Yusaku Kitano: Mr. Turtle
In a world of humans, what's a cyborg turtle to do?
It's a fair question in the bizarre, compelling story of Mr. Turtle.
Yusaku Kitano's science fiction masterpiece, originally published under the eponymous title Kame-kun, renews the visionary integrity that won it the Nihon SF Taisho (Japan's equivalent of the Nebula) Award in 2001 as it finds its way into English at last. Kitano's protagonist is a hero in a half shell of an altogether different sort, a killing machine designed for combat who wants only to enjoy the simple pleasures of his daily life—working a blue collar job, going to the library, and typing on his laptop—even as he is haunted by vague memories of a war on Jupiter.
In order to determine his future, he must piece together his past, navigating an unsympathetic society toward revealing the novel's philosophical heartbeat. A character study of surreal wit, Mr. Turtle delivers action and insight, all the while crafting an homage to its chosen genre unlike any other.
- ...a cyborg turtle in a near-future Japan, where creatures like him are tolerated but never truly accepted. Mr. Turtle himself never speaks; our access to his mind is through the close third-person, and this accentuates the loneliness that permeates the story.
—Rachel Cordasco, Three Percent
- Kitano loves layers, and there are many to upturn in this deceptive tale of a cyborg turtle’s existential awakening. ... It’s hard to think of a similar story about artificial intelligence that is as deceptively simple.
—Cameron Allan McKean, Japan Times
- Deceptively simple fable-like animal tale takes some mind-bending turns and leaves you wanting more.
—4.5 stars, Alan, Goodreads Librarian
- Kame-kun is one of the most endearing characters you’ll come across in speculative fiction... and he never says a word. Reserved, polite, uncertain, haunted—Kame-kun is all of these things because he is out of place on so many levels. [...]Kitano’s writing style is addictive—measured, controlled, but with an ebullience just simmering under the surface.
— Rachel Cordasco, Speculative Fiction in Translation
- Kame-kun—sentient being ? thinking machine ? —has his own existential identity crisis, the fundamental question of: "Why am I a turtle ?" gnawing at him.
...a curious existential-technological work. There's quite a bit of charm to the novel, and a darker serious side lurking below. ...an agreeably odd read.
—Michael Orthofer, The Complete Review
- Rachel Cordasco, of the Speculative Fiction in Translation website, recently posted a short interview with Mr. Grillo, discussing Mr. Turtle and other things.
—Interview: Tyran Grillo
- Pages: 184
- Trade paperback 5" x 8" (127mm x 203mm)
- ISBN: 978-4-902075-80-9
- Kurodahan Press Book No. FG-JP0050L
- List Price: US$12.00
- Cover: Mike Dubisch
Yusaku Kitano (北野 勇作; 1962—) won the 4th Japan Fantasy Novel Grand Prize in 1992 with Mukashi, Kasei no atta basho (Where Mars Used to Be), and has won a devoted following in the SF community for his examinations of a range of social and personal issues, all cleverly cloaked in humor and gentle storylines.
Tyran C. Grillo is a prolific music critic and emerging scholar. A translator of nine books and numerous short stories, he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Cornell University, where his research focuses on animals in contemporary Japanese fiction and film. His other translated works include Murder in the Red Chamber by Ashibe Taku, also from Kurodahan Press.