When Angry Robot Books revealed what it’s billing as “the spiritual sequel to Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle” late last week, the name of the writer behind it rang a bell in my brain. I didn’t have to look long or hard or far to find out why—Peter Tieryas has written, in the first instance, some absolutely fantastic articles for Tor.com, not least this recent piece about the speculative underpinnings of Super Mario Brothers, and this bravura bit about navigating the Louvre with a little help from Nintendo.
And now? Now he’s written a novel. Not his first, in fact. Bald New World was one of the Best Science Fiction Books of 2014, per Publishers Weekly, and his new book sounds similarly subversive. “Set in a gripping alternate history where the Japanese Empire rules over America with huge robots,” United States of Japan is in part an exploration of the tragedies that took place in Asia during WWII.
The novel’s official synopsis is as follows:
Decades ago, Japan won the Second World War. Americans worship their infallible Emperor, and nobody believes that Japan’s conduct in the war was anything but exemplary. Nobody, that is, except the George Washingtons—a group of rebels fighting for freedom. Their latest terrorist tactic is to distribute an illegal video game that asks players to imagine what the world might be like if the United States had won the war instead.
Captain Beniko Ishimura’s job is to censor video games, and he’s tasked with getting to the bottom of this disturbing new development. But Ishimura’s hiding something… kind of. He’s slowly been discovering that the case of the George Washingtons is more complicated than it seems, and the subversive videogame’s origins are even more controversial and dangerous than the censors originally suspected.
The final cover art might be a wee while away, but thanks to “artist extraordinaire John Liberto,” we have a teaser “that in many ways embodies the spirit” of United States of Japan to tide us over.
Looks to me like its spirit owes something of a debt to the film Pacific Rim.
“It has been a haunting two-year journey writing and researching this,” Tieryas reflected by way of his blog, “and it gives me so much joy that it’s coming out with such an amazing publisher.” Going by Publicity Manager Penny Reeve’s happy robot dance, the good feeling looks to be mutual.
If you’re interested in learning a little more about United States of Japan, think about bookmarking The Whimsy of Creation, where the author has promised to publish essays aplenty—“on the thought process behind the ideas I’ll explore as well as all the research I did and why I chose the subject material. It’s an issue I feel is very important as there’s surprisingly little attention to the events that happened in Asia during the first half of the twentieth century.”
And he’s right, right? Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a great many novels of note that take place in that period, and certainly there aren’t any that also boast giant robots.
Look out for Angry Robot Books’ release of United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas next March.
Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.