[Lists 2015] Ranking the Haikasoru book stash

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Finally, after having bought and read the last of the books I most coveted from the Haikasoru lineup last year, I have now made a ranking of the books I’ve read!  Please note that since these books were bought over the years, I have forgotten details from when I read them first.  And foolishly I did not even write down notes that could have helped me make better comments about most of the books.  So my impressions are from memory.  For example, I don’t really remember much about Slum Online so my conclusion is that it must not have made that much of an impact on me.  Also take note I haven’t also done reviews on the science because I just wanted to know what happens.  For a discussion of the science (or the unscientific) you’ll have to read other reviews for that.  These are just my feelings about the books.

11.  Slum Online by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Official blurb:  Etsuro Sakagami is a college freshman who feels uncomfortable in reality, but when he logs onto the combat MMO Versus Town, he becomes “Tetsuo,” a karate champ on his way to becoming the most powerful martial artist around. While his relationship with new classmate Fumiko goes nowhere, Etsuro spends his days and nights online in search of the invincible fighter Ganker Jack. Drifting between the virtual and the real, will Etsuro ever be ready to face his most formidable opponent?

Well, first of all I am not a gamer, so I wasn’t really that attached to this book.  The fact that I don’t remember what happened in the book means it was forgettable to me, and failed to make a deep impression.  As for the author’s other book, All You Need Is Kill, I don’t plan on reading anytime soon as I already saw the movie with Tom Cruise on it.  It was a good movie.  It was just unfortunate I got the Slum Online book instead.

10.  Mardock Scramble by Tow Ubukata

Official blurb:  Why me? It was to be the last thought a young prostitute, Rune-Balot, would ever have…as a human anyway. Taken in by a devious gambler named Shell, she became a slave to his cruel desires and would have been killed by his hand if not for the self-aware Universal Tool (and little yellow mouse) known as Oeufcoque. Now a cyborg, Balot is not only nigh-invulnerable, but has the ability to disrupt electrical systems of all sorts. But even these powers may not be enough for Balot to deal with Shell, who offloads his memories to remain above the law, the immense assassin Dimsdale-Boiled, or the neon-noir streets of Mardock City itself.

One thing that was a handicap for me in enjoying this book was the fact that there’s lots of gambling.  And unfortunately I’m not really into casino gambling stuff so a lot of the stuff just went over my head.  Over-all I think it was a good story but I have to warn about the dark and depressing stuff that happens.  The criminals and violence described are hideous and that’s why I didn’t even watch the animated movies.  But if you think you can stomach the violence it’s still an interesting read.

9.  Usurper of the Sun by Housuke Nojiri

Official blurb:  Aki Shiraishi is a high school student working in the astronomy club and one of the few witnesses to an amazing event–someone is building a tower on the planet Mercury. Soon, the Builders have constructed a ring around the sun, threatening the ecology of Earth with an immense shadow. Aki is inspired to pursue a career in science, and the truth. She must determine the purpose of the ring and the plans of its creators, as the survival of both species–humanity and the alien Builders–hangs in the balance.

I’m not exactly sure what felt off about this book to me.  But I think it had decent ending so yeah, it avoids being in the most bottom of the pile.

8.  The Ouroboros Wave by Jyouji Hayashi

Official blurb:  Ninety years from now, a satellite detects a nearby black hole scientists dub Kali for the Hindu goddess of destruction. Humanity embarks on a generations-long project to tap the energy of the black hole and establish colonies on planets across the solar system. Earth and Mars and the moons Europa (Jupiter) and Titania (Uranus) develop radically different societies, with only Kali, that swirling vortex of destruction and creation, and the hated but crucial Artificial Accretion Disk Development association (AADD) in common.

This is an action-packed book with some nice illustrations to help you imagine what’s going on.  I may not remember the characters because there are many, but I enjoyed reading this.  On the other hand it seems disjointed where there is a time skip but I still cared for the characters (I think).

7.  Rocket Girls by Housuke Nojiri

Official blurb:  Yukari Morita is a high school girl on a quest to find her missing father. While searching for him in the Solomon Islands, she receives the offer of a lifetime—she’ll get the help she needs to find her father, and all she need do in return is become the world’s youngest, lightest astronaut. Yukari and her sister Matsuri, both petite, are the perfect crew for the Solomon Space Association’s launches, or will be once they complete their rigorous and sometimes dangerous training.

Most of the books in my list have ‘heavy’ themes, so for a more light-hearted fare look no further than Rocket Girls!  This is a fun read and I recommend this to contrast with the depressing books.  While reading I could just imagine what a fun anime this would have been.

6.  Harmony by Project Itoh

Official blurb:  In the future, Utopia has finally been achieved thanks to medical nanotechnology and a powerful ethic of social welfare and mutual consideration. This perfect world isn’t that perfect though, and three young girls stand up to totalitarian kindness and super-medicine by attempting suicide via starvation. It doesn’t work, but one of the girls—Tuan Kirie—grows up to be a member of the World Health Organization. As a crisis threatens the harmony of the new world, Tuan rediscovers another member of her suicide pact, and together they must help save the planet…from itself.

One word describes this book to me:  sad.  Not that it’s a bad book, it is a worthy read for sci-fi fans hungry for some Japanese sci-fi.  Just don’t read it when you’re depressed or something.  Also take into account the circumstances of the author when you read this–he was suffering from cancer.

5.  Loups-Garous by Natsuhiko Kyogoku

Official blurb:  In the near future, humans will communicate almost exclusively through online networks— face-to-face meetings are rare and the surveillance state nearly all-powerful. So when a serial killer starts slaughtering junior high students, the crackdown is harsh. The killer’s latest victim turns out to have been in contact with three young girls: Mio Tsuzuki, a certified prodigy; Hazuki Makino, a quiet but opinionated classmate; and Ayumi Kono, her best friend. And as the girls get caught up in trying to find the killer—who might just be a werewolf— Hazuki learns that there is much more [to their monitored communications] than meets the eye.

I’ve already said a lot of things related to this novel.  I like this author as he makes you think with his novels.  Although I think this is a ‘lighter’ novel of his that I’ve read.  For us now who are in the digital age, I think we can relate to this.  This novels shows us a world of what might be in the future that isn’t too far-fetched.

4.  The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa

Official blurb:  Sixty-two years after human life on Earth was annihilated by rampaging alien invaders, the enigmatic Messenger O is sent back in time with a mission to unite humanity of past eras–during the Second World War, in ancient Japan, and at the dawn of humanity–to defeat the invasion before it begins. However, in a future shredded by love and genocide, love waits for O. Will O save humanity only to doom himself?

This is actually the second book that I have read from Issui Ogawa, the first one being The Next Continent.  Though this book was much shorter than The Next Continent, it doesn’t ‘lose’ to it.  It manages to be as fascinating (if not more action-oriented). Also, part of what had piqued my interest was the romance part, but to talk about it would make me say some spoilers so yeah, I think I’ll stop myself.  Just hear me when I say it is well done, and I prefer the romance here over the one in The Next Continent.
I admit though, that it took me many tries to get past the first chapter.  I tend to get bored when the setting involves ancient times–I prefer my futuristic settings, thank you.  Thankfully, I got hooked by the second chapter, and I finished the whole thing in more or less 5 hours.  (Though it could be lesser than that if one was a speed reader and didn’t take breaks.)
This wasn’t the first novel I read with time travel and wars–a few years ago I had read Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.  I felt The Lord of the Sands of Time was more engrossing as it had a certain air of desperation/hopelessness to it.  This is not to belittle The Forever War–if you read more about Haldeman you’ll get what The Forever War was about.  But frankly at first I thought TFW was silly at times (especially the surprise at the ending).
Well, war is war, and while reading the book I thought of the tragic things that could have happened that were not tackled in the book.  The scale of the time travel is wide enough but was crammed into such a short book.  It is testament that it had conveyed much though it wouldn’t have hurt to add some more ‘meat’ in between.
Over-all, a very good read from the Haikasoru series.

3.  The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa

Official blurb:  The year is 2025 and Gotoba General Construction—a firm that has built structures to survive the Antarctic and the Sahara—has received its most daunting challenge yet. Sennosuke Touenji, the chairman of one of the world’s largest leisure conglomerates, wants a moon base fit for civilian use, and he wants his granddaughter Taé to be his eyes and ears on the harsh lunar surface. Taé and Gotoba engineer Aomine head to the moon where adventure, trouble, and perhaps romance await.

I don’t remember the details, but I remember being impressed while reading.  If I were to keep only stuff I liked then this book deserves a place.  In the future I may have to read it again to give it some proper comments.  For now it’ll have to make do with this high placement in my list.

2.  The Cage of Zeus by Sayuri Ueda

Official blurb:  The Rounds are humans with the sex organs of both genders. Artificially created to test the limits of the human body in space, they are now a minority, despised and hunted by the terrorist group the Vessel of Life. Aboard Jupiter-I, a space station orbiting the gas giant that shares its name, the Rounds have created their own society with a radically different view of gender and of life itself. Security chief Shirosaki keeps the peace between the Rounds and the typically gendered “Monaurals,” but when a terrorist strike hits the station, the balance of power is at risk…and an entire people is targeted for genocide.

I can say that I have been engrossed in this book.  Although I am not happy with how things turned out (and I will not elaborate to avoid spoilers).  Just like Loups=Garous, this novel also made me think.  What I like about this book is that there is this tension not only between different ideologies but also between personalities.  Combined with the action and intrigue it makes for a very good read.

1.  The Stories of Ibis by Hiroshi Yamamoto

Official blurb:  In a world where humans are a minority and androids have created their own civilization, a wandering storyteller meets the beautiful android Ibis. She tells him seven stories of human/android interaction in order to reveal the secret behind humanity’s fall. The stories that Ibis speaks of are the “seven novels” about the events surrounding the announcements of the development of artificial intelligence (AI) in the 20th and 21st centuries. At a glance, these stories do not appear to have any sort of connection, but what is the true meaning behind them? What are Ibis’s real intentions?

Me liking this novel best is a testament to my former preference to short stories.  Before Asimov’s The Foundation series hurled me into the black hole of SF, I was more into Philip Dick’s short stories, and before that of other short stories that were not sci-fi.  Each story is like a world of its own that is interesting and evoking an emotion.  I really liked this book and I hope more like this gets translated.

And that’s it for the Haikasoru books I’ve read.  I also wanted to read MM9, Virus and Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights but I’m not in the mood to hunt for and buy them.  I hope others do a review though.  Comments from readers are welcome.  Till next, ja! 🙂

NOTE:  Official blurbs were taken from the official Haikasoru site.

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