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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex. White Maze. Junichi Fujisaku. DH Press (2006)

This is a very enjoyable science fiction adventure story set in an information saturated future Japan. A number of savage killings, dubbed "vampire murders" have taken place and there is a suspicion of a political element to the attacks so Public Security Section 9 become involved. When Major Motoko Kusanagi finds a connection to the Anti-China faction and the ruined and partially sunken city of Tokyo, she has to undertake a very dangerous investigation. The plot coils nicely through political skulduggery, war time scientific experiments and revenge. The action is staged with great skill, the cast are lively and very engaging, the reveals are very well timed and the conclusion very satisfying.
The context of a post war society that is so saturated with information that everyone is fitted with cyberbrains in addition to their organic ones to allow them function is more than just an overlay. The story is woven out of this context and the implications it brings for what being human means as well as the hugely expanded range of ways of creating problems. Junichi Fujisaku is a skillful writer who manages to provide all the information required without having the reader feel that they are being force fed.
The cast are well developed and very engaging, in particular Major Kusanagi. She is essentially an organic brain in a robot body, blurring the lines of where humanity lies and what it means. She is a tremendous action hero, fast acting, decisive and coolly intelligent. In spite of having a wholly artificial body that could in theory have any shape or sex required, she is a striking female character. This is a nice piece of writing that underscores the overall quality of the book. The translation by Camellia Nieh is invisible, the book is clearly from a non-Western imagination while reading as if written directly in English. Excellent science fiction

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