Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

The Next Continent, by Issui Ogawa

Review copy provided by Haikasoru. Translated by Jim Hubbert.

This is a very classic mode of science fiction: Hey, kids, my uncle has a barn grandfather has a fortune! Let's put on a show build a moonbase! You want that story? This is that story. The people in it are Japanese, but that makes remarkably little difference, since mostly they are great big huge nerds in a way that crosses national boundaries very earnestly.

What this reminds me of most of all is Michael Flynn's Firestar, but a great deal more tightly focused, as a story in itself rather than a deliberate sprawling beginning to a deliberate sprawling series. It's the sort of story that will go into the problems with space debris and rocket boosters and funding, the little techy details, without stopping on any of them long enough to get really bogged down.

Like any writer trying to do a moonbase story from this end of the 21st century instead of the middle of the 20th, Ogawa has to address the idea that we thought we were going to do this before and didn't. And I think he does that thoroughly, and he hits enough problems that it really doesn't read as unrealistically optimistic or rose-colored. The astronauts/taikonauts/etc. in this book run into all sorts of indignities and inconveniences as well as grand problems. It's definitely not sugar-coated. It's also not wallowing in being gritty or grim. There's a weird geeky hard SF balance to strike there. I haven't seen very much of this kind of book in English since Firestar, or even much immediately before it, either; having it come around more recently gives a different perspective on the same problems.

Having read another Haikasoru book translated by Hubbert gives me a little bit of parallax on the language: I think that the language is probably the kind of hard SF prose that was pretty straightforward in the original? Because Hubbert had a lot of flexibility and variation in how he was able to translate style in the Hayashi collection, so I'm thinking that the very plain, straightforward approach here probably reflects the original extremely closely rather than being any kind of limitation on his part.
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