YUKIKO by MacDonald Harris
Kirkus Star


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They were all there aplenty last year in The Balloonist, but in his new novel Harris' talents are proved like a theorem: bright and dry pacing, hoodwinking complexity, bumpless style, and a patterning imagination brought dashingly to bear. Yukiko seems to be a straight adventure story, but its action is only the radius. During the closing days of World War H, an American submarine on its way to deposit a pair of undercover agents on Holckaido runs aground on a reef and must be abandoned. The crew is captured, but the agents--plus the sub's captain and navigator--make it to shore, where they're soon in touch with an island contact--Sensei--who leads them safely to a small village populated by the Ainu, a tall, hairy, light-complexioned race discriminated against by the Japanese majority. Here, in an Ainu communal warehouse cum condom factory, the Americans are housed, fed, and cared for until they leave to accomplish their intelligence mission. Part of this care involves Yukiko. Yukiko is made of rubber. Yukiko is an ""Air Fairy""--a sex doll-but one so perfectly crafted and lifelike that she's more than a lewd device against loneliness: she's a double, a totem, a harbinger of metamorphosis--and with her, the novel really begins to thrum. Characters we thought we knew we find out we don't; achingly-clear action scenes--a train-escape, the destruction of a hydroelectric plant--propel the book along while a spiritual, even spooky lint accumulates. Soon everyone seems to correspond to some previous other; a mysterious constellation of identity and exchange takes shape. As if in a dream, the last chapter is both surprising and not, closing an amazingly lucent performance, a book made of icy spring water.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1977
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux