books, reviews

Book Review: One Love Chigusa – Soji Shimada

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A love story that explores the mechanics of the heart and humankind’s inevitable evolution.

The year is 2091 AD. A horrendous motorcycle accident leaves Xie Hoyu coming to terms with his new cybernetic body. Reconstructed from the latest biomechanical prosthetics, he is discharged from hospital and tries to return to his life as an illustrator after many weeks in recovery.

But something isn’t quite right. Xie is plagued with inexplicable auditory and visual hallucinations and feelings of despair. He fears he is losing his mind and the desire for life itself until he notices a beautiful woman on the street – his sole reprieve from the madness.

Possessed by her beauty and desperate to understand what is happening to him, Xie follows her in the hope of finding answers that only she appears to offer. But not all is as it seems.

An homage to the great artist and creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka, One Love Chigusa by Soji Shimada, one of Japan’s most famous authors, is a tale of obsessive love in a world where technology has crept into the very heart of humanity.

Translated by David Warren, it offers a glimpse into a possible future and questions the purpose of humanity in a manner that only Japan’s master of the postmodern whodunnit can do.

The Author

Soji Shimada’s debut novel, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, is ranked among the ‘top five best locked-room mysteries published worldwide’ (Adrian McKinty, The Guardian).

An instant classic, it transformed him into ‘Japan’s Man of Mystery’ and one of the country’s bestselling authors. His novel Murder in the Crooked House was a Sunday Times Best Book of the Year.

He is also known for his Detective Mitarai series (published by Pushkin Vertigo) and the Detective Yoshiki series.

Shimada is the recipient of the Japan Mystery Literature Award and the founder of three literary awards: Amateur Mystery Novel contests, The City of Roses Fukuyama Mystery Award and the Soji Shimada Mystery Award.

The Translator

Sir David Warren was British ambassador to Japan from 2008 to 2012, having served twice before in the British Embassy in Tokyo during his career as a British diplomat.

He is now honorary professor at Sheffield University, a member of the Board of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures at the University of East Anglia, and was Chair of the Council of the University of Kent until July 2020. From 2013 to 2019, he was chairman of the Japan Society, the leading independent body in the United Kingdom dedicated to UK-Japanese cultural, educational and business contacts.

One Love Chigusa is part of Red Circle Minis, a series of short captivating books by Japan’s finest contemporary writers that brings the narratives and voices of Japan together as never before. Each book is a first edition written specifically for the series and is being published in English first.

My thoughts:

This was an interesting short story about love, Hoyu is recovering from a terrible accident that meant his body and brain were repaired using cybernetics. His memories are fractured and the people he sees all look like terrible monsters.

Traumatised and struggling to recover, he wanders the city, taking refuge in a coffee shop where he sees a beautiful woman, who doesn’t turn into a monster.

He starts following her, desperate to connect and learn about her. His loneliness and despair lead him all over the city on her trail.

When he finally finds her and tries to form a connection, she seems confused and struggles to understand him.

The ending is tragic and leaves poor Hoyu with more trauma.

The suggestion that humanity’s evolution does not lead to happiness is a dark, morbid one.

A strange, unsettling story of love that ends without redemption. Incredibly well written, you follow Hoyu, desperate to find out more about Chigusa and who she is, winding through the city, trying not to look at the monstrous faces of humanity as he does.

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