Gene Mapper

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Gene Mapper

Taiyo Fujii

A short distance into the future and we find ourselves in a world in which hunger has been ended because of the success of the technology of genetically modified organisms. This is clearly a good thing but not all is well. On the negative side, the internet has been destroyed and, to retrieve information from it, it is necessary to find specially trained and equipped experts able to go diving into its ruins. Online technology has continued to evolve but it has been decentralized to the individual level, as people are able to create their own customized forms of localized virtual reality. This is all rather jolly in that it means people actually have to go to places and do things for themselves, rather than using the internet to organize things remotely (no doubt the US military has found its own solution to this problem but this is a Japanese book about Japanese people and westerners all nearly all offstage).

The protagonist Hayashida is a freelance gene mapper whose work has been influential in the new green revolution in the Mekong region (in real life, of course, an individual of such importance to a corporate interest would long ago have been tied down to a long-term contract) and, in particular, in Cambodia. When it becomes evident that something is going wrong with the hyper-rice and locusts threaten a new plague, Hayashida travels to Ho Chi Minh City to meet contacts who can help him work out what is happening and help him prevent his own name and work from becoming mud all around the industry.

This is an interesting and fun book which, I believe, was originally self-published before being taken up by a larger publisher and then seeing a global release by VIZ Media in San Francisco, with a perfectly serviceable translation by Jim Hubbert. It received awards in Japan but it does suffer from some of the common faults of science fiction: characters with gimmicks to identify them rather than actually personality traits; information dumping and less than sparkling dialogue. However, the different perspective is more than sufficiently interesting and the pace of the narrative quite rapid before it reaches the inevitable resolution scenes and then post-resolution settlement. I would certainly be willing to read subsequent books by the author.

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