Tuesday, 19 August 2014

God Save the Queen

森 博嗣 (MORI Hiroshi, born 1957) is a prolific and successful detective story writer, perhaps best known outside Japan for The Sky Crawlers (2002), the basis of an anime film with the same title (2008). I had read one book by him before I started the blog, his first novel すべてがFになる (Subete ga F ni naru, Everything Becomes F or The Perfect Insider, 1996). The first English title is the literal translation, the second is the English title printed on the book. Japanese detective stories often have an English translation of the title on the cover, even when the book itself has never been translated into English. In Mori's case, the English titles are often not literal translations, but a different, new title. The post title is the English title provided for 女王の百年密室 (Joou no hyakunen misshitsu, God Save the Queen, 2000); a more literal translation would be The Queen's Hundred Year Locked Room. Neither of these books has an English translation; but both had a manga adaption, which seems to have been published in a French translation by Soleil Manga. I haven't seen these myself, but the titles are F, The Perfect Insider (2006) and God Save the Queen (2006).

 Saeba Michiru is a reporter (or report writer) in the 22nd century, travelling with his 'partner' Roidy, an android. A navigation system breakdown leaves them stranded, unsure even exactly what country they are in. Luckily, there is a town nearby, one that has lived isolated from the world around it for a hundred years. The town is strangely peaceful, ruled ceremonially by a queen, who is said to be over fifty, but looks as if she is in her twenties. But the town has many oddities; and beyond its own mysteries it harbours a man who has some connexion to terrible events in Michiru's past.

During Michiru's visit, the queen's son is found strangled. As far as Michiru is concerned, he has been murdered, but the town's people see death as sleep and store the bodies in freezing chambers. Only Michiru sees the incident as something to investigate, and gets no helpful answers from the incurious witnesses. The book treats the murder as a locked room mystery, but really that depends on the witnesses and we get no encouragement to treat their answers as trustworthy. Neither the murder mystery nor the mystery of the town and its purpose is pursued in a purposeful way. In the end, the not very surprising answers are simply given to us. (Some incidental mysteries are hinted more subtly and may come as a surprise.) The book is probably best seen more as an extended exercise in melancholy than as a detective story or a work of science fiction.

You can read another blogger's opinions of the book here.

3 comments:

  1. I liked the setting much better than the actual mysteries in both novels in the series, but still kinda looking forward to the conclusion of this series. I have to admit though, I am not really enthusiastic about Mori. I probably like my mysteries a bit more straightforward and a little less philosophic.

    The two radio dramas based on the series can be found on NicoNico Douga by the way.

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    1. Yes. I don't imagine I'll be writing much about Mori myself. I want to try one more from the other main series (The Perfect Insider was at any rate much more puzzle oriented than this).

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    2. It was announced today that a drama series based on Mori's S&M series will start in October (with the title 「すべてがFになる」), so I'll probably just watch that instead of reading the books...

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