In this new work, Shiraishi, who is known for penning deeply thoughtful books about love, life and the human condition, is at his least constrained. The author has said The Genies of Fountain Blue is the novel he has always wanted to write, but one he had to wait until he reached his sixth decade to be in a position to pen.
Early reviews and readers are commenting that it is not just the cover that looks unlike any other Shiraishi novel, but that the narrative itself, set in the future, is very different as well.
In The Genies of Fountain Blue Shiraishi does, however, explore some similar themes to those in his critically acclaimed novelette Stand-in Companion, published in the English-first series Red Circle Minis, which is also set in the future and features androids, sex, ethics and unusually strained relationships.
That said, the locus of The Genies of Fountain Blue is a large, modern, prestigious high-rise development in Tokyo. The type of residential development frequently described in Japanese as a ‘Tower Mansion’ and generally given odd but evocative Western-style brand names.
This particular skyscraper (comprising 1,300 flats) located in Shinjuku 2-Chome in Tokyo is known as Fountain Blue Shinjuku – a moniker that sounds similar to the famous French chateau, but in fact is spelt differently to how Le Chateau de Fontainebleau is when written in Japanese.
Tomofumi Maezawa, a writer, and his girlfriend Eri reside in one of the many flats. However, “normal” life in the tower is interrupted as American, Russian and Chinese VIPs, who also live there, start dying in quick succession and strange enigmatic white specters are sighted.
Shiraishi’s longest recent work The Plastic Prayer at 600-pages was published in 2019 after being serialised in an important weekly magazine published by Asahi Shimbun Publications. Making this new work at a thousand pages of Japanese manuscript paper, rendered in print as a 624-page novel, probably the author’s longest work to date.
In this strange and erotic tale, Shiraishi challenges readers to consider how society will evolve when advanced humanoid AIs become the order of the day. What will happen to relationships between men and women? Who will we decide to live with? How will our roles change once everyday tasks and pleasures including sex can be automated? And what will become of love?
Readers have been struck not just by The Genies of Fountain Blue’s eye-catching cover design, but its content, with several claiming that it has caused them significant sleep deprivation.
Shiraishi has created a real page-turner. Yet despite its considerable length, readers appear to be devouring the book in no time – if the plethora of comments on social media are to be believed.
Some are comparing The Genies of Fountain Blue to works by authors like Yasutaka Tsutsui who contributed many brilliant prescient speculative tales, including, for example, Narcissim and Sadism, to Japan’s wonderfully rich, fascinating and often pointedly uncanny canon of robot literature.
Shinchosha, one of Japan’s most respected publishers, was founded in 1896. It has published several of Haruki Murakami’s novels including IQ81 and also publishes several leading Japanese magazines as well as sponsoring the Japan Fantasy Novel Award. The Genies of Fountain Blue, which has ‘It was all T’s Fault’, emblazoned prominently on its cover band, was published by Shinchosha on 20 May.
2021 is turning into another busy and exciting year for Shiraishi with new paperbacks and serials . And he is already toiling away on his next work, The Way, Michi, which is being serialised in an online magazine, Shosetsu Maru, published by another leading Japanese publisher Shogakan. It is available for free but only in Japanese.
- About Red Circle:Red Circle Authors Limited is a specialist publishing and communications company that conducts bespoke projects on behalf of a carefully selected and curated group of leading Japanese authors. Red Circle showcases Japan’s best creative writing. For more information on Red Circle, Japanese literature, and Red Circle authors please visit: www.redcircleauthors.com.