Over the weekend, I had the wonderful pleasure of re-reading an #OwnVoices Japanese, science-fiction novel called The Lords of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa for Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. It’s a book that I’ve owned for a long time, and one that I had only read when I originally bought it. After reading it on Saturday, I mentally kicked myself because this is a book that I should read more frequently. There’s more depth within the one-hundred-ninety-some-odd pages of this novel then there is within an entire multi-volume saga of science-fiction books.
The book revolves around a cyborg named Messenger Orville who was created in the 26th century only to be sent back into multiple points in time with fellow cyborgs as an effort to save humanity from going extinct via an alien race known simply as ET.
One of the main aspects of the book that I found to be very compelling is the era of 3rd century Japan, which is a focal point within the book. In Japanese history, in very early times almost to ancient era, Japan was divided into four countries, each corresponding to one of the points on a compass. The ruler of these regions was a woman, chosen at a very young age, to bear the title of Himiko. Himiko was originally a shaman queen, and the chosen girl who bore the title of Himiko was a figurehead and person of worship for the Japanese people. She was someone to whom they all looked up to for guidance and prosperity. This is something that is rarely explored within Japanese literature, particularly modern Japanese literature. Because this era is examined in conjunction with speculative elements, it makes this small book one hell of a fucking read. If you are a fan of Japanese history at its most earliest, then this will definitely be of interest to you. The adaptation of this historical era is woven quite spectacularly with the plot to create a fascinating and evocative thrill ride.
Historical dressing aside, there are many other things to enjoy with The Lord of the Sands of Time such as our protagonist, Messenger O. The interesting notion of a fabricated machine with a highly adaptive and sentient artificial intelligence system being able to feel emotions similarly to humans is mind-fucking-blowing. It’s written with great care to portray the internal conflicts that the cyborgs face when dealing with emotions with which they have no familiarity. It’s wickedly smart and deliciously contemplative. Couple this with human interactions and a world where relations between machine and humans are just a natural part of life, you’ve got my favourite part of the entire novel.
Other pleasant qualities: an electrically charged pace, the different periods of history reimagined with retro-futuristic traits, an authentic and bittersweet romance, and motifs fuelled with conflicting ideals on the malice, greed, and corruption that shapes human nature.
I highly recommend this novel to any and all fans of speculative fiction. I would also like to mention that literature like this is one of the many reasons that I fucking love Japanese literature so goddamn much.
4.75 heartbeats outta 5!