Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Cage of Zeus

The Cage of Zeus/Zeusu no ori is the first full novel by Ueda Sayuri to appear in English translation, (translated by Takami Nieda), with a jacket illustrated by Tatsuyuki Tanaka, (Cannabis Works), it's published by Haikasoru. The novel opens with an almost blink and you'll miss it kidnapping scene, the details of which you just begin to take in before you are transported to Hasukawa's narrative, his daughter sat on his knee, reminiscing about his childhood on Mars, when he was young before the moons of Mars were used for constructing huge elevators that straddle the planets surface, and the city's sky's were covered with huge canopies with an Earth like sky scape projected onto them, he recollects these things for his daughter's history assignment, this process of colonization was going to spread onto the next planet, Jupiter. Hasukawa works for the police department and learns of a terrorist alert, the target, Jupiter-I is a research ship orbiting Jupiter, the terrorist group, The Vessel of Life, who hold rigid bio ethical ideologies are believed to be on their way to the ship, Hasukawa appoints security officers Shirosaki and Harding to take them all out. Jupiter-I contains a research laboratory, and also the special district that houses the Rounds, a species of bio engineered hermaphrodites, created to assist humans in space exploration and colonization. The novel set in an undefined point in the future describes the progressively changing attitudes to sexuality and gender identity, Hasukawa notes that people change their gender as frequently as they do their clothes, surgically changing themselves they become fluid transgenders. Jupiter-I also appears to be in part social experiment, where a society cultivated by complete tolerance to sexual identities and behaviour is an ideal being aimed for - 'A society where we are equals, where only individual differences exist', the assertion by Aristophane's in Plato's Symposium, that humans were originally hermaphrodites with four arms and four legs, the gods tore the humans into two parts, creating man and woman, the beginning of each sex desiring and seeking out it's opposite, acts as a philosophical backdrop to Jupiter-I.

When Shirosaki arrives at Jupiter-I his team are met by Kline and Dr Tei, Dr Tei acts as a go between the Rounds and the Monaurals, the Monaurals being single sex/fixed sex humans, the Rounds occupy the special district and their interaction with the Monaurals is limited. Two members of Shirosaki's team, Arino and Shiohara gain entrance to the special district and meet the Round Veritas who reacts coldly to them, as the novel progresses we learn that Veritas had a bad experience with a Monaural, surprisingly turning out to be Security Officer Harding who at first appearance has an almost pathological hatred of the Rounds. To enter into the notions and themes of the novel the narrative employs the use of non-gender specific pronouns, the English translation here uses Spivak pronouns  which take a little getting used to, but their used to great effect which centres the reader's thinking into the heart of this non-gender specific world. Many different perspectives are explored through the novel's duration, Harding's relationship with Veritas in particular where he is faced with both the male and female desires of Veritas, and in turn the Rounds fascination with the Monaurals fixed sex status is also explored. After the security team has arrived a story is told of another Monaural visitor from Mars who had gone mad  fixating on the the red spot of Jupiter, the narrative reminds us that Jupiter is the Roman name of the Greek god Zeus, Jupiter-I acting as the cage of it's inhabitant's desires. With the arrival of the first unmanned ship from Mars security is at maximum alert, but an explosion in one of the labs diverts attention, bringing the realization that perhaps the terrorists was already working amongst them. The narrative of the novel, as well as being a taught sci-fi thriller, is an explorative inquiry into the ideas of this evolving dystopia,  persuing the ideas and visions it presents with an unflinching eye, I'm looking forward to reading the classic 10 Billion Days and 100 Billion Nights by Ryu Mitsuse.  



Parrish Lantern said...

although this sounds interesting, the Ryu Mitsuse really sounds like a book I really could get into. thanks for the information.

me. said...

10 Billion Days and 100 Billion Nights sounds like it will be an interesting read!, I'm looking forward to it too.