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This book is the “first season” of an online serial, in which each episode is written by a different author. As with police-procedural shows on television, each episode solves a different crime, but the setting and main characters are the same for all, and there is an overall backstory that builds throughout the series. I was impressed with the degree of consistency that the authors maintained in language, portrayal of characters, and development of the setting and backstory.
The setting is a near-future (perhaps 20 years from now) Tokyo, which has been severely damaged by an earthquake followed by an invasion from China, which now controls half the city. The other half is still controlled by Japan but is also occupied by a force of American “peacekeepers.” The main characters are Miyako Koreda, an inspector for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, and Emma Higashi, an American peacekeeper assigned to work as her partner.
Miyako’s and Emma’s personalities are perhaps a little stereotyped—Miyako is buttoned down and by-the-book, whereas Emma has the brashness expected of an American—but both are developed in detail, and I found them to be believable and likeable. I enjoyed watching their initial mutual wariness develop into friendship. The development of the setting and backstory was even more interesting. At first the uneasy peace and the divided city are merely background, having little to do with the crimes Miyako and Emma investigate, like a small cloud in a blue sky. They move more and more into the foreground as the book goes on, however, eventually taking over completely in a nail-biting climax. The associated tension builds smoothly and effectively. I was also impressed with the way the authors wove near-future technology, including omnipresent drones, “data sleeves” that have replaced smartphones, and body modifications, into the stories.
Like many a TV series, Ninth Step Station ends its season with a cliffhanger. I strongly hope that the authors will present a second season soon.
I was pleased to receive this serialised fiction as an ARC from Serial Box Publishing as it was an exciting read.
This police procedural set in a near future Tokyo consists of ten engrossing episodes written by different authors, including at least one, Jacqueline Koyanagi whose debut novel I've read and reviewed.
The style is reminiscent of US crime series, but with its own interesting approach as the sense of an imminent future pervades but doesn’t take over the plots. This could be ‘tomorrow’ with China occupying part of Japan and a sector of Tokyo, and with the US playing what is meant to be peacekeeper. Ninth Step Station has some fascinating characters, interesting plots, futuristic tech and very real political intrigue.
US peacekeeper Emma Higashi (Japanese-American) is assigned to partner with Tokyo Metropolitan Police Detective Miyako Koreda at Nine Step Station, one of the key TMP stations. The cases they are tasked with solving are standalone, but there are overarching events that carry through the novel/series with the usual TV-style cliff-hanger to lead into Series 2.
The crimes in the ten episodes vary from suspected suicide and domestic violence to assassination and terrorism with differing levels of technological involvement such as body-mods, drones, data mining, and data sleeves – all realistic evolutions of existing tech. The data sleeves especially play a key role in enabling people to instantly communicate and interface – although this is also a city troubled by regular power-cuts/blackouts. However, the war and the gangs/Yakuza make solving crimes challenging with some data irretrievable and some information obscured by human evasiveness.
Each of the writers gives an individual feel to each episode, yet together they create a seamless story with consistent and evolving characters, a realistic-feeling Tokyo post-occupation and those building overarching events. The TV-style structure means the episodes are formula to some degree, but they are enjoyable – although not as complex as some mysteries I read.
Both the two main characters and the supporting players are distinctly portrayed, and there are developing attributes and discoveries as the episodes unfold. The misunderstanding and conflicts arising between the two protagonists due to cultural differences, personal secrets and political agendas create a more complex relationship than an instant crime-fighting partnership and that relationship has room to grow. I was also pleased to see that the issues of gender bias and sexuality were addressed – although not as suspected.
Not knowing Tokyo, I assume that the world-building does build on the present city, although I realise that the format only allows the setting to receive less attention than the stand-out characters who are what will pull me back here. I look forward to the sequel as there is plenty to build on in Ninth Step Station.
Story – four stars Setting/World-building – four stars Authenticity – four stars Characters – five stars Structure – four stars Readability – five stars Editing – five stars
This is such an entertaining read. Mix a near-future setting (Japan has been laid low by natural disasters and Chinese interference, and is now a divided nation) with some very plausible scifi-tech (body-mods, implants, and people who use tech-y "sleeves" to communicate and interface), and make it all a cyber-punkish police procedural, and you get the vibe of this excellent story. But what really sells this for me, are the two main characters, US peacekeeper Emma Higashi and Tokyo Metropolitan Police Detective Miyako Koreda who are assigned to work together.
The two have a great odd-couple/burgeoning buddy-cop vibe, and their different backgrounds gives insight into the world and the society they now have to navigate.
Written as a serial, Higashi and Koreda deal with various crimes (often involving technology and politics) and each part of this story is entertaining and gripping.
I received this through a Goodreads Giveaway. This was an unusual item, in that one had the option to listen or read. It is presented similar to a television series or perhaps how radio was presented pre-television, It is presented in episodes are standalone with some continuing storyline, until the last 2 episodes, with the last a continuation of the prior. What was additionally nice about the audio is that it includes sound effects, which I haven't heard are previous audio presentations I've listened to. Prior to the happening in the book, there has been a devastating earthquake in Japan, North Korea took advantage of the situation and invaded, China "in support" of Japan had come to Japan's rescue, ousting Korea, but, China has maintained a presence. The United States has entered Japan as "peacekeepers" to keep China in check. The city of Tokyo has been divided, much like Berlin had been, post WWII (though not as contentiously). Emma, a Japanese-American member of the peacekeepers, is loaned to the Tokyo police force, to help them and investigate the theft of a shipment of arms from the Americans. Each episode is a standalone crime (mostly murders) with Emma and her Japanese police officer partner Miyako investigating. Political issues and violence are escalating as the book progresses. The book ends with the possibility of an all out war. The is already a second season (a sequel).