In this literary dystopian novel, a young woman’s life changes radically as she listens to the advice of her Japanese cat figurine.
After World War III in 2090, three super-states have gobbled up the globe. The Reorganization that followed reshuffled the masses and worked to erase all memory of their cultural pasts. It’s now 2138, and 30-year-old Kumori Ando of the super-state Eurasia lives in New Caledonia’s dreary southern sector, working a dull but reliable cubicle job. She has a rare memento from the old days, a cat figurine a few inches high with a beckoning paw, red-flecked fur, and gold highlights. Dubbed Lucky Cat, the figurine comes to life and talks to Kumori, often delivering advice. Kumori discovers Chen Wei, a young man sheltering in a dumpster, and brings him home. She learns he’s a member of the resistance movement, which aims to dismantle the Reorganization and give people freedom again. Kumori wants to join the movement as well, but she’s soon embroiled in the machinations of the secret police, whose ranks include her brother, Tsumori. He offers to get Kumori a good job and apartment in the cushy northern district, and she agrees, hoping to work undercover for the movement. Her exposure leads to a violent confrontation in which Lucky Cat shows her supernatural powers, growing to a gigantic size and destroying buildings. The adventure continues in further volumes. Much dystopian fiction can be heavy-handed, but Gray (Magic Hair, 2019, etc.) employs a spare, delicate style that’s effective, whether describing an interrogation, quiet scenes, or a huge cat’s rage: “Lucky Cat tore her way through the top few floors of that building, smashed the glass façade of the police station…with a kick of her hind leg and the whipping motion of her tail…shrieking as she went.” But the romance between Kumori and Chen is so understated as to seem anemic; what draws them together beyond happenstance? Chen’s comment, “Yeah, you’re cute enough,” is typical.
An absorbing, well-written blend of SF, surrealism, and Japanese magical-girl fantasy.