>>>>> On 2011-06-17 07:51:21 -0700, jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) said:
>>>>>
>>>>>> 4: I need a stronger word for competent. For me, competent is praise.
>>>>>
>>>>> "Solid"?
>>>>>
>>>> Or !COMPETENT!... It's just such a relief to encounter authors who
>>>> aren't faking the details or copying from something they read in
>>>> 1956.
>>>
>>> But, James, most authors today aren't old enough to have read anything
>>> in 1956.
>>>
>> Really? The average age of your Analog reader is 59, which means a lot
>> of them are older than that; are the writers generally younger than
>> their audience?
>
>        I'm not even 50 yet, and I got started pretty late in the game. Yeah, I
>suspect the writers are now on average significantly younger.
>
>
Can't be that much younger; under-30 winners of the Campbell Awards have
not been seen in a decade.
Re: Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor) 6/20/11 9:20 AM
On 6/20/11 12:10 PM, James Nicoll wrote:
> In article<itnqrq$nkv$1...@dont-email.me>,

> Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)<sea...@sgeinc.invalid.com>  wrote:
>> On 6/20/11 10:19 AM, James Nicoll wrote:
>>> In article<8eiuv6pi50tiqfu0b3m3l7p43s9bsqvppj@4ax.com>,
>>> Bill Snyder<bsn...@airmail.net>   wrote:
>>>> On Sat, 18 Jun 2011 15:25:05 +0000 (UTC), jdni...@panix.com (James
>>>> Nicoll) wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> In article<ithc5p$fe7$1...@dont-email.me>, Kurt Busiek
>>>> <ku...@busiek.com>   wrote:
>>>>>> On 2011-06-17 07:51:21 -0700, jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) said:
>>>>>>
>>>>>>> 4: I need a stronger word for competent. For me, competent is praise.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> "Solid"?
>>>>>>
>>>>> Or !COMPETENT!... It's just such a relief to encounter authors who
>>>>> aren't faking the details or copying from something they read in
>>>>> 1956.
>>>>
>>>> But, James, most authors today aren't old enough to have read anything
>>>> in 1956.
>>>>
>>> Really? The average age of your Analog reader is 59, which means a lot
>>> of them are older than that; are the writers generally younger than
>>> their audience?
>>
>>         I'm not even 50 yet, and I got started pretty late in the game. Yeah, I
>> suspect the writers are now on average significantly younger.
>>
>>
> Can't be that much younger; under-30 winners of the Campbell Awards have
> not been seen in a decade.

        A 10-year difference can be very large.

--
                      Sea Wasp
                        /^\
                        ;;;        
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com  Blog:
http://seawasp.livejournal.com

Re: Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa Lonnie Clay 6/20/11 11:53 AM
On Monday, June 20, 2011 9:20:38 AM UTC-7, Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor) wrote:
> On 6/20/11 12:10 PM, James Nicoll wrote:
> > In article<itnqrq$nkv$1...@dont-email.me>,
> > Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)<sea...@sgeinc.invalid.com>  wrote:
> >> On 6/20/11 10:19 AM, James Nicoll wrote:
> >>> In article<8eiuv6pi50tiqfu0b...@4ax.com>,

Writers get tenure? Hmm... That would be all right with me, largely because I aspire to be published.

Not to be negative, but what writers do you foresee coming up for a Campbell under review?
(-30)vs(~30) Stewed that and chewed the pulp, decadence indeed.

Lonnie Courtney Clay

Re: Haikasoru Reviews 11: The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa Gene Wirchenko 6/20/11 7:41 PM
On Mon, 20 Jun 2011 14:19:02 +0000 (UTC), jdni...@panix.com (James
Nicoll) wrote:

[snip]

>Really? The average age of your Analog reader is 59, which means a lot
>of them are older than that; are the writers generally younger than
>their audience?

     "Hurry up with delivering that novel, kid, but stay off my
lawn!"?

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko