Terminal Boredom

The first English language publication of the work of Izumi Suzuki, a legend of Japanese science fiction and a countercultural icon.

In a future where men are contained in ghettoized isolation, women enjoy the fruits of a queer matriarchal utopia – until a boy escapes and a young woman’s perception of the world is violently interrupted.

The last family in a desolate city struggles to approximate 20th century life on Earth, lifting what notions they can from 1960s popular culture. But beneath these badly learned behaviors lies an atavistic appetite for destruction.

Two new friends enjoy drinks on a holiday resort planet where all is not as it seems, and the air itself seems to carry a treacherously potent nostalgia. Back on Earth, Emma’s not certain if her emotionally abusive, green-haired boyfriend is in fact an intergalactic alien spy, or if she’s been hitting the bottle and baggies too hard.

At turns nonchalantly hip and charmingly deranged, Suzuki’s singular slant on speculative fiction would be echoed in countless later works, from Margaret Atwood and Harumi Murakami, to Black Mirror and Ex Machina. In these darkly playful and punky stories, the fantastical elements are always earthed by the universal pettiness of strife between the sexes, and the gritty reality of life on the lower rungs, whatever planet that ladder might be on.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

This was an utterly fascinating collection of short stories. If I had not already been aware that the author had been dead for more than 30 years before starting this collection, I would have had no problem believing the stories were recently written. Suzuki’s speculative sci-fi here uses futuristic, unsettling backgrounds to then focus on the human condition. Using the unfamiliar to emphasize the familiar: everything is different and nothing ever changes.

The focus here is definitely on introspection over action and the best way I could describe most of the stories is a meditation on apathy, nostalgia, and the trap one’s place in society sets. These are exactly the kinds of stories you would expect from a young Japanese woman, who lived outside of societal expectations, writing in the 60s and 70s as part of the counterculture of a deeply traditional country like Japan.

Each of these stories I found to be both strange and poignant. At the end of each one I was eager to read the next, but definitely felt that each story required contemplation before starting the next. This is a collection that will stay with you and I am deeply hopeful we will soon be seeing more of Suzuki’s work in English.

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