The new face of Japanese sci-fi chases an augmented world


FujiiJapanese science fiction has a long history that may stretch back to the eighth-century tale of time traveler Urashima Taro and 10th-century story of moon-princess Kaguya-hime. But it was the rapid changes brought on during the Meiji Era (1868-1912) that generated one of the nation’s first pieces of speculative fiction with Shunro Oshikawa’s “Kaitei Gunkan” (“Undersea Warship”). Over the decades since, themes in Japanese sci-fi have foreshadowed changes in society, and predicted war and the emergence of new technologies. One Japan’s newest sci-fi writers to write about, and through, the latter is Taiyo Fujii.Fujii’s debut novel, “Gene Mapper,” is a high-tech thriller set in 2036, a time when the genetic modification of food has given way to whole crops being manufactured from scratch to eradicate world hunger. Mamoru Hayashida, the titular gene mapper, is a designer responsible for programming the DNA of rice crops. When mutations appear in a Cambodian plantation Mamoru programmed, he is sent to solve the problem before a backlash against genetically engineered crops spreads through the world’s media and brings down the company that employs him. As Mamoru digs into the mutating genes, it becomes clear their changes are no accident.

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