Every child born of every mother and father asks the same questions. Why is the sky blue? What happens after we die? What am I, anyway? My guess is that when the human race as a whole has its first child, it will be a sentient machine — a robot, or an AI — and we will know it is so when it, too, relentlessly asks these same questions.
I wonder if that was the reason Osamu Tezuka created Astro-Boy, or Tetsuwan Atomu (or “Atom” for short) as he was in Japan. If an AI is meant to have the curiosity of a child, then why not create one that looks and behaves like a child, and will be treated like on by the adult (read: human) world? It made sense to me when I first read Astro-Boy in English, and now that I’ve been reading Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto — itself a reworking of one of Tezuka’s most famed Astro-Boy stories — it makes all the more sense. No child remains a child forever, but how the child becomes father to the man is critical. Read more
There are two authors named Murakami. Don’t get them confused; this’ll be on the test. Haruki Murakami is the master of daily whimsy, the author of Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. He looks outwards from his homeland and sees endless terrain for his imagination to play freely. Ryū Murakami, on the other hand, writes about violence and nausea and sweat and blood and sperm, and turns his vision back inwards to see a Japan that is rotting from all sides at once.
Like many other people, I mistook one for the other the first time. At Tower’s Bargain Annex on 4th Street (now long gone), I found Murakami #2’s Almost Transparent Blue for $3 — about the most I’d want to pay for a book that was barely 128 pages, anyway. I read it in one sitting and was unimpressed; it felt like a poor man’s reduction of the same cheerless decadence found in books like Last Exit to Brooklyn. A Newsweek blurb on the back cover described it as “a Japanese mix of A Clockwork Orange and L’étranger”, but that’s unfair to Camus, Burgess and Murakami in about equal measure — especially since all three are better represented by other works of theirs.Read more
Shame on me. Somehow, I managed to read and enjoy The Rose Princess without managing to write a review of it. Blame it on the end-of-the-year rush, an influx of other things all competing for my attention, or a proliferation of desk clutter that makes Fibber McGee’s closet look like a paragon of personal management. I not only forgot to write about the book but needed to go back and re-read the whole thing for the sake of being able to pen a review that wasn’t just Oh yeah, new Vampire Hunter D book, it’s way awesome, go pick it up, what more can I say?
Rose Princess comes billed with one of the best back-cover blurbs I’ve seen in a while: When you make a pact with the Devil, what happens when the Devil wants out? That’s one of the several plot seeds that Hideyuki Kikuchi plants into the perennially fertile soil of the VHD universe for this book, and as always he uses D himself as the gardener to cull what comes up. Strained metaphors aside, this is a good, solid installment in the series — about on the level of a book like The Stuff of Dreams, which gave us poetic images and striking encounters in lieu of a broader understanding of the D-verse (or, for that matter, D himself). Read more