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Rocket Girls, by Housuke Nojiri - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Rocket Girls, by Housuke Nojiri [Nov. 11th, 2010|12:30 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Review copy provided by Haikasoru. Translation by Joseph Reeder.

One of my pet peeves about science fiction is when it seems to feature characters who have never heard of science fiction. Its problems and questions are completely unfamiliar to them. I know that the opposite problem can come up, too, when a work relies too heavily on everybody having read the same two hundred books the author has read, but for some unfathomable reason I notice this less than when the very basic baby units of SF are completely unfamiliar to every single character.

In Rocket Girls, the characters have been steeped in science fiction--but not written SF and not in English. Their reference points are not specific anime. You don't have to have watched exactly the same SF anime they have. But they know how this stuff goes, starting a space program, being an early astronaut. They get the outlines, because they've watched anime.

This is kind of awesome.

The work itself is a little reminiscent of a particular type of anime in the beginning, short scenes, teenage girl narrators, and I would strongly recommend it to teen readers who are anime enthusiasts. If you're looking for a book to bridge your SF interest and your teen friend/relation's anime interest, buy a copy of Rocket Girls for you and one for them, and you're set. The heroine is little and cute and spunky and very much the anime heroine, and by the time you get into the chapters with launch delays and fuel details, where it starts to read more like the rest of the SF novels we grown-up geeks are used to, young anime fans will have gotten sucked into the story of Yukari and her island-born half-sister Matsuri as they go through their bizarre and sudden astronaut training.

It's light-hearted and fast-paced. There are spots where you don't want to focus too carefully on the logic the characters are using, and a few bits where the cultural genre conventions are not the same as cultural genre conventions you might be used to. That doesn't mean the cultural genre conventions we're used to always make sense either, though--they're just different nonsense. And Rocket Girls is fluffy teenage space fun. Haven't a lot of us been wanting some of that for years?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: zunger
2010-11-11 06:55 pm (UTC)
Ooh, glad to hear that. I picked up a copy at WFC and have been wondering just what this was going to be...
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[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2010-11-11 06:56 pm (UTC)
YEAH!
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[User Picture]From: txanne
2010-11-11 07:06 pm (UTC)
Aw, jeez, I know two girls who'd love this! Too bad I'm not teaching there anymore. I'll just keep it in mind for my next set of students.
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[User Picture]From: buymeaclue
2010-11-11 08:11 pm (UTC)
In Rocket Girls, the characters have been steeped in science fiction--but not written SF and not in English.

AWESOME.
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[User Picture]From: aedifica
2010-11-11 10:23 pm (UTC)
Hmm. That might be a good present for Nate, who watches anime. For as long as I've known him he hasn't been a reader, but he recently started reading Dante's Inferno to fill slow times at work, so I've been thinking I might get him a book for $winterholiday. (I was thinking maybe Jhereg, because it has some similarities to the only other novel I know he's read and enjoyed, but maybe I'll get him this instead--or maybe both.)

Thank you for the review!
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[User Picture]From: fiddle_dragon
2010-11-22 06:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you for pointing me at this this weekend. I don't always get a chance to read everything every day - and there are many days that I miss reading LJ altogether. So...very much. Thank you (I want to read this book for myself, now!)
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[User Picture]From: bbovenguy
2011-02-15 03:46 am (UTC)
Rocket Girls was adapted as an anime series a few years ago. The Japanese space agency JAXA helped out with the production, and one of their astronauts makes a cameo appearance. I've been hoping someone would translate the books, so I'm really looking forward to them.

And hi! :-) I was googling "Housuke Nojiri" and came across your review.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-02-15 03:51 am (UTC)
That's cool. I have a copy of the novel for a gift for one of my favorite anime-prone teenagers; I should get the anime so we can watch it together.

And hi, welcome.
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[User Picture]From: bbovenguy
2011-02-15 04:01 am (UTC)
The anime is a 12-parter, and I believe it covers the first two books. The description of the second book at Amazon and elsewhere is a bit off - the girls have to fix a space probe that's going to Pluto, but Amazon makes it sound like the girls are going to Pluto themselves.

And in the midst of my googling, I also found an interview with Housuke Nojiri at the JAXA website:

http://www.jaxa.jp/article/interview/vol33/index_e.html
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