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Somtow Sucharitul – Starship & Haiku

Somtow Sucharitkul - Starship and Haiku

Science Fiction silvery needles-
a black creature thrusting from the dark-
water, water-

An old book. A beautiful book. And most likely the most unusual SF story I’ve read. Ever.

The great, nuclear, worldwide war has finally happened around the turn of the millennium (yes, the book was written quite a few years back), and civilization/society is in tatters, and decaying further. The only country not affected by the war is Japan, but the subsequent wave of human mutations and new, mutated plagues don’t spare it, either.


Yoshiro ‘Josh’ Nakamura, of Japanese descendent, grows up in Hawaii, or what is left of it (glass beach, tribal warfare between mutant gangs, lo to no tech existence), together with his disabled (mutant?) brother and his old grandmother, which are the only family members who survived the war.

Ryoko Ishida, the daughter of a Japanese Minister, is contacted by aliens on her sea voyage to study the situation in Hawaii first hand. For the whales, aliens living on this world, designers of the modified genome of the Japanese race, have decided to speak to humanity again, and provide them with a future amongst the stars, away from Earth.

Japan, and the Japanese people, on the other hand, have decided to revert to old rites, and rid themselves of the guilt of patricide (for they hunted the whales, their originators as they now know) by commiting ritual suicide – a fascination with the aesthetics of death they share with the whales (who didn’t mind being killed).


The story is simple, but with lots of hidden depths, like a Haiku (of which there are a number in the book, both classical and newly written ones). The actors are alien, strange, and still believable and larger than life, like in a Kabuki piece.


This is a book about guilt, and about hope. A book about suicide, as individuals, as a people, as a race. A book about beauty and harmony. A strange, beautiful book.

Go get it.

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Title: Starship & Haiku

Author: Somtow Sucharitul

Reviewer: Markus

Publisher: Timescape/Pocket Books

Publication Date: 1981

ISBN: 0671836013

Pages: 207

Format: Paperback

Topic: SF

Topic: Alternative History


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