Friday 9 September 2011

The Ouroboros Wave – Jyouji Hayashi (2002)

I saw this sitting on the large book table at my favourite bookshop, Planet Books, and couldn’t resist it initially because it had a great cover. Then I read the blurb and thought that it could be my kind of book. It turns out that it was, although with some reservations.

I know almost nothing about Japanese science fiction and I have to admit although I’ve been reading science fiction on and off since I was about 10 my knowledge of the last 20 years or so is fragmented. No matter, I plunged in and immediately found that the writing style is quite dry, so much so that it almost reads like a textbook. The narrative suffers because of it, in particular the characters, most of which are rendered one-dimensional, at least until the latter half of the book. It’s a shame because the first half of the book would have been far more engaging otherwise.

The basic premise is that with humanity expanding into the solar system a division has emerged between the humans of Earth and the humans living and working in space that come under the banner of AADD (Artificial Accretion Disk Development Association). The opening section, dated 2123, concerns the initial stages of the building of a ring like structure around a newly discovered micro black hole. Humanity, at this stage, has the capacity to actually change the micro black hole’s trajectory from a potential collision with the sun to one in orbit around Uranus. Heady stuff.

The chapters are episodic, involve many different characters and are spread out over 48 years. There are political, psychological, and scientific aspects throughout this novel, all of which takes you to a conclusion that is predictable in its subject matter but fairly original in its ideas and concepts. This novel is hard science fiction to its core, with diagrams of the ring called Ouroboros and its habitat modules. There are also detailed explanations of the physics behind technological innovations and humanity’s successes in space.

Overall, despite the dry style (possibly as a result of being translated from Japanese), The Ouroboros Wave is a worthwhile read. I’ll certainly read Hayashi’s other books if and when they are translated into English. 

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