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United States of Japan

Reviewed by Galen Strickland

An almost good book, hampered by well-worn tropes, and a reliance on exposition that explains too much rather than let the reader surmise certain things. Most SF readers can extrapolate from a few facts, they don't need every detail described, even about new technology. Even if some things are left a bit vague, that's okay too. Another downside for me was the graphic violence depicted. This would have worked much better as a graphic novel or anime, especially concerning the games within the story as well as the giant mecha warriors used in real combat. It's interesting to note that Tieryas has done technical art and writing for Sony Pictures Imageworks, LucasArts, and EA Games.

Those negatives aside, it was still an enjoyable read, mainly because of the characters. One of the major influences for the plot is Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, although it is not a sequel. The Axis powers have won World War 2, but the time lines are not the same, and the technology even in the '60s is far advanced beyond what Dick described. View this as yet another alternate universe. There are four different time periods explored; it begins in 1948, marking the end of the war and the freeing of Japanese-Americans from internment camps; 1988, the novel's "present day"; a flashback to 1978 to establish the character dynamics which led to the current situation; '88 again, then a final flashback to 1960 to show the significant event which set the main character's future in motion.

The second half of the book is much stronger than the beginning, with better paced action sequences, along with sufficient hints on character traits, even though I was still surprised by the final reveal. If the author had trusted the reader more, limiting the explanatory phrases, plus toned down the violent imagery, I would be rating this higher. I gave it a 3 out of 5 at Goodreads.


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Peter Tieryas



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