Sayuri Ueda

Teoksen The Cage of Zeus tekijä

5+ teosta 70 jäsentä 5 arvostelua

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Associated Works

Speculative Japan 3: Silver Bullet and Other Tales (2012) — Avustaja — 14 kappaletta
Speculative Japan 4: Pearls for MIA and Other Tales (2018) — Avustaja — 7 kappaletta
2010年代SF傑作選 1 — Avustaja — 1 kappale

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Kanoninen nimi
Ueda, Sayuri



This is a translation of a Japanese novel dealing with complex ideas of gender, sexuality, and the meaning of humanity. In the (near?) future, science has advanced to the point where full genetic manipulation is possible, and one group has used that knowledge to create a new human subspecies: The Rounds. The Rounds are "perfect hermaphrodites," with fully functioning genitalia from both biological sexes, and altered chemistry that makes them wholly hermaphroditic. They are limited to a single space station out near Jupiter, and strict laws keep them from coming into contact with "Monaural" society (the word used for non-Round humanity). This story is ostensibly about a terrorist attack aimed at them, and the people called on to protect the Rounds.

It is also about concepts of gender, and society, and the oftentimes violent resistance to change.

I hated this book.

I hated the failure of its ideas, I hated the clumsy treatment of a truly interesting topic, and I hated the crappy translation.

The topic of gender is so important, and so timely, that it truly does call for the kind of deep exploration that SF can often provide, but none of that thoughtfulness is on display here. The treatment of gender and physical sex and sexuality are so clumsy and so torturous that nothing of interest actually is said. There are attempts to imagine what it would be like to interact with humans who have no natural male/female awareness, but it's based on utterly bizarre hypotheticals.

Take, for example, the book's repeated insistence that the Rounds, who have no malefemale gendering at all, are always perceived by cis (het?) men and women as being the opposite gender--Cishet men see them as women, and cishet women see them as men. And thus, the "mono" humans quickly fall in love/lust with rounds they meet. This is... Nuts. At every level. The two women characters who run into a Round doctor instantly begin fantasizing about this "kind, romantic man" while the man sees that same character as a "strong, resolute woman." Androgyny exists, and this is not how others perceive androgynous people.

The book also tries to create a truly genderless society, but still uses gendered language for even the most basic ideas, like sex. Here's a quote:
"A Round couple can love as a man and be loved as a woman in a single act of intercourse." (p. 87)
or this bizarre exchange...

"...I’m afraid my staff only wanted to visit the special district out of curiosity. If you’d known that I doubt you would have complied.”
“Yes, I was quite aware. I am a man and a woman, after all.” (p. 96)
The first speaker is a Mono, explaining why his team members wanted to visit the special area where only Rounds are allowed to the second speaker, a Round doctor who let them in.
The second speaker's statement "I am a man and a woman, after all..." makes no sense in or out of context. It's made abundantly clear throughout the book that the Rounds are not men or women. They are bi-gendered, without any cultural, social, or physical tendency toward either. And, of course, what does it MEAN? How does that create awareness?

And then there's the almost total dismissal of the pure horror of Round existence. The Rounds are wholly artificial. Their bodies are not only hermaphroditic, they have been genetically modified to have hyper long lifespans, altered maturation rates, and immunity to all kinds of genetic diseases. However, they are forbidden to procreate freely, and their education is limited to science, math, and English (this is specifically stated several times. They only speak English. Because it's the future, and that's all Japan can imagine?) No history, no art, no culture. They live empty lives as pure scientific tools, designed for the exploration of deep space. It's slavery and eugenics in their purest forms, but the book never gets into that very serious issue at all.

And of course there's the translation. It's awful. I say this as a professional translator of Japanese to English: This was not professional level work. The dialog is clumsy and characterless, the word use is bizarre, and sometimes it's just flat-out wrong. Take, for example, the idea that the Rounds only ovulate after sexual stimulation. This is called in the book reflexive ovulation, which is a standard term apparently. However, the book calls normal human ovulation "voluntary ovulation." The scientific term is "spontaneous ovulation" because it happens on its own, without stimulation. It is not, in any way shape or form, voluntary... The translator simply didn't check, apparently?

Anyway, yes. Not a great book. Not worth the time. The only reason I kept at it was basically as a hate-read.
… (lisätietoja)
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JimDR | 4 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 7, 2022 |
I hope this is a poor translation because the language in both dialog and description is clunky and unnatural. The hack job of plotting is all the author's though, who has clumsily injected a very poor terrorist plot into a potentially interesting situation. The characterization isn't good enough to make full use of the potential of a bigender community living within a standard heterosexual base, though it's a tad, but only a tad, better than 1960s era SF.
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quondame | 4 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Apr 22, 2021 |
TL;DR: This book is a dumpster fire.

So let's have an author that doesn't understand sex, gender and sexuality write a story that involves ALL of those and fuck it up so spectacularly. Add to that a homophobic soldier in a world where being gay is supposedly OK or something? and wow.

So the Rounds are bigender, which shows the lack of understanding about what gender is. They love as male and are loved as female, thus the bigender. Yes women are passive and males are active. You have that pile of misogyny going on here. Next you have Rounds that want to be Unigender, who sabotage everything. Add to all this the fact that Rounds are supposedly "true hermaphrodites", both the author and translator do not use the word intersex, and that's what makes them so special. They also have an II chromosome because the X and Y chromosomes would never create a "true bigender". Mind you there's talk of trans people, but it's mostly passed off and "they aren't real like these Rounds here".

Now the story is about a paraste that gets released that fixes the "gender" of the Round it infects. Yes, it's some kind of bullshit thing where it renders the sexual organ unusable and thus FIXES the gender. Of course some rounds are like "I'm still bigender" but it goes against what is written in the book that "you are your sex" as Rounds start saying they are male or female after the infection.

Did I mention this book ends on a downer?

Now Harding's incident is that he wanted to love Veritas "as a woman" and Veritas wanted to love Harding "as a man" and does the whole gay stereotype of chasing Harding down to have sex with him, where in they get punched, laughed and and then want to take their own life. Harding here is severely "no homo" despite the whole world being open to that thing... but I guess NOT. Harding says he's no "bisexual" and thus doesn't want that relationship with Veritas.... which is the whole crux that the whole bigender thing is shit as the Rounds would be a different gender.

That's the whole limitation of this book is that there are ONLY two genders, male female. Which missed the whole point of the discourse on gender, sex and such and how gender and sex are social constructs and there are a ton more genders and sex and sexualities out there than the binary.

Also punishment against Calendula is sterilization to one sex.. yup... Like the way the Rounds are treated in this book as if they aren't human and thus they get punishments that are the types handed out to animals.
… (lisätietoja)
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Maverynthia | 4 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jul 29, 2017 |
Might have been forward-thinking forty years ago. Perhaps that's where Japan is on gender and sexuality issues, but I doubt it. Good use of shifting points of view among diverse characters. The dialogue and internal monologues are stilted - probably somewhat the translator's fault, but it often comes off as something like a Speed Racer cartoon. Responses and opinions on complex situations that in real life would take much time for consideration and discussion are relayed as succinct statements of the obvious.
Skip this and read The Left Hand of Darkness instead.
… (lisätietoja)
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klh | 4 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Nov 17, 2011 |


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