Saturday, 19 October 2013

Klein Bottle

クラインの壺 (Klein Bottle, 1989) is the last mystery written by 岡嶋二人 (OKAJIMA Futari), a team of two writers, who after this worked separately. The other Okajima Futari novels that I've discussed, 焦茶色のパステル and そして扉が閉ざされた, are fairly clearly puzzle detective stories, although the first also has a strong adventure story element. Klein Bottle still has detective story type clues; but it is much more of an adventure story. Specifically it's a science fiction mystery.

 I make a character list when reading Japanese detective stories, because otherwise I tend to forget the kanji readings. In case it's any use to anyone else, here it is. 

Kanji Reading Character
梶谷孝行 KAJITANI Takayuki Epsilon Project operations manager
上杉彰彦 UESUGI Akihiko game scenario author
敷島映一 SHIKISHIMA Eiichi Uesugi's brother in law
敷島邦子 SHIKISHIMA Kuniko Uesugi's sister
百瀬伸夫 MOMOSE Nobuo Epsilon Project research engineer
高石梨紗 TAKAISHI Risa game tester
ケネス・バドラー Kenneth Badler Epsilon Project research engineer
笹森貴美子 SASAMORI Kimiko Epsilon Project manager
真壁七美 MAKABE Nanami Risa's friend
豊浦利也 TOYOURA Toshiya game tester
姫田恒太 HIMEDA Kouta journalist

The setting is modern day Japan. A firm called Epsilon Project buy a game scenario written by the young Uesugi Akihiko. They mean to make not a normal computer game, but a virtual reality game, where the player is completely immersed in the game world and experiences it like the real world. When the game is developed, he and another tester are invited to play it through. But is it really a game they are developing?

All the Okajima Futari books that I've read have been good storytelling. The mystery element here (as in their first book) is a bit too obvious to people expecting this kind of story, so that the reader is often well ahead of the narrator, Uesugi. (Perhaps that was less of a problem in 1989, before so many films with constructed realities came out.) Even if we have more of an idea what could be going on than the narrator, the larger question of what the Epsilon Project is doing remains; and it is easy to share Uesugi's confusion and fear.

My only problem while reading it was that the science fiction premise just didn't seem realistic. I read through thinking "OK, we'll say this happens. But you know that wouldn't really work, don't you?"

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