Book Review: Crystal Silence / Author: Fujisaki Shingo / Publisher: Kurodahan Press / Release Date: Out Now
Kurodahan Press is a publisher of East Asian literature with an eye-catching line in Japanese hardcore SF. Crystal Silence, the latest of their offerings, is an exhilarating and at times bewildering tour de force that encompasses space opera and cyberpunk spree.
The first novel (from 1999) by prolific genre author and science writer Fujisaki Shingo, Crystal Silence is set in the near future, where Mars is being colonized and laboriously terraformed. The remains of some shellfish-like creatures are unearthed in the northern polar ice cap, and bioarcheologist Saya Askai is sent on a mission to find out what this discovery might tell her about previous life on the planet.
In itself, the premise is nothing very new, but Shingo elaborates it with great verve into the sort of kinetic, multi-stranded narrative typical of Japanese manga and anime. Saya has to cope with mutating viruses, telepathic cyborgs, weird gravitational anomalies and beautiful but enigmatic crystal flowers. A lot of the action takes place on the plane of virtual reality, to bizarre and mind-bending effect, as an advanced form of artificial intelligence comes to the heroine's aid. What raises the story above the level of The Martian Chronicles-meets-Tron is Shingo's cool, cerebral style and obvious braininess – both of which shine through Kathleen Taji's excellent translation. As with Stanislaw Lem and Olaf Stapledon, this is SF to make the veins on your temples throb. Just the thing if you're up for a challenge.