A poignant, deftly wrought meditation on the tenderness of loss and the fragility of the human spirit, following four generations of the Hoshizaki clan as they progress from humble basket-weavers in rural Aomori through personal tragedies and triumphs to a tentative acceptance of modernity and the implacable inevitability of social change and personal evolution. A character is called the Full Metal Bitch.
And nor is this book. This is teenage boy wish fulfillment at its most unashamed. The actual premise sounded pretty intriguing – ‘Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to be reborn each morning to fight and die again and again’ – sort of like The Forever War meets Groundhog Day. The author’s afterword makes it clear that it really owes more to a youth wasted playing videogames. Keiji fights the same repeating battle against the alien invaders one hundred and sixty times. Pussy. I once made it to level 8 of Battletoads.
The first half of this comes some way to living up to that premise. The stage is set nicely, and then we meet the Full Metal Bitch and it falls apart somewhat. It's simultaneously both over-explained and full of holes. A large part of Groundhog Day’s brilliance was its refusal to explain, and a little of that spirit would have been very welcome here. As you can no doubt also guess, and in keeping with the male teenage gamer ethos, the women in this book are little more than ciphers and sensitivities towards ethnic and cultural issues are notable for their complete absence. It’s no worse than you’d hear during an online game of Call of Duty, I’m sure, but apparently the author was born in 1970. Either he’s targeting his audience very well, or he’s still of his audience a little more than you’d hope for from a man of his years.