Post-boom malaise leaves Japan vulnerable to empty-headed politics, aging terrorists, and the predations of her big jealous neighbor on the mainland.
Life in the near future is nothing like the ’80s for the Japanese. Lifetime employment is dead, real-estate values have evaporated, and college graduates are shining shoes. One of the few holdovers from sunnier times is the hideously unhelpful government established by the ever-less admired Americans after the war. Locked into an endless cycle of back-scratching, competition-mashing, and guilt-absolving, the iron triangle of politicians, bureaucrats, and big industrialists seems impotent in the face of the financial recession. But at this darkest moment, a political star is rising out of the world of, god help us, pop music. Nozawa, a sort of Nipponese Springsteen with an even larger sense of his mission on earth than The Boss, seems to be pulling together a viable opposition to the historic ruling party. With guidance from his savvy manager, Nozawa has spun the adulation of his fans into political gold. Martine Meyer, stateless polyglot reporter for The Tribune, is one of the few who publicly question the strangely quick rise of the pop star to the top of the power heap. Anonymous but helpful e-mails have combined with her deep reportorial instincts to spur an investigation of the charismatic crooner, a labor that nearly estranges her from her microbrewer boyfriend. As the singer’s sun rises, unsavory events multiply. A black American soldier is framed for murdering a schoolgirl, an American warplane crashes into a city center. Just as Martine is getting a grasp on the story, the new bureau chief is pulling the rug from under her. Will she uncover the machinations of an evil Chinese faction that’s combined with the radical dreams of an aging lady terrorist before Japan blows up?
As usual with Japanese-thriller expert Tasker (Buddha Kiss, 1998, etc.), an expat British securities executive, the real fun is in the superb local scenery, not the heavy-breathing plot.