Insulting a Monk and Searching for a Gisaeng – Land, Vol.5, Part 4

I’m going to quickly finish up this volume of the second story arc of Kyeongni Park’s Land series (박경리의《토지》) this post so I can stay on schedule. Generally, I really like this second story arc better than the first since the second generation of characters has some nice moments and intriguing twists to their situations.

The next chapter of part 3, “Seokinyeo,” follows some new characters that I’m not interested in, so I’m going to skip that part. The following chapter, “Men,” returns to cover Hwan’s plotline, and he goes with Kansui to Yoon Tojip’s house where Yoon’s wife is having her 60th birthday party. The garden is peaceful and deserted, but they are drinking in the house. In reality, the special milestone birthday party is just a pretext for the Tonghak Party leadership to gather.

The room is wide, and ten or so people are sitting around it. Hwan and Kangsu sit down with them as Yang Jaegun opens the meeting with a speech. Yoon Tojip then speaks, and Kwansu rebuts his comments.

In the chapter “The Butcher’s Family,” this scene continues in the first segment with Hwan at Yoon Tojip’s house listening to an explanation of the Tonghak faith as well as details about the Tonghak party. However, the Tonghaks don’t attract as many people to their services as the Buddhist services do.

The second segment of the chapter features Yoon Tojip and Hyegwang requesting Kwansu help them find Bongsun. They ask if he knows where she is, and he says he knows her address. The house they are visiting has a garden with cows and cowhides, and Hyegwan repeats the Buddhist invocation to the bodhisattva Guanyin in response since he is most likely a vegetarian.  A young woman and child are in the kitchen. After discussing Bongsun, Kwansu asks the monk where he’d like to spend the night and if the butcher’s house would be okay. Hyegwang gets so angry, his face turns scarlet, and he calls Kwansu a fool over and over again. He rants about getting a knife and killing Kwansu, and one of them actually does grab a knife. Kwansu admits he made a mistake, and the scene ends with Hyegwan invoking Guanyin again.

In the final chapter of part 3, “Accompaniment,” the first of three scenes features Kihwa, which is Bongsun’s adult name as a gisaeng. She is going to Seoul searching for the city’s notable gisaeng house. Hyegwan sees her, and they chat. Sanghyeon also comes along and greets her, mentioning a letter he got requesting a meeting. In the next scene, it shifts to the previous night when Sanghyeon was looking for Kihwa with the help of Seo Widon. The two men argue and talk about Seohui and Gilsang’s marriage back at the Choi Champan household.

In segment 3, Kihwa and Hyegwan walk together on the road the next day. He has been in Seoul for five days and reflects upon her transformation into a gisaeng. She talks to her dead mother in a soliloquy, stating she wouldn’t have become a gisaeng had her mother still been alive but Bongsun had no one else to rely on. A whistle sounds, and there are farmers in the field. The characters plan on visiting Mount Myohyang when they return to Pyeongyang, though Hyegwan doesn’t explain to Kihwa why they will go there.

As an aside, let me note that Mount Myohyang is of course in modern day North Korea, and here is a tourist page with photos to get a feel for the location:

Part 4 starts off with the chapter, “Tomb on Mount Myohyang,” and the scene continues with Sanghyeon searching for Choi Seohui’s house. Hyegwan talks with him then escorts Kihwa to the Choi Champan house where Seohui is reading the paper. Seohui sees them approach, and they chat. When she invites them in and they sit down, she asks if they encountered any trouble on the road, and they explain that they want to go north to Mount Myohyang. Seohui asks why, and it turns out they are looking for her mother Byeoldangasshi’s grave there. Seohui turns a bit cold at this news and wants to know why they are looking for that. She also reminisces a bit about seeing Hyegwan running errands when her grandmother Wife Yoon took the palanquin to visit Monk Wugwan at the temple.

Hyegwan makes a comment about drawing a picture of the thousand handed Guanyin at the temple for Monk Wugwan, and he asks where Gilsang is, but Seohui says Gilsang isn’t there at the moment. My readers may recall that Gilsang grew up in the temple and painted their icons, so the connection between his thought and Gilsang is rather natural. However, her guests are shocked since they expected Gilsang to be home after news of their marriage.

Seohui asks the monk if he’d like to go to the detached house and rest then surmises correctly that Bongsun is now a gisaeng, which they cry a little over. Kihwa says someone, maybe Gilsang, went to Seoul because he was going to Japan to study. None of the dialogue is tagged here as usual, and it’s hard to figure out who is talking and who is being referred to. The word 그분은 is used here to make matters worse, and it translates to maybe “him” but definitely “that person.” Vague, but interesting. They talk about Seoul and their memories for a bit, and soon dinner is served.  During the lively conversation at dinner, one of the women refuses to continue on with the group to Mount Myohyang.

In the next chapter, “Meeting,” the story shifts to Gilsang for two scenes. In the first scene, he returns to an inn in Hanyang, or Seoul, after having dinner. I don’t know why they switched to the city’s old name suddenly or if it’s a proper name of the inn itself rather than the city. A servant tells him not to come to Huiryeong.  Gilsang is lonely even though he is now married and part of a couple. Although a loving person, Choi Seohui is now a lonely wife. Okineo comes to talk with him a little about her child Oki. They are interrupted by a visit from Monk Kohyang, who brings news of Bongsun.

In the second scene, Gilsang talks with Wolseon over drinks, and she mentions that Bongsun has arrived in town with Monk Hyegwan.  Gilsang goes to Monk Hyegwan’s rooms and meets with Bongsun and surprise guest Seohui, who has traveled with them to see him and arrived unannounced.  Gilsang is dumbfounded to see her there and approaches the room where the women are waiting to see him in a cold sweat. Before the end of the chapter, he gets to talk with Bongsun about her new life in Jinju even as he and Seohui look at one another.

Gilsang Visiting With Seohui and Kihwa

In “Tenacity and Solitude,” Kihwa and Seohui are outside together, discussing whether they should visit the temple and mentioning something going on with Kim Hunjang.  Nothing really happens, and Gilsang is not present. The women just spend time together.

In the chapter’s second scene, Kihwa meets up with Wolseon, Yong Lee and Imineo. I’m skipping that scene and the last three chapters since they follow different characters whose storyline I’m not as interested in. Then in “Father and Son,” it shifts to a nameless father and son talking about the king among other minor characters.

The last chapter returns to the strange love triangle between Yoon Yibyeong, Geumnyeo, and Kim Dusu. It goes into how Yoon Yibyeong was excited about finding Geumnyeo but felt disillusioned with her since he’s a timid sort of man. She was sympathetic to him since she escaped Kim Dusu’s pursuit, and the chapter here mainly focuses on their relationship with the school. Geumnyeo ends up teaching hangul at a Korean school in Yeonchu. Yoon Yibyeong goes to the school, though it may not be the same one, and he writes a letter. Geumnyeo enters the classroom later, and they talk about how they are a couple now and whether their relationship is secret since it’s illicit. At the end of the book, the last few sentences describe how Geumnyeo picks up her shawl and leaves, while Yoon Yibyeong goes to Yeonchu the next day.   

Part four of a six part series.

Next time: We return to China with the telenovel Princess Returning Pearl!

Posted in Korea, Literati Corner | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Mendicant Priest With the Gong and the False Heir – Land, Vol.5, Part 3

Next, we turn to the second story arc of Kyeongni Park’s Land series (박경리의《토지》), and volume 5 consists of three parts. The first part is the final chapter of Part 2 “Love and Hate” from volume 4, which covers “Seohui’s Hospitalization.” Part three has nine chapters and is titled “Jirisan Men,” and part 4, “Yongjingcun, China & Seoul”, has only six chapters. Like all of the books in this abridged version for teens, the volume is only around 200 pages.

In “Seohui’s Hospitalization,” the volume starts off with a short scene with Gilsang and Seohui at the hospital in Huiryeong. An attendant is putting sterilized gauze on a wound, and Gilsang is talking with Seohui, though she doesn’t remember fainting and being injured. Gilsang tells her not to move and prepares to sit by her overnight.

As she sleeps, he listens to her breathe. The attendant comes in at dawn and greets him, asking Gilsang if Seohui will become his wife. When Gilsang leaves the hospital, he meets Wolseon outside, and she tells him she met someone odd on the road who reminded her of Kim Pyeongsan who had already been dead 10 years. She said the man’s name was Mr. Yoon.

In the next segment of the chapter, the story turns to Yoon Yibyeong and Kim Dusu as the men head toward a traditional inn together, talking about Wolseon and the shaman’s household. They mention Iminyeo having Wolseon’s former love Lee Hong’s son and how ugly and fated that was. When they arrive at the inn, they get a drinking table and talk about an assortment of women, including Choi Seohui who they note lives in Pyeongsari and doesn’t typically come to Yongjing, then their paramour Geumnyeo whom they are fighting over.

The next part begins with the chapter “The Mendicant Priest With The Gong” as Chang Deokkung and Kyeong Bokkung gather in the morning in Gahoe-dong in Seoul. It’s still breakfast, and a guest has come looking for one of the monks. A monk is sitting near a paulownia tree, but Lee Sanghyeon goes in and sits down at a desk to read a book. He does meet with the monk Hyegwan, and they discuss Seohui as well as others in the Choi Champan household, mentioning Bongsun’s stay at the temple and noting that Seohui is already twenty and is still unmarried. They discuss her marriage to Gilsang. By the end of the chapter, Sanghyeon goes with the monk to the Namdaemun district to drink with him.

The next chapter, “Ferryboat,” shows Hyegwan boarding the ferry and sitting down in it. Someone asks the monk if he’s comfortable, and Hyegwan tells him not to be late. Three farmers are also on board the ferry when it sets sail. They talk with a character named Bonggi, while Hanbok from earlier volumes, now twenty, is also on the boat, thinking about his dead mother. The ferry docks in Pyeongsari, and Bonggi and Hanbok get off. Hyegwan watches them walk along the bank toward the village road in the distance. The farmers sit and smoke, continuing their conversation, while Hyegwan looks out over the valley where Hwan lives and picks up his pace.

In “Sangcheongjang’s Murder,” Hyegwan sees Hwan at midnight on a windy night. This first segment of the chapter is short and expresses regret. The second section shows Monk Wugwan talking with Hyegwan in a low voice about Wife Yoon and the Choi Champan household. I guess Wife Yoon left the Choi Champan estate to her son Hwan, which they are explaining to him now. He just listens to them without commenting. They do acknowledge that Seohui has the status as the sole blood heir of the Chois, while Hwan is the son of Wife Yoon’s rapist, Monk Wugwan’s brother. Then the conversation turns to the slaughter of the Tonghak Army and the skill of the legendary Hong Gildong.

In the chapter’s final segment, Hyegwan and Hwan leave for Kangsui’s straw-thatched house where they have breakfast and meet Cheon Sebang. Kangsui and Gwan go into the mountains and stop at a peddler’s inn late at night.  They drink and talk about the troubles with the Tonghak army. A strange rumor spreads about a Japanese robbing a store and tying up a couple, and there is a stabbing as a result.

The next chapter, “The Colony’s Young Men,” starts off with a group who just ended a Japanese lesson in the main or men’s quarters of the household of Hwang Chunbae. The house’s owner, Hwang T’aesu, is dressed in a traditional Korean overcoat and trousers, which at this point in time isn’t automatically done as more modern, Western fashions have also taken hold. Three men are in Hwang T’aesu’s room, and Im Myeongbin is the Japanese language teacher. This section gets into Im Myeongbin’s father working as an official government interpreter at the time Cho Junggu was around. The story then connects the characters Hwang Chunbae, T’aesu’s father, with Cho Junggu, who borrowed money from him using his land title as security. By the end of the chapter, the men talk about seeing a beautiful woman.

In “Kihwa,” the story develops in three more segments where Sanghyeon returns to Seoul and hears about finding Bongsun at a gisaeng house in Jinju. Kim Sebang joins him in checking out the theory. Hyegwan had heard the news and hoped to meet Bongsun at the temple, but she doesn’t come.

When Sanghyeon and Eoksui reach an inn on the road, they only stay the night and push on to Jinju, staying at Yeonhong’s house. They go to the old gisaeng house to find Bongsun but are told at first she isn’t there, but she calls out to them herself from the garden. The door suddenly opens, and she cries when she sees him. They go into a room and sit down opposite one another to talk. The third segment, now with stormy weather moving in, continues with Bongsun, who is now known as Kihwa and lives in Seoul with the character Seo Widon.  

Next time, we’ll finish up this volume.

Part three of a six part series.

Posted in Korea, Literati Corner | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Battle in the Underground Well and Storming the Irie Clinic – The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai, Vol.3, Part 2

This week, I’m wrapping up the rest of Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 3 (竜騎士07の”ひぐらしのなく頃に解:祭囃し編 (下)”).  Most of this just follows the anime, though I think it has much more detail where the Yamainu is concerned. The Yamainu is made up of Ogonoki and many others who have the code names of Phoenix, Skylark, White Heron, and 鶑 paired with a number. I can’t find that latter character in any dictionary, so it must be pretty obscure unless it’s too small to see where the lines really are attached.

The place where we left off last time picks up with Rika and Shion discussing a popular song on the radio and observing a car accident. Kasai, their driver, slows down and exclaims that it’s Dr. Irie. They debate whether they should go to the clinic or to the Sonozaki house to hide out. Later, the Yamainu turn their attention to the Sonozoki house.

It comes out in the next scene that both the Sonozoki house and the clinic have underground rooms, but the kids go to the secure underground shrine at the Sonozokis’. The scenes rapidly switch between the perspectives of the kids and the Yamainu at this point.  The Yamainu prepare a plastic bomb to break into their hiding place and discuss Rika and her friends. The blast, which would be heard throughout the village, was set for 10 o’clock.

Meanwhile, in the underground room, each of the kids goes down a ladder deeper into a cave while Mion shines a light down for them. Irie and Tomitake don’t go down with them. The Yamainu also has some access to the cave apparently through a small hole that they flash a beam into. I think they can hear the kids talking, too.

Rika begs Akasaka to help them, and he eventually engages in a karate fight with Ogonoki that Rika witnesses somehow for a few scenes. It’s very detailed. Rika applauds Akasaka’s attempts. Eventually, Shion is told that Satoshi, Satoko’s older brother whom she was in love with before his disappearance, is still alive in the underground facility at the clinic. Irie admits that the boy is still alive, however, while they could cure Satoko’s Hinamizawa Syndrome with medication, Satoshi’s case proved more difficult to deal with.

One of the many nice interior sketches

There are more sections with Takano’s side of the plot dealing with the Yamainu and Nomura in Tokyo. The next one shows the Yamainu talking about her, referring to her as “the princess” and referencing another call from Nomura to her. Takano goes into a meeting with Tomitake where she tells him she planned to kill him that night, but rather than alarming him, they talk about a lot of different things like if she’s satisfied and the money she received. He also brings up her former life under another name, Miyoko Tanashi, the little girl she was before her parents died. Takano ponders if that girl will ever return.

The rest of this chapter then goes back and forth between scenes of the Yamainu on the mountain starting their hunt for the children, who are now their primary enemies, and the kids setting traps and getting help from a number of adult men who are either policemen or bodyguards. The movements of individual Yamainu agents are also tracked in this sequence.

The chapter “Storming the Irie Clinic” starts with Mion talking about surveillance with Tomitake on the mountain, but ultimately Irie, Kasai, Shion and Akasaka go to the clinic to try to get in. They think the Yamainu should be there since it would normally be examination day, and the group plots how they can get into the underground facility at the clinic where Satoshi is supposedly staying.  The four of them do eventually reach the entrance to the underground facility and go in, but it sets off a siren, forcing them to fight their way to Satoshi through a spray of bullets. Shion is very grateful when they reach him. At the end of the chapter, they try to figure out how to keep him safe for the duration of the conflict.    

The next couple of short chapters returns to Takano at the foot of the mountain and gives a blow by blow narration of the kids fighting with the Yamainu. The group from the Irie Clinic also returns to join the fight there.  The story concludes with a two page black and white drawing of the back of the group of kids clearly emerging as the winners against the authorities in their battle with Takano.

Sketch depicting the children’s win

Following this climax, there is a long section titled “The Cotton-Drifting Festival” that details the outcome of each of the protagonists once the festival is held without further disruption after the battle. Brief mention is also made of the Self-Defense Forces who intervened in the situation from their base camp on Mt. Fuji; I seem to recall when I was reading one of the novels from an early story arc that Hinamizawa is actually situated in the region near Nagoya, so that’s not outrageously far for troops to come from Mt. Fuji to deal with the crisis. The summer ends, and Mion and Keiichi are back in school studying. Satoshi never recovers from Hinamizawa Syndrome, though Shion stays at his side. There was talk of shutting down the Irie Clinic even though Dr. Irie was still respected by the villagers. It reviews the fate of all three policemen, Tomitake and even Hanyuu before it finishes with a reflection on the events of Showa 58.

Then we have two poems by Frederica Bernkastel on opposing pages, one black and one white. The first one with the black background starts off with “Everyone has the right to be happy,” while the second one with the white background starts off with “But from now on there are things that will make you increasingly happy.” So they are concerned with finally reaching the resolution of Rika’s repeating struggles against Takano through multiple timelines and defeating her fate of dying as a murder victim while in middle school.

The end of the novel has a lot of short, interesting sections, starting with “The Irie Facility Coup d’Etat Incident Report (Draft),” which is a disciplinary committee report signed off on by the mysterious Nomura from Tokyo. It has a lot of short sections detailing the background issues of Manual 34 and the money Major Takano and First Lieutenant Ogonoki were getting, among other details about the clinic and its major players, including Irie himself though he turned on them in the end.

Takano is turned over to a disciplinary committee to determine her punishment while she is recovering from a serious illness after her capture. Ogonoki’s unspecified punishment is mitigated by the fact he cooperated with the committee and explained what happened. Irie is merely dismissed as clinic director with no further details provided. I personally think all of that sounds pretty tepid in response to their crazy plot, but then this timeline didn’t result in them actually implementing Manual 34 and killing the whole village like the other story arcs show. Therefore, it’s a little difficult to process that ending since the readers should have had the gruesome murders and high body count burned into their brains by now.  This story’s presentation really plays with the reader’s emotions in an effective way, but now it’s a letdown to some degree with the single storyline where the deaths don’t happen. That’s what good horror is supposed to do, but can you imagine if the last story arc was the only one telling the whole story? It’s the multiple false narratives that give it the necessary weight and drama by the final resolution.

Next, we have the author’s brief commentary on the epilogue about Rika’s family called “The Dice Killing Chapter” as well as a word about how strong faith led to a happy world for Showa 58, concluding after 100 years for Rika and 1,000 for Hanyu.

There’s a bonus section after the author’s afterword that has a couple of provocative segments. The first segment is titled “A Forbidden Treasure ‘The Demon Hunting Willow Cherry,’” and it features a special item from the age of the gods stored in the Furude shrine’s ritual tool shed. This item was a special sword handed down from a time when humans and demons mixed on earth, and it had demon-destroying power.  This section goes deeper into the treasure’s relationship to banned books and the Furude clan.

The second and final section of the novel is “Children’s Lunch Flag” where a young Miyoko, Miyo Takano when she was a child before her family tragedy, is at home and is considering going with her parents to the department store on the train instead of playing with her friends. She is only called “Miyoko” in the dialogue once, but everywhere else in the long series of passages, she is referred to as “the girl.” She is playing a game with flags and a secret fortress, but in the end she decides to go on the outing with her parents and departs with them to the train station. The story cuts off there, though in the anime, we see Miyoko with Frederica Bernkastel (say Furude Rika really fast to get Frederica, because this is some spiritual, future version of Rika in her adult form) as she makes this same decision to go along with her parents in the accident that killed them instead of staying behind like she did in all of the other timelines and surviving them. It’s a dramatic if more enigmatic ending to the novel.

Now that we’ve finished this series, I’m going to amend my 2019 schedule since I’m falling behind and will skip the next volume of Queen Seondok until 2020 to try to catch up. Next, I will return to the Literati Corner.

Part two of a two part series.

Posted in Japan | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Forty-Eight Hour War Proclamation – The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai, Vol.3, Part 1

We finally make it to the third volume of the trilogy in the story arc of Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter (竜騎士07の”ひぐらしのなく頃に解:祭囃し編 (下)”).   This is something like the 16th book out of 16 covering the main anime storyline and not counting periphery books in the series. It runs 422 pages and was published in 2009.

The bunko pocket edition in Japanese is available here:

This is the link to the Kodansha boxed edition that I’m actually reading:

It opens with a color foldout poster of all of the characters:

I almost got the whole page on this scan

I couldn’t quite fit the whole thing on the scan, but the painting has a rather apocalyptic feel with the fiery red sky behind the cast.

Unlike a lot of the volumes in the series, this one ends with two poems from Frederica Bernkastel rather than starting off with them, so I’ll address those in the second installment of this series. The chapter titles are mostly dates with many subchapter titles merely referencing this or that character’s “turn” in the story. So let’s start by covering the first chapter, June 17th .

The first segment starts off with someone telling Rika and Satoko to guard against getting a summer cold since the Cotton-Drifting Festival and Rika’s duties as shrine maiden are coming up.  The speaker is eventually identified as their friend Mion. The scene then shifts to detail the treatment schedule and staff breaks at the Irie Clinic.

In the middle of the segment, there is more talk about Hinamizawa Syndrome and Takano’s grandfather’s research, but the most jarring aspect to me is the way the two names of Takano and Takano are juxtaposed. Since they are now at this point of the story written differently and set together, it almost serves as a reminder that Takano Miyo has moved very far away from the spirit and goals of her grandfather’s original research, but this contrast is in the subtext each time this theme is brought up in the book. It comes up a lot in the portion I’m covering today. Then this section also mentions how Rika and Satoko have no relatives left.

The third segment shows the Yamainu military group head Ogonoki talking on the phone with Takano, discussing how today is the beginning of some sort of surveillance. After he hangs up the receiver, he thinks about Takano’s mood and the front company landscaping business office they have in the nearby city of Okinomiya. Then he discusses more about this surveillance plan while referring to the other members of the Yamainu, who oddly have bird-related code names like “phoenix” and “white heron.” You would think with a collective name like the Yamainu, which is a type of wild dog in Japan, they would have canine names or something. The Yamainu is described in this section as a different sort of combat unit that has gathered an assortment of technical specialists.

Ogonoki has orders to install equipment to tap the phones, conduct surveillance, gather intelligence, and manage disinformation. At the very end of this segment, someone tells him he has a call on an outside line from party head Nomura, who doesn’t otherwise have a big role in the story.

In the next chapter titled “Akasaka’s Turn,” Satoko has set traps around the small house the night before and has them all mapped out. She hears the crash of a basin fall, and the sound frightens her.  They know the little house is under surveillance. Rika is sitting on the futon when the phone suddenly rings a long time then stops. Then girls go to sleep.

Irie eventually talks with the girls at the door, saying he’s on his rounds checking on the heads of households, and he admonishes them to speak softly due to the dangerous surveillance they have to contend with.  After they invite him in, they have a light meal while talking more about a whole range of topics: the phone and the surveillance, Takano, how Rika is no longer comfortable coming to the clinic, and Tomitake beginning his secret investigation. 

They acknowledge that Takano and the Yamainu are Rika’s enemies and ponder Takano’s connection to Hinamizawa’s string of strange deaths. The conversation turns to the subject of the Cotton-Drifting Festival the next night.  One of them calls Takano a scary woman. For some reason, they bring up Professor Takano’s adoption of Takano Miyo as a child, too, and his Hinamizawa Syndrome research. Tomitake is searching for evidence of her research scheme, and they discuss a method to communicate by phone in spite of the surveillance. 

We have a long chapter, “The Club Members’ Meeting,” where Mion and Rika are talking at the Sonozaki house. Most of the village’s school children are present, including Hanyuu, the spirit helping Rika. The conversation starts out about punishment games and regular club activities and turns to the subject of Akasaka and Tomitake’s missions. They are hopeful for victory against Rika’s enemies this time since they have set traps on the far side of the mountain and have a secret base underground at Mion’s house.  The plan includes taking advantage of the idea that Rika is the queen carrier of the Hinamizawa Syndrome and that 48 hours after her death the villagers were expected to go crazy. The group has a decoy in place to make this death look real, and this is the time frame they are using to trick Takano. The club meeting ends up just being a rehash of their plan to defeat fate and Takano.

In the next chapter, “Tomitake’s Turn,” 1st Lieutenant Tomitake answers the phone and identifies himself. In this part of the story, he and Takano Miyo are frequently referred to by their military ranks. Tomitake is talking to someone about Major Takano and the investigation into transactions involving the Irie Institute’s operating fund. I’m not sure exactly who he is talking to, but they also discuss Takano’s relationship to old Professor Takano’s friend Koizumi-san and how Koizumi had provided funding for Major Takano.

Chapter 2 and the chapter’s first segment have the same title, “June 18th, Saturday,” and the scene begins at the Furude Shrine grounds where preparations are being made for the upcoming festival.  School is out, and Rika is home. Cars bring tents to the site while Rika talks with Irie again about her and Satoko possibly catching a cold. It seems like the village head and Oryou Sonozaki also make an appearance, though they are just called in the dialogue by name. One thing about these Japanese light novels generally is that they are very sparse on exposition or description and are very heavy on dialogue, so they move fast and are kind of confusing about who is talking since not much is tagged with speaker names.

Then the subject of the curse comes up since the villagers are worried about it. Dr. Irie asks Oryou which girl she would rely upon, Rika or Satoko, and he brings up the dam project and the Houjous’ position opposing the village community on it. Surprisingly, Oryou expresses some warmth toward Satoko by the end of the passage. Rika thinks to herself that she hopes Takano’s schemes to raise the specter of Oyashiro-sama’s curse will come to nothing and that five years will be the end of it.     

The next few sections cycle through the various key adult players, turning to Detective Ooishi, his close colleague at the police station Kumagaya Katsuya and Tokyo rookie Akasaka before pivoting to Takano thinking again about immortalizing herself, her adopted grandfather and his research. The end of her segment has Takano talking to party head Nomura on the phone.

In “Irie’s Turn,” Irie explains to Akasaka the meaning of the 48 Hour War Proclamation, and Akasaka learns he will meet with Ooishi that night and that the plan will be set in motion in the morning.  They hope to meet again late at night on Sunday.  Akasaka expresses some concern about being able to connect with his wife Yukie since I think he calls her every night. They also discuss the weather for the festival set for Saturday.      

In the segment “Forty-Eight Hour War Proclamation,” Oiishi and Rika talk about the members of their team and fighting the enemy. This section ends with the them wondering whether they or Takano will win tomorrow.

The next chapter, chapter 3, is titled “June 19th, Sunday. ” The first subheading is short, and it has a very brief segment at the beginning talking about the sliver of time between late at night until morning. The night is tranquil, but suddenly we are in the office of the Ogonoki Landscaping Company where someone is playing Hanafuda at the reception desk.  The phone rings, and whoever is there answers it. I don’t see any particular name given for which character, though I may just not be recognizing it in the text.

The second segment in this section returns to Takano, who is rushing to an underground security room. Someone briefs her on the fact that the queen carrier has been dead in the custody of someone in Okinomya for forty eight hours, and Takano is in a panic. The information has been passed on to Takano’s team by an informant in the city, which seems to be the person at the Ogonoki Landscaping business. Meanwhile, in the middle of the crisis, Takano gets a call from Nomura in Tokyo. Things are unraveling for her now. The section’s third segment returns to the landscaping business again briefly.

The story stalls a bit in Okinomiya  where Detective Kumagaya is at the Communication Center with his fellow officers, then Tomitake takes another official call about the Yamainu and Rika Furude’s body being held for 48 hours now. The apparent death will now kick in the implementation of emergency manual 34 to protect the peace of Hinamizawa.

But in the next part, Ogonoki and the Yamainu go to Tomitake’s hotel room, which is under surveillance from the outside. They assume he’s still asleep because they can’t hear any sound in the room. However, when they break in, Tomitake isn’t there. We then get a long scene between Ooishi and another minor police character named Ootaka. I’m going to stop there today and pick it up next time to finish out the series. This series will only be two parts so I can get caught up on this year’s reading schedule since I’m falling behind.

Part one of a two part series.

Posted in Japan | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Death of a Little Bird – Land, Vol.4, Part 2

This will be a quick interim post continuing to look at Kyeongni Park’s Land series (박경리의《토지》). We’re in the second story arc, picking up the narrative with chapter six, “Jeongho’s Question.” This chapter follows some new characters, but it’s really interesting. It starts off with Song Janghwan asking an audience if they know how big the nation used to be, pointing out the land mass of ancient Goguryo on a map. He is in a classroom and has put the maps for Joseon and Manchuria on the board as he talks about their ancestors.

This chapter also includes discussions on the Independence Movement and its activists, the state and king. They ponder how to school their children and the issue of Joseon writing versus its spoken language before the text gets into details about the school they are visiting, which has students from ages 10 to 15.

In the next chapter, “Death of a Small Bird,” the story returns to familiar character Gilsang and is split into two scenes. In the first scene, Gilsang is walking with Song Janghwan and talking about school matters and the children’s behavior. He returns to an inn in Hanyang, or maybe Huiryeong. I’m not really sure where Huiryeong is, but it seems to be near Hanyang, and it’s a major setting in the novel. Gilsang goes to his room at the inn and begins to read the paper. A female attendant comes in, and Gilsang is moved by her great beauty as she arranges his mattress and coverlet. He drinks to his heart’s content while it rains hard outside.

In the chapter’s second scene the following day, the rain has stopped. A child named Oki has some medical problem and reminds Gilsang of an oriole chick he took in the year before during the rainy summer. In a flashback scene, he finds the chick starving to death in the forest and brings it home. Feeding it sesame powder, he’s concerned it will get an upset stomach if it eats too much. He names it Nari and observes the bird likes grasshoppers and earthworms.  When he walks through the grasslands at night, he hears the sound of the grasshoppers singing in the bushes. Earthworms wiggle under his finger when he looks for them. However, in spite of his efforts, the chick ultimately dies.

Returning to the present with Kim Hunjang and Oki, they are concerned that Oki is eating enough. The next day it rains again. Gilsang watches the downpour from the garden, thinking about the death of his pet bird, the death of the grasshoppers, and comparing their deaths to Oki’s situation. This whole chapter has a nicely meditative feel and is one of my favorites. The illustration supports the mood perfectly, too.

Chapter eight, “Sanghyeon Returns to Home, ” begins with a contrast. This scene takes place in bright sunshine. A man is coming down the road, and Seohui appears at the door to the women’s quarters to greet him. When the man Sanghyeon arrives, she asks if Gilsang is with him, but he tells her Gilsang went to Huiryeong. They sit down together, and she pulls out a drinking table where she places two cups. As they have a drink together, he mentions Gilsang heard news that her mother Byeoldangasshi has returned, but they change the subject fairly quickly, talking about the state of the country and finding a suitable husband for Seohui. She whispers Gilsang’s name as her best prospect, but he laughs at her because GIlsang is from the servant class and she is aristocracy. She turns pale.

When Sanghyeon leaves, he doesn’t return to the house that night. It seems he stays at the school, and he talks with Song Janghwan the next day. Song Janghwan questions him about his whereabouts the night before, but Sanghyeon avoids answering him. The next day, Song Janghwan gets a letter from Sanghyeon, who has apparently moved on. The scene ends with Song Janghwan putting the letter on his desk and going out for a smoke.

In chapter nine, “Butterfly on a Summer Night,” Gilsang is back in town, and he and Seohui are sitting on the floor. Their meeting is tense, and Seohui wonders if she made a mistake. They talk for awhile about Wolseon’s shop before Gilsang goes out into the street. He notices that something odd is going on between Seohui and Sanghyeon, but meanwhile he has met the woman Okineo in Huiryeong. Out in the street, Gilsang takes the route running between of a dozen or so shops and meets Kong Noin. The chapter’s second scene continues with Kong Noin, Imineo and Lee Hong.

Part 2 of this volume is titled “Love and Hate” and also has nine chapters.  Its first chapter, “Wicked Business,” features the New Citizens’ Association, which was organized in 1907 to oppose Japanese rule and founded its own school. Indeed, we return in this part to Song Janghwan, who was shown at a school a few chapters back. Some of the names checked in the chapter intro include historical members of this association.

The school is set up in military style to form students to work in the independence movement, and around 600 members of the movement have been arrested from Joseon, so trouble is always swirling around them. A servant tells Song Janghwan that a guest has arrived, and Song Janghwan asks who it is. It seems a new teacher, Yoon Yibyeong, has come to the school.

When he meets Yoon Yibyeong, Song Janghwan suggests they go for a walk along the river, and they talk about money. Yoon Yibyeong asks for an advance of 20 won on his salary, which Song Janghwan agrees to.  It turns out Yoon Yibyeong had hoped to get married three years earlier to a woman named Shim Gumnyeo, which could literally translate to golden girl. Her father was a drunk and a gambler, and Yoon Yibyeong needs the money as a ransom for her. She may have been kidnapped, if I’m understanding this right.  It turns out she is with Kim Dusu (whom we knew in the first story arc as Kim Keobok, son of Kim Pyeongsan), so Yoon Yibyeong goes to his house. Kim Dusu punches Yoon Yibyeong in the jaw, but they start to drink and talk about Gumnyeo outside afterward.

The next chapter, “By the Sea,” continues this storyline, though it appears Kim Dusu and Gumnyeo are now in Hunchun, a city in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China up near modern North Korea and Russia. He discusses with someone whether they are married, and the text mentions Kim Dusu’s unpleasant appearance, though Gumnyeo also is hardly considered a beauty. They eventually arrive at an inn and are in town to meet his nephew, but the impression I’m left with is that she isn’t exactly with him voluntarily. By the end of the chapter, she has been taken away by two men, and Kim Dusu is searching for her.

The next few chapters follow the storyline of Lee Yong and his family and friends, but I’m going to skip that part of the story for this volume.

Chapter 6, “Dividing a Dedicated Heart, ” starts off with Seohui upset at hearing reports that Gilsang has taken a woman with him to Huiryeong. However, Gilsang never promised to marry Okineo and hasn’t thought seriously about taking Okineo  as a marriage partner, but rumors are still spreading about them, and they have gotten back to Seohui. Although she still has some relationship with Gilsang, Seohui feels very jealous, defeated and hateful over the situation.

The scene rapidly shifts as Seohui goes to the school to visit Yoon Yibyeong.  Meanwhile, Gilsang returns to the inn in Huiryeong and begins to read a book he borrowed from Song Janghwan called “The Revolutionary Army.” He has a meal before leaving the inn.

By the end of the volume, Seohui hears that Gilsang is ill, and so she goes to the inn in Huiryeong to find out the details. When she angers Gilsang, she then goes to find Okineo.

So far I think this is the volume I have liked the best in the saga. Next time on the Literati Corner break, I’ll move on to the next volume to continue the story.

Part two of a six part series.

Posted in Korea, Literati Corner | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New Lucky Cat Promo Posters and My 2019 Summer-Winter Schedule Update

I have two new posters for The Lucky Cat Series done. Both are from Volume 3.

I have a total of six posters in this series, so I have two more to finish before I move on. Next, I have some updates to my schedule of appearances:

July 26th-28th Confluence, Coraopolis, PA  

I’ll be doing a book signing Saturday, a reading Sunday morning from Lucky Cat and the Snow Maiden’s Vengeance and will be on the panel later that day on “History and Myth in Fantasy”

August 1st Monroeville Library, Monroeville, PA at 7PM

I’ll be speaking on the topic, “The Great Asian Space Race”

August 9th-11th Steel City Con, Monroeville, PA

August 16-18 Matsuricon, Columbus, OH

I’ll be speaking on the topics of the Ainu and Toho Studios

September 7th Beaver Book Fest, Beaver , PA

Beaver County BookFest

December 6-8th Steel City Con, Monroeville, PA

I’ll add more dates as they come up. Sorry about the crazy links in this post, but I can’t fix the error.

Posted in Introduction | Leave a comment

A Meeting in a Golden Wheat Field and the Telling of Fairy Tales – Death’s End, Remembrance of Earth, Book 3, Part 3

This time I’m going to wrap up Death’s End or Dead End (刘慈欣的”地球往事:死神永生”), the third book in the Remembrance of Earth Chinese science fiction series by Cixin Liu. It is available in English, so whatever I don’t get to you can check out in the translation.

Part II moves on to the “Broadcast Era,” which should be around 2277 AD, and this chapter focuses on Cheng Xin. At this point, Cheng Xin and Ai AA have been living in Australia for 6 years already. Cheng Xin has become a tycoon in the field of near earth orbit space construction, but she has a disease that the medicine of the day can only cure once her clone is ready, but it will still take five more years. The first section also describes the crazy behavior of a public order army, which has the power to try people in court. The narrative breaks briefly with another italicized excerpt, this one on an inquiry into the dark forest theory.  Luoji caused the destruction of a fixed star system during this experiment, which is examined here.  This chapter ends when Cheng Xin is awakened by the phone. It’s Fuleisa, one of her former roommates.

The next chapter is still set in the same year but focuses on Tomoko, who turns out to be quite a significant character, and it starts with another italicized excerpt.  After a quick pass discussing Luoji fighting the 3 Bodies System, this whole section mostly is interested in Cheng Xin and Tomoko having tea together. There is an excerpt talking about the Japanese tea ceremony, the solitary arts, and safety statements. Then Cheng Xin gets another call from Fuleisa.

Two days later, Cheng Xin and Luoji go to visit Tomoko, who has announced she intends to depart. They have tea again and sit quietly together.  This chapter ends with Tomoko telling Cheng Xin cryptically that Yun Tianming, who was euthanized in the beginning of the book, wants to see her.

The next chapter subheading opens another really interesting storyline. It’s the same year as the previous chapter, only focusing on the deceased Yun Tianming. We start off with an excerpt “Endless Staircase,” which mentions Yun Tianming is existing outside of his body in the first fleet of 3 Bodies and that his brain would be transplanted into a cloned body. He sees Cheng Xin at some point.

In the next scene, we see Cheng Xin in a spaceship where she can see the sun and star clusters through the windows, and she has a video and audio recorder that somehow accesses memories. She sees a man walking in a golden wheat field. It’s Yun Tianming in his full body wearing a golden jacket. His pants are covered up by the wheat, and his face looks young and tanned. He greets her. It has been three centuries since the met last time. He tells her a children’s story called “The Emperor’s New Painter” before she awakes from the dream and returns to the ship. The chapter ends with a scene of Tomoko at a villa, contemplating the interaction of the 3 Bodies and earth worlds.

The following chapter escalates this narrative by using the title “Yun Tianming’s Fairy Tales.” It presents three fairy tales he tells Cheng Xin in italics at the first meeting of the Intelligence Analysis Committee, also known as the IDC. There are thirty people at the meeting, and two of them are Common Era people who participated in the executioner selection:  accelerator engineer Bi Yunfeng and physicist Cao Bin.  They have lived under Tomoko’s surveillance for three hundred years. Cheng Xin addresses the meeting, and they talk a little about Yun Tianming’s compilation of children’s tales from the Crisis Era. The narrative then presents each of Yun Tianming’s stories, which are interconnected. Each story runs about 10 pages. The first one is “The Emperor’s New Painter,” the second one is “Taotie Sea,” and the third one is “Prince Deep Water.” 

The first story establishes that the emperor has three children, two princes, Prince Deep Water and Prince Slushie, and one princess, Princess Dewdrop. Prince Deep Water goes to the Taotie Sea, but the Emperor recognizes that Prince Slushie is very violent and chooses his daughter Princess Dewdrop as his successor to become queen after him instead. Prince Slushie then decides to help his father select a new painter since the current court painter is getting too old. The prince introduces the new painting master, Zhenyan.

We get a description of him painting a snowscape for the Emperor, but really Zhenyan and Prince Slushie are interested in painting Princess Dewdrop. The princess wakes up from a dream and goes to her chamber door, but her aunt is already there with the palace guard head and Painter Kongling. Her attendants are concerned about Prince Slushie and Zhenyan’s interest in her. There’s a lot of discussion about an umbrella or parasol here that I don’t quite get the significance of, but in the end, Zhenyan does complete her portrait.

In the second fairy tale, the story seems to continue uninterrupted with the palace guard head and the princess. There is still concern about the painting of the princess, but they start talking about her brother Prince Deep Water, speculating why he went to the island and how he was considered a monster or a giant, though her Aunt objects to these characterizations.  The princess wants to leave the palace, but her attendants are even more concerned since an evil monster known as the taotie is believed to live in the waters. Still, she goes to the seashore.  By the end of the second fairy tale, they decide Prince Deep Water likely won’t return with them to the palace.

The third fairy tale continues with the princess by the sea. She sees her brother Prince Deep Water on a small island, though he is a giant. She calls to him, and they chat. She explains that she’s about to be made queen but doesn’t want to be.  She wants to travel the seas with him instead.

After this final story is related, the people in the IDC meeting start talking and thinking deeply about the meaning of Yun Tianming’s fairy tale world. AA says she thinks the princess resembles Cheng Xin. The next day, the IDC analyzes the stories comprehensively. Then the chapter turns to another italicized excerpt on the “Bunker Plan – Earth’s Cultural Ark.” There’s an outline here of topics relating to predictions of the solar system’s dark forest attack, the need for a deliverer of the masses of people, the abandonment of humanity, fleeing the star boundaries, etc. This part gets into the interstellar interactions between the 3 Bodies Fixed Star, the sun, and the various planets in our solar system. One section mentions interesting details of the dark forest attack: at the beginning of the attack Mercury and Venus completely disintegrated, earth and Mars maintained their spheroid shapes but got their surfaces peeled off to varying depths, and the rest of the planets had their orbits adjusted due to some explosion on the sun.

The scene then shifts back to the IDC still analyzing Yun Tianming’s fairy tales using literary techniques and considering their hidden meanings, even hiring a linguist. These parts are intertwined with scenes of Cheng Xin talking with AA about things like bath soap, which is now apparently a historical relic in this era. It’s a very intriguing narrative progression, and this whole volume has been constructed in a rather unusual way throughout the chapters. On that note, I’m going to end this series looking at the trilogy here with this tantalizing glimpse of the story since it gets really philosophical.

Part 3 of 3.

Posted in China | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Military Deterrence Era and the Feminization of Men – Death’s End, Remembrance of Earth, Book 3, Part 2

Returning to Death’s End or Dead End (刘慈欣的”地球往事:死神永生”), the third book in the Remembrance of Earth Chinese science fiction series by Cixin Liu, Part II of volume 3 begins in a new fictional era. The first segment title is “Military Deterrence Era Year 12, The Bronze Age,” which appears to be referring to a spaceship or warship out in space that can see earth with the naked eye from their windows. The people on The Bronze Age talk about going home to earth to see their children or to finally return to start families. They clearly have been gone from earth a long time on a military campaign but want to go back and are afraid out in space.

Another excerpt like those that come up at intervals to break the narrative appears almost right away, this one regarding humanity and the cosmos’ “dark forest.” It’s about Mars, dark forest phobia, and electromagnetic data.

The next major section is titled “Military Deterrence Era Year 13, Judicial Inquiry,” and it has a rather intriguing format for a few pages, describing a military court proceeding featuring interviews with various witnesses from aboard The Bronze Age. The ships and court are orbiting around Mars, Jupiter and the asteroid belt. Each man is interviewed by a judge and prosecutor, and they include Colonel Neil Scott, who had been The Bronze Age’s Captain; Major Sebastian Schneider, who had been the target and strategy command officer of the ship; and Lieutenant Colonel Boris Lovinsky, who had been assistant captain. The conversations with each witness mostly are interested in a “quantum” attack that occurred. The brief legal judgment is set off in a short paragraph after the interviews: Neil Scott and six other high officers are given life sentences for crimes against humanity and murder.  

In the next section, titled “Military Deterrence Era Year 61, The Executioner,” the storyline returns to Cheng Xin. This is almost the last year of this era, and we last saw her during the Crisis Era at Yun Tianming’s death many decades earlier. I guess as with the earlier book, they have life prolonging technology at this point to make that happen. Maybe the years aren’t normal length either. If they explained any of that, I missed it, but time isn’t affecting people normally now. However, at this point, humanity hasn’t flown beyond the solar system to the stars, though the technology is being developed.

The DX3906 star has planets that were discovered by a new character Ai AA. Cheng Xin and AA talk together for a number of pages before we reach a partial sentence, bolded, stating “at this time, the murderers are put to death,” referring to the men sentenced in the judicial inquiry. The scene with Cheng Xin and AA continues after this brief break. Throughout this section, Cheng Xin notices there seems to be no men around them on the street and comments on it, but AA tells her that all of the men at this time have been feminized and still are men in spite of appearances. They also talk about how Luoji became the savior of humanity in the Crisis Era, though he has apparently now been declared a murderer and sentenced.

Later when she calls AA, AA answers with a man’s voice, so they get into another discussion about gender before AA suggests Cheng Xin become an executioner. The section ends with Cheng Xin asking, “What’s an executioner?”

Next, there is another excerpt, this one on the Wall Facers and the role of the Executioner. It starts off discussing Luoji’s achievements during the dark forest Three Bodies world. It seems Luoji was originally the first executioner, but he is now getting too old. It goes into the Wall Facers plan and even aspects of the Cold War here.

Then we see Cheng Xin in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound that nearly hit her heart. AA and her friends come to see her. Another excerpt pops up here on civilization that I’m going to skip, but this sort of italicized aside that runs for pages does interrupt the narrative regularly, which adds an interesting structural aspect to the story. This particular one goes deeper into the Three Bodies world and earth’s technological data. Once it ends, we return to Cheng Xin leaving the hospital. AA tells her someone wants to see her, a robot named Zhizi or maybe Tomoko if it is pronounced the Japanese way. The name means “child of wisdom” either way, just like the famous Sofia robot in the real world. This robot is also female and is somehow controlled or created by intelligent nanotechnology. Tomoko has tea with Cheng Xin and AA.

Two days later after Tomoko’s visit, Cheng Xin is visited by six more “Common Era People,” which is also a phrase that I think also refers to Cheng Xin in places. This term is kind of odd, but I think it refers to people who were born in the time before 3 Bodies and are older than the new civilization that sprung up in the Military Deterrence era. The group includes men who were also candidates to become Executioners. They are compared here in the text to the feminized men of the era. She talks with the group of men a bit.

When they leave, AA comments on the lifestyle of the candidates for Executioner, but finds it an unpleasant rather than a desirable life. Finally, the chapter comes to a close with a focus on Cheng Xin’s parents and the time when she left them for the first time to go to college. The last sentence has Cheng Xin telling someone, “I will compete to be selected executioner.”

The story moves on with a new boldfaced title, “Military Deterrence Era Year 62, Beyond the Orte Nebula, Gravitation.Gravitation was one of the warship names we were introduced to earlier along with Bronze Age and Blue Space.  Mostly I’m going to skip the warship sections, but this one does have an immediately intriguing excerpt on the Dark Forest and Tomoko’s “blind spot.” This excerpt is only a few paragraphs, and Tomoko seems to be connected to this particular ship just glancing over the section.

A dozen or more pages later, we have a new chapter title, “Military Deterrence Era Year 62, November 28th, 1600 hour to 16:17, Military Deterrence Control Center.” Cheng Xin is now at the Military Deterrence Control Center where she is acting in an executioner-type role as a secondary system controller. An excerpt called “Executioner Selection – Ten Minutes of Life and Extinction” runs through the scientific foundation for their “dark forest military deterrence systems,” which seem to include radiation, electromagnetism and nuclear warheads.

Cheng Xin is one of three people who enter the Dark Forest Military Deterrence System Center where she finds Luoji sitting at a table, his hair and beard neat but very long. There’s a white wall nearby that was breached five times. This section recounts Luoji’s separation from his wife and daughter, and his subsequent role as executioner. It explains how he used Japanese kendo rather than Chinese or Western sword technique in this role and that he spent 54 years as a Wall Facer and Executioner against 3 Bodies World.

At this point, he is introduced to Cheng Xin, who seems to be already considered his successor at this point. Somehow, he is 100 years old and she is 29. She ponders the fact that humanity never thanked him for his service during this meeting.

The next title that comes up is “Military Deterrence Era Year 62, November 28th, 16:17 34 seconds to 16:26 58 seconds, Military Deterrence Control Center,” which has multiple subsections in bold over next few pages. It continues the scene with Cheng Xin and Luoji, emphasizing she’s a woman, not a warrior, and is therefore not the same as Luoji. It also gets fairly abstract in its references to huge time spans, discussing events from 21 hundred million years ago.

The era then shifts with the next section title, “The Post-Military Deterrence Era, The Lost World.” Cheng Xin takes the elevator to the ground level and exits. When she hears someone call her name, she finds Ai AA there dressed in a white dustcoat. The narrative breaks for a reflection on the dark forest military deterrence’s defeat. Things apparently aren’t going well with the selection of the Executioner.

Cheng Xin and AA take a flying car to the Gobi where they have a confrontation with Tomoko. At the end of the section, Tomoko raises her sword, laughing about how foolish they are before saying, “Prepare to go to Australia.”

Under the next title, “After the Military Deterrence Era 60 Days, The Lost World,” the 3 Bodies system is coming closer to the solar system, appearing in an interstellar dust cloud. This is the second warship fleet belonging to the 3 Bodies world. While humanity is working on military deterrence and selecting the second Executioner, 3 Bodies world already can predict their intentions with these projects as the fleet arrives in the solar system.

Another excerpt on 3 Bodies technology is quite short and notes that Tomoko arrived on earth after human civilization started to change, so she is their mouthpiece. Then the whole world gets news of the 2nd 3 Bodies fleet arriving and completely occupying the star system from earth to Neptune. Tomoko announces a change in 3 Bodies policy toward humanity and declares they must move. The 3 Bodies world doesn’t intend to annihilate humanity, though they will attack certain parts of the earth. Immigration is to begin to Australia, and also to Mars and outer space later.

In “The Post-Military Deterrence Era Year 1, Australia,” it goes through the details of this mass movement of humanity, giving the statistics for each location at different time intervals. Cheng Xin and Ai AA are among the earliest to immigrate to Australia. Life is difficult in the immigrant zone, and as immigration continues, Cheng Xin and AA share their room with six other women. The story gets into descriptions of some of their roommates as well as Cheng Xin going to visit one of the murderers sentenced to 30 years in jail. The UN moves to Sydney as people move to Australia, to bases on Mars and Jupiter, or to warships in space.  

By the end of Part II, the story swings back around to the drama embroiling space warships Blue Space and Gravitation.

Next time, we’ll look briefly at the end of the book and finish the series.

Part 2 of 3.

Posted in China | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Lucky Cat Promo Pages and Updated 2019 Summer/Fall Event Schedule

I’ve been busy working on some new artwork for my sales events this summer, and I have a few new ad pages for the Lucky Cat Series:

This one features my cat horde in anticipation for the last book in the series, due out in 2020, Lucky Cat and the Kaiju Horde. I also did a new page in honor of Living Dead Weekend featuring the story’s ball joint dolls.

I have a series of a few  more sketches I want to do for Lucky Cat before I get down to work on other projects, so those will be forthcoming.

Here is my revised schedule of appearances:

June 14th-16th Living Dead Weekend – Monroeville (Confirmed)

July 4th-7th Anthrocon, Pittsburgh (Pending)

July 26th-28th Confluence, Coraopolis (Confirmed)

August 1st Monroeville Library at 7PM (Confirmed) I’ll be speaking on the topic, “The Great Asian Space Race”

August 9th-11th Steel City Con, Monroeville (Confirmed)


August 16-18 TBA

September 7th Beaver Book Fest, Beaver  (Confirmed)

Beaver County BookFest

I’m working on more than that, though, and am pushing to get my posts up on this blog, so stay tuned.

Posted in Introduction | Leave a comment

The Death of the Magician – Death’s End, Remembrance of Earth, Book 3, Part 1

The third book in the Remembrance of Earth Chinese science fiction series by Cixin Liu, which was translated into English as Death’s End or Dead End (刘慈欣的”地球往事:死神永生”), is a thick volume with very minimal breaks between the scenes. The English translations mask a layer of meaning in the Chinese title, which has an obvious reference to the grim reaper (死神, which literally translates to death god) and eternal life or immortality (永生, which literally means forever exist). I don’t point this out to judge the translators’ choices, I’m merely pointing out the extra level of meaning knowing the original language gives the reader. Translation is good and gives a lot of people access to world literature, but in the end it’s really no substitute for reading the original work. This volume’s title is far more poetic and not clinical or scientific, which is intriguing. We’ll see if the reason those nuances were translated out makes sense as we read.

This volume will wrap up our ongoing series looking at the trilogy that we started last year. As expected with such a title, the Chinese edition has a very dramatic cover.

Set at 513 pages in the original Chinese and published in 2010, it opens with a list of eras that is worth spending some time on. Here is my tentative take on the list, which may change with the story context.

The Crisis Era                                      201X-2208 AD

The Military Deterrence Era        2208-2270 AD

After Military Deterrence              2270-2272 AD

The Broadcast Era                             2272-2332 AD

The Bunker Era                                  2333-2400 AD
The Milky Way Era                           2273 AD-Unclear

DX3906 Star System Black Territory  2687-18,906,416 AD

The 647th Cosmos Timeline              18,906,416 AD

That’s a pretty ambitious span of years for any writer to tackle, let alone in one volume, so it should be interesting to see what the author does with it. Otherwise, part 1 has around 36 segments, most of which are untitled and only marked off by a line break, again a very difficult sort of text to read in your non-native language due to the wall of text effect. The lack of breaks forms a psychological barrier, in my opinion.

Part 1 opens with some very intriguing story arcs. The first segment is one of the few titled scenes, referencing 1453 AD and the “death of a magician.” The emperor during the Ottoman Empire, his minister Fazhalan, and a manservant are central to the scene. A woman named Diaolunna enters and converses with the emperor about whether she has the ability to kill the sultan, and she mentions she has some skill with magic though she appears to be too weak. The first 13 pages of part 1 follows this storyline. This section also mentions the Holy Grail, decorated with precious stones and made of pure gold and crystal, and a cathedral built in 537 AD, which seems to be a reference to the Hagia Sofia.  It seems Diaolunna knows something about the exact location of a secret room under the cathedral where holy items were kept. Only the Holy Grail was determined to be missing from it. They seem to be interested in recovering it, and the emperor asks Diaolunna again if she can kill the sultan. She says she can try.

In the successive segments of this story arc, Fazhalan gives Diaolunna a sheepskin sack, though she says she doesn’t need it. The Crusades have started, and Diaolunna states her goal is to become a holy woman. Fazhalan says she will if she kills the sultan, who appears to be Mehmed II, also known as Mehmed the Conquerer. Here’s some extra information on him:

Diaolunna enters Rome or a Roman city, I can’t tell which, and goes in with the troops to the battlefield. Later, there’s an uproar over an eclipse, and the characters are unsettled because Diaolunna hasn’t returned and they’ve had no news of her.

Finally, in the last dramatic segment of the story arc, Fazhalan stands before a tower and goes in. He finds no signs of life on the lower level but finds Diaolunna sleeping under a window on the second floor. She’s dirty and disheveled, her face is bloody, and her clothes are ripped. He asks her what she’s doing there, and she says she’s waiting. The conversation ranges from the sultan she was supposed to kill, the cathedral, the Roman Empire, and her goal to transform from a prostitute to a holy woman. Fazhalan takes out his sword and points the tip at her. The exact time and date of her death is given, and it ends with a description of her lying dead in the tower.

On page 13, we have a new title in boldface: “The First Year of the Crisis Era, Lifestyle Alternatives.” The story returns to Yang Dong, the scientist who committed suicide in volume 1. She’s on the control center’s rooftop balcony. This section reflects on her choice to pursue theoretical physics instead of taking the usual path to marriage and children like most women as well as on her mother and computers. Yang Dong knows the secret of Three Bodies, and a discussion with someone ensues about whether she believes in God and her thoughts on the impact of environmental changes on life on earth, particularly whether there will be any life left when the water all dries up. She thinks God isn’t relevant to the present world, though the question of life changing in the cosmos frightens her.

Next, the new boldfaced title, “Crisis Era, Year 4, Yun Tianming” (which literally means Cloud Daybreak), begins a twenty page story arc focusing on this character. We’re backtracking a little through the timeline by returning to this era, but I think this section is far more intriguing than our first pass at it in volume 2.

Dr. Zhang is on the hospital ward examining his patient Yun Tianming, who was hospitalized after the Three Bodies incident. There’s a TV in his room with some kind of news bulletin. The title of the broadcast is set off in bold on p. 19 and says “The Third People’s Congress Standing Committee Special Conference Adopted a Euthanasia Law.” (第三届人大常委会特别会议通过安乐死法). The euthanasia law doesn’t seem to be connected to Three Bodies, but the situation is odd.

The next night, Yun Tianming has trouble breathing and is coughing, and his friend in the next bed, Lao Li, tells him he plans on leaving. Yun Tianming asks if he means he’s leaving the hospital, but Lao Li says it will be euthanasia. The scene ends describing Yun Tianming’s tranquil dreams of riding in a small, oarless ship sailing along the water under a rainy, gray sky. However, he can’t see the shore, and he wakes up feeling strange.

Lao Li’s euthanasia comes next, and the structure of the next twenty pages has the same question bolded at intervals: “Do you want to end your life?” Each time, it gives a bolded variant for the patient’s responses, typically X number button for “yes” and zero for “no.” I don’t think Dr. Zhang wants Yun Tianming to undergo euthanasia, however, we do see Lao Li’s procedure. His family isn’t present since he hid the situation from them. It seems they’re doing the procedure in an office rather than a hospital in accordance with what the euthanasia law allows. Yun Tianming enters and looks around the fearsome room. Lao Li is in bed, appearing very calm.

The euthanasia law has two evidentiary procedures and requires witnesses. Laoli has to sign a notary book, and a person in white who may or may not be a doctor enters. The person in white has Lao Li answer some questions using the 6 buttons numbered 0 to 5. They leave, and Lao Li sits alone in the euthanasia room as the procedure begins. A beautiful female voice asks the question about him wanting to end his life three times. Each time, the “yes” button is a different number. Lao Li pushes the number for “yes” two times, and Yun Tianming thinks he will finally push zero the third time, but he pushes four for “yes” the last time, too. He’s injected without a sound, then doesn’t move. He appears to be sleeping. Dr. Zhang then tells Yun Tianming more about the procedure. It only takes 20 to 30 seconds to complete.

When Yun gets back to his sick room, he finds an old classmate Hu Wen waiting there. They talk about another classmate, a woman they remember by the name of Cheng Xin. This part mentions memories of boats on the water with her, and Yun Tianming suddenly thinks of his dreams of the rain and the shore. Then Hu Wen asks him about some green beverage called “green windstorm” that Yun Tianming has.

Later that night, Yun Tianming hears the TV news again, this time a broadcast on the United Nations and the Planetary Defense Council relaying a meeting about a star cluster plan it’s implementing. He’s distracted from the broadcast by a sudden thought of Cheng Xin before he continues to listen. Another heading is set off in bold, and there is a “Crisis of Childishness” or something along those lines. The effect of the Three Bodies Crisis Era on human civilization is also elaborated upon. The star plan has 2 parts, one regarding the United Nation’s status as the global government the world looks to as it confronts Three Bodies as a common enemy of humanity, and the second is the emergence and popularity of a new fugitive ideology. The general secretary, a woman named Zhang Sayi, made the star plan her first priority, and its foundation in international law is “the Special Pledge.”

Yun Tianming finds a way to call Hu Wen to ask him for Cheng Xin’s contact information, but Hu Wen says she hasn’t been in the country recently. The next day, Yun Tianming receives a short letter from Hu Wen with Cheng Xin’s info but not her work unit. The letter has two mailing addresses for her, one for Shanghai and one for New York. Then the scene seems to shift as we see him talk with a pretty little girl at a UN meeting. Perhaps it’s a memory?

In the next scene, Yun Tianming ends up back in the euthanasia room. Like Lao Li, he hasn’t said anything to his family about the procedure. Five people are in the room: two witnesses, one guide, one nurse, and one hospital director. Dr. Zhang isn’t among them. He tells the guide he already knows the procedure from when he was on the other side of the glass. When he’s alone in the room with the nurse, whom he thinks is pretty, she puts the automatic injection needle in his left arm.

The euthanasia procedure starts, asking the boldfaced question with the button instructions for the first time. It asks it five times, each with a dramatic pause in the procedure as Yun Tianming reflects upon things like his family background, his father, his school days, Cheng Xin, his work, his lung cancer, etc. Each segment has a line break before the question is asked again, and the segments end with him pressing the button choosing euthanasia. At the end of the sequence, it turns out a woman is sitting on the other side of the glass observing him. It’s Cheng Xin. It’s as if she heard him calling out for her in his heart.

This whole twenty page sequence was particularly interesting and nicely done, but it gets more interesting since the next twenty page story arc follows Cheng Xin from the boldfaced heading: “Crisis Years 1 through 4, Cheng Xin.” This part has around twelve segments set off by line breaks. It starts with an acknowledgement that, as the Crisis Era erupted on the scene, Cheng Xin had just finished school and had started working as part of a rocket research group. There is a mention of the UN and the PDC (Planetary Defense Council), but Cheng Xin accepts a job working as a spaceflight technology assistant for the PIA (the Planetary Defense Council Strategic Intelligence Agency).

The next sections go into the PIA and its work against the Three Bodies World before returning to another italicized section detailing an “extract” about the human eye – I can’t figure out what “winter eye” might translate to, but it represents technology providing a considerable advance for humanity once the Crisis Era restrictions on it have been lifted. Cheng Xin is working on this research technology and goes to Sanya, Hainan where there is a research facility at an academy of medical sciences.

A handful of pages later, we get another italicized excerpt about plan titled “a fire dragon emerging from water, a crossbow and a ladder,” which has some reference to Ming Dynasty fire arrows and other weapons, so it’s a war plan. We’ve seen the ladder before with the space elevators, but that’s still coming up.

In the last segment of this section covering Cheng Xin, we see her go to Yun Tianming’s bedside.  She lets him die through euthanasia, thinking this is the best result.   

The final section I’m going to look at closes part 1 of the book and begins with the boldfaced title “Crisis Years 5 to 7, The Staircase Project.” These next five or six segments continue with Cheng Xin’s storyline and the research into the “ladder” plan with a few final thoughts on Yun Tianming, which is a particularly nice touch. All of the story arcs circle back to him somehow by the end. Part 1 is a real tour de force.

Part 1 of 3.

Posted in China | Tagged , | Leave a comment