THE SACRED ERA by Yoshio Aramaki


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A surreal dystopian tale originally published in the 1970s is the Japanese author's first novel to be translated into English.

In the distant future, humankind has traveled to the furthest reaches of space, while civilization on Earth has regressed to a medievallike religious state. A student known only as K travels to the capital to sit for the Sacred Service Examination, a series of tests that will place him in a job inside the court of the Igitur, the papal government. To his surprise, he’s assigned to the enigmatic Planet Bosch Research Department. No one seems to know much about it, and the mystery only deepens as he begins his seemingly endless research. K starts delving into the secrets of the Igitur and of executed heretic Darko Dachilko, his connection to Planet Bosch, and even his connection to K. The story grows increasingly surreal and dreamlike, culminating in K’s arrival on the verdant Planet Bosch. Unfortunately, the book suffers from an artless translation, leading to tortured sentences such as: “ ‘That’s right,’ K says, his mouth full from the food his hands ply into it.” Worse still, the story highlights some of the worst tendencies of 1970s science fiction. The current convention offers organic worldbuilding which (ideally) unfolds with the story, but in this book, no facet of the fictional world goes unexplained, often through rambling conversations or long, quoted passages from in-universe books. Sex is thrown in randomly for no apparent reason, as when a beggar woman breast-feeds a starving K in an alarmingly erotic fashion. Not even inanimate objects are immune—a rocket is described as being “like a giant phallus ready to violate the heavens.” But Aramaki's treatment of female characters borders on abhorrent. Some are human, while others are clones or androids, but the only purpose any of them serve is to have sex with the male characters. In a particularly distasteful scene, a woman tearfully tells of having been repeatedly raped by multiple men from the age of 13 onward and, while still sobbing, is made to admit that she enjoyed it. By the next scene, she’s dead, and she’s rarely mentioned again.

A badly translated and misogynistic sci-fi relic.

Pub Date: June 13th, 2017
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2017


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