I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
United States of Japan was one of my most anticipated book of the year and I am glad to say that it did not disappoint.
This book is marketed as a “spiritual sequel” to The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, I have not read Dick’s novel so I can’t really compare both novels but, after reading USJ, I realing want to check it out.
The story is based on an alternate history where the United States has lost WWII and is now mostly ruled by Japan. The opening scene takes place in 1948 when the Japanese army rescue Japanese Americans interned in War Relocation Camps. The book then jumps 40 years later, in 1988, where we meet Beniko Ishimura, the son of two refugees introduced in the first chapters. Ben’s job is to censor video games and to hunt down USA, a new game depicting an alernate history where the United States of America won the war.
Beniko is a 39 years old man and he’s not very popular among his peers, everyone hates him beause he’s a lazy coward and that he loves women a lot more than the Emperor. However it’s not really because of that that is not trusted: when he was a child he denounced his parents whom he surprised talking about treasons and because of that, they had to commit suicide. Even if everyone praised him for that, how can they trust someone who betrayed his own parents?
I read United States of Japan in two days. It was a case of “let’s just read the first couples pages to see if I like it”. And oh well, I liked it.
Once you start reading United States of Japan, you can’t stop.
As you may expect from a dystopia set in a world where the “bad guys” won WWII, life is not easy and if you don’t have a strong stomach, United States of Japan won’t be for you. I don’t mind reading torture scenes (as long as they are important for the plot) but even I had to pause sometimes. However, even if USJ is pretty dark, it is not a depressing read and for that, I can be grateful to the main characters.
We mostly follows two characters, Ben and Akiko, an agent of the Tokko (the secret police of the Empire), they were both completely different and even though I had a preference for Ben, they both had great characters development throughout the book. I like the fact that the two of them were hiding behind a facade, perpetual cheerfulness for Ben and faith in the Emperor for Akiko.
The story flowed very easily mainly because it had a lot of dialogues and not an overload of descriptions which is something I can appreciate. Don’t get me wrong, I like to know what the world looks like but I don’t care for extra long and boring description of every single molecules surrounding our main characters, and I think that Tieryas maintained a perfect balance between dialogues and descriptions. They were descriptions when they were needed but they never prevented the story from moving forward if that makes sense.
The book was full of very cool concepts, it blends alternative history with giant robots, video games and political thriller. Also the American rebels are called the George Washingtons and they wear white wigs. How cool is that?
This book is a standalone and I found the ending to be perfect for the story. You are not going to have all the answers but for a 400 pages, everything is really well done and well paced.
Anyway I really, really enjoyed this book and if the synopsis look like something that you would like, I would highly recommend it and I am definitely going to read other things by Peter Tieryas.
This book will come out the 1st of March from Angry Robots.