The Last Children of Tokyo by Yōko Tawada, Margaret Mitsutani (Translator)

Last Children of Tokyo Cover

Yoshiro celebrated his hundredth birthday many years ago, but every morning before work he still goes running in the park with his rent-a-dog. He is one of the many aged-elderly in Japan and he might, he thinks, live forever. Life for Yoshiro isn’t as simple as it used to be. Pollution and natural disasters have scarred the face of the Earth, and even common foods are hard to come by. Still, Yoshiro’s only real worry is the future of his great-grandson Mumei, who, like other children of his generation, was born frail and grey-haired, old before he was ever young.

As daily life in Tokyo grows harder, a secretive organisation embarks on an audacious plan to find a cure for the children of Japan – might Yoshiro’s great-grandson, Mumei, be the key?

A dreamlike story of filial love and glimmering hope, The Last Children of Tokyo is a delicate glimpse of our future from one of Japan’s most celebrated writers.

My Thoughts

The Last Children of TokyoThe Last Children of Tokyo by Yōko Tawada
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nothing much really happens in this little novella but it felt like it packed more into its few pages than most manage to get into three books.

It’s set in Japan in the near future where older people are living longer lives and enjoying great health. But the children being born are old before their time, they have problems eating and walking and can’t play properly. Their bodies decay quickly and they die young but the children seem wiser and more accepting of their status then the adults do.

I like the slow, contemplative pace. The lives of Yoshiro and his grandson Mumei are examined minutely and laid bare for us to see. As sad and difficult as Yoshiro finds the situation, Mumei just accepts his lot in life and carries on as if it’s normal. And for him, it is.

The message of the book seems to be to encourage us to think about what we are doing now: living it large and using up all the resources and polluting the environment is going to leave future generations with a trashed planet and serious health issues.

I’m not sure that much happens but it feels like it does and it’s all very sad.

The language and the writing is beautiful and encourages a slow contemplation of the world. I read slowly because I was trying to take it all in but I still don’t think I understood everything in it – this is one I think will benefit from rereads. I’m sure I missed things in it.

A beautifully written sad and moving look at a scarily possible future.

The Last Children of Tokyo by
Yōko Tawada
Sci-Fi
June 7th 2018
Paperback
144

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick

Electric Dreams Cover

The stories that inspired the original dramatic series, premiered January 12, 2018.

Though perhaps most famous as a novelist, Philip K. Dick wrote more than one hundred short stories over the course of his career, each as mind-bending and genre-defining as his longer works. Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams collects ten of the best. In “Autofac,” Dick shows us one of the earliest examples (and warnings) in science fiction of self-replicating machines. “Exhibit Piece” and “The Commuter” feature Dick exploring favourite themes: the shifting nature of reality and whether it is even possible to perceive the world as it truly exists. And “The Hanging Stranger” provides a thrilling, dark political allegory as relevant today as it was when Dick wrote it at the height of the Cold War.

Strange, funny, and powerful, the stories in this collection highlight a master at work, encapsulating his boundless imagination and deep understanding of the human condition.

My Review of Electric Dreams

Philip K. Dick's Electric DreamsPhilip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Electric Dreams is a collection of short stories that were the influence for the episodes in the recent tv series based on Philip K. Dick’s work.

The social and cultural side of a lot of them make the stories feel dated. A lot of the sci-fi is the standard stuff that was doing the rounds in the 50s / 60s – human style service robots etc. I don’t mind this, I love Arthur C. Clarke and Issac Asimov but I found it irritating here. Maybe because he’s touted as super modern and way ahead of his time? Also annoying is that the women are treated like daft bits of fluff that get in the men’s way.

He does have some very interesting ideas though and some of the stories I liked a lot. Autofac is one of my favourites, the idea of AI that runs away with itself due to thoughtless programming is so relevant to tech today that it’s chilling to read.

The Hanging Stranger is another one I liked. The suspense and the feeling of confusion the main character feels are spot on.

So some I liked and some I didn’t. Overall it’s an interesting read, especially to see where a lot of modern stories get their influences from.

Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams
Philip K. Dick
Sci-Fi
November 14th 2017
Paperback
224

Everything About You by Heather Child

everything about you cover

Freya has a new virtual assistant. It knows what she likes, knows what she wants and knows whose voice she most needs to hear: her missing sister’s.

It adopts her sister’s personality, recreating her through a life lived online. But this virtual version of her knows things it shouldn’t be possible to know.

It’s almost as if the missing girl is still out there somewhere, feeding fresh updates into the cloud. But that’s impossible. Isn’t it?

Everything About YouEverything About You by Heather Child
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the idea behind the story and the way that it takes the tech we have today and extrapolates it all just that little bit into what we might have tomorrow!

It made it feel very realistic and relatable, like a world I’m excited to see. If anyone remembers Tomorrow’s World on the BBC, it made me think of that a lot while I was reading it (spaghetti plants aside).

Part of the story is that Freya is struggling to find her own space in the world and I get that, it just felt like she didn’t understand, and didn’t care to understand, basic things about how society works. She was so clueless it was hard to fully grasp the world and how it worked. It was like she’d just been dumped there and was a stranger herself. As the reader we learn the world through the characters and because Freya didn’t understand her world it made me feel lost, like basic parts of the plotline were passing me by.

As an example, Freya goes on a date she’s arranged online and 8 men turn up. She is confused and scared by it but after discussions with her virtual assistant appears to eventually grasp the situation – I never did.

But the more I think about the book after I’ve read it the more I like it. It makes important points about living in an echo chamber, how we need to be careful about passing off control of our own lives, and how much authority we give to artificial voices programmed to guess at what we might want.

I loved the storyline and the tech and I had a lot of sympathy for Freya but I felt like it was hard to get a grasp on the world. It stopped it from being a truly immersive book for me.

Everything About You
Heather Child
Sci-Fi
April 26th 2018
Hardback
352

Consider Her Ways and Others by John Wyndham

Consider Her Ways and Others Cover

The six stories in Consider Her Ways and Others, the second collecton of John Wyndham’s short tales, continue his exploration of the science fiction staple – what if?

In the title story we are introduced to a world where all the men have been killed by a virus and women continue to survive in a strict caste system – bottom of the heap are the mothers.

In others we meet the man who accidentally summons a devil and then has to find a way of getting rid of him without losing his immortal soul, as well as the woman who, thanks to an experiment in time, discovers why her lover abandoned her.

‘Wyndham writes strongly and has a gift for bizarre plots’ – Guardian

‘One of the few authors whose compulsive readability is a compliment to the intelligence’ – Spectator 

My Review of Consider Her Ways and Others

Consider Her Ways and OthersConsider Her Ways and Others by John Wyndham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not his best work, Consider Her Ways contains six stories that are all variations on a theme. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing but by the third story, it all starts to feel repetitive.

The first, and also the longest, story starts out ok with a woman walking up in an all-female society and in a body that she does not think is hers. I found it interesting at first but it descended into a long debate on the oppression of women and whether love is real or just something to invented to distract women from rebelling and becoming independent. An interesting idea that I think has some merit but it’s also perpetuating the idea that love and romance are women’s things that men just tolerate for an easy life. And I actually got a bit angry with it when a female historian had this to say:

“I will admit that we have lost some minor conveniences – you will have noticed, I expect, that we are less inventive mechanically, and tend to copy the patterns that we have inherited….Perhaps men could show us how to travel twice as fast, or how to fly to the moon, or how to kill more people more quickly; but it does not seem to us that such kinds of knowledge would be good payment for re-enslaving ourselves.”

Oh, Where Now, is Peggy Macrafferty? missed the mark it was aiming for. I think it was going for a modern feel but that isn’t John Wyndham’s strong point. My least favourite in the book and easily skippable.

Two of the stories I did enjoy were Odd and The Long Spoon. Both are quite short and fast-paced, both a bit offbeat, The Long Spoon especially made me laugh.

Overall I’d say there are some good ideas but he’s not at his best. Probably only for completists.

Consider Her Ways and Others
John Wyndham
Sci-Fi
1956
Paperback
190