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‘United States of Japan:’ Advance Book Review

Starting with the defeat of the United States by the Axis Powers and the liberation of interned Japanese-Americans (whose captivity in the book’s timeline is much more brutal than in our own) by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1948, Peter Tieryas’ United States Of Japan (Angry Robot, 2016) is an exciting story and an excellent look at a world that might have been.

Forty years after the war’s end, Ben Ishimura, a military censor and computer expert who reported his own parents for disloyalty when he was a child and whose job involves monitoring the activities of video game players, ends up working with Akiko Tsukino, a ruthless agent of the feared Tokko secret police (who herself comes suspicion by the rival Kempeitai) to track down a renegade general whose daughter has died under unusual circumstances. We are shown inside the workings of the Japanese occupation, a technically advanced, essentially cyberpunk totalitarian society. We are given a glimpse of a criminal underworld which manages to flourish in the shadows of a strict dictatorship. We meet a determined band of American insurgents who call themselves the George Washingtons who live in what remains of San Diego.

The world is constructed quite well; we’re told of Japan’s struggle not only with the American insurgents but also of an ongoing, yet hushed-up, war against nationalist guerrillas in Vietnam, and tensions with the Germans who occupy America’s East Coast. Fast paced, well researched, and with believably complex characters, this was quite difficult to put down and left me wanting to read more about this setting. With many subtle allusions to existing Japanese popular culture, it’s a tale of complex, divided loyalties which interact in unexpected ways right through to the end.

This should appeal to the general science fiction reader, the Japanophile, and the alternate history enthusiast alike.

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