Saturday, April 29, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Gene Mapper by Taiyo Fujii (Translated by Jim Hubbert)

Long Review after the Jump:

Gene Mapper is a Hard Sci Fi Novel originally written in Japanese by Taiyo Fujii.  It is the first of two novels of Fujii to be translated into English (the other is Orbital Cloud, which I have yet to read but is on my list). The book is short (under 300 pages) but is thick with ideas.

This is a story in a world where people communicate through VR rather than in person, sometimes through avatars and sometimes not, and the difference between VR and real life blurs.  This is a world where companies are designing whole new species of crops from scratch and are designing them so thoroughly that the planted crops actually demonstrate color patterns that, from the sky, show the logos of the companies and certifications behind these crops.  Oh and this is a world where in the past the crashed due to a major flaw, and a highly regulated internet has replaced it, without all the content of the old internet.

In this world, main character Mamoru Hayashida is an independent contractor who designs the color-genes of the crops to express the logos that ensure the world the crops are totally safe.  However, in the most recent batch of crops, which are crucial to feeding the world, the logos are mysteriously coming off deformed and an invading plant has been found amongst the crops.  Mamoru has to team up with coworker Kurokawa, who has a sketchy past, and a hacker of the old internet named Yagodo in order to find out what has gone wrong and discovers a conspiracy that could cause havoc worldwide through this destruction.

The ideas in this book are really interesting, and honestly the book is too short for all of the ideas to really have time to breathe (there's some plot elements about suits that are designed to alter one's emotions to keep them focused, for example, but this idea doesn't really have any impact on the plot and just seems unnecessary, and it's not quite the only one).  But overall it works.

Unfortunately, the characters here aren't particularly great.  Hayashida is a solid character, and Kurokawa has an intesting backstory, but other than those two, our characters are pretty paper thin (the love interest is particularly underdeveloped).  This is a book that probably could've used 50 more pages to build on its characters, rather than just its world and ideas.
Still, this is a fascinating book, and if you like hard sci-fi, I'd recommend it.

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