By Yung-Hsiang Kao / Japan News Staff Writer If asked, we would all say we want “freedom,” to be free to do what we wished. But freedom comes at a cost, as it literally does in the future world depicted in Eli K.P. William’s debut novel, “Cash Crash Jubilee.”
The Free World of the novel operates on the idea of “All the freedom you can earn.” All voluntary actions have a cost, which fluctuates through a market mechanism, making the protagonist Amon Kenzaki resort to Zen-like exercises to train himself to be frugal. Speech can be expensive — the more precise and elegant the more one has to pay. Thus, Amon texts to friends in what he believes is the lowest-cost fashion, such as, “AI HAV 2 GAYT GOEENG.”
The novelist has a knack for evoking language in all its different levels. When Amon’s boss at the Liquidation Ministry, Sekido-san, congratulates Amon, Sekido says, “As always I applaud you inwardly, with tiny imaginary hands.”
The story is set in the Tokyo area, with real-life places such as Ginza, Akihabara and Kabukicho mentioned along with Tsukuda, Jimbocho and Kanda, mixing in a few imaginary places in the suburbs such as Wakuwaku City and the District of Dreams. Those unfamiliar with Tokyo geography may wish that the book included a map, even a fantastical one. This may be remedied in the future as “Cash Crash Jubilee” is the first book in the “Jubilee Cycle.” Still, like New York or Paris, Tokyo evokes images and ideas of the city even in those who have never visited.
Eli K.P. William is a Tokyo-based Canadian, and his vision of a future Tokyo will not be hard to grasp for many readers. The imagined world is described in vivid detail that incorporates aspects of Tokyo life today with futuristic touches. Yes, there are science fiction elements pervading the book that may make some readers scratch their heads, but the future presented is believable. The society depicted is similar to what most of us live through: Make money to survive, make more to have more; don’t get into debt because that could lead to bankruptcy, or in the case of the book, being “bankdead.”
With bad debts, i.e., no credit, Free Citizens no longer are “free” and a Liquidator such as Amon is sent to find these people and “cash crash” them.
“Cash Crash Jubilee” weaves the tale of Amon and his interactions with friends, work associates, government ministers and shady characters in a highly readable, entertaining fashion. Tense action sequences are balanced by inquisitive sections where Amon probes for information or questions his situation. The scene where he meets his idol in person is a treat.
This is a page-turner that is more of a mystery than science fiction. Readers will want to know what “Jubilee” really means just as much as Amon. Just remember to get some sleep and avoid being “discreditable.”
Where to read
If possible, in a place without any of modern life’s distractions, such as mobiles or computers, perhaps in a forest.