The premise of this funny and ultimately disturbing novel hinges on a telephone scam rife in Japan: someone–typically elderly and ill-accustomed to cellphones–gets a call from somebody saying only ‘it’s me’ and frantically pleading for help, usually in the form of wired cash. But when the novel’s main character tries the scam, he’s drawn into a bizarrely warped reality in which the scam itself seems to be cloning and scrambling the identities of the scammers–a reality in which it really is ‘me.’ I was quietly thrilled throughout.”
—Open Letters Monthly, Best Books of 2017: Science Fiction and Fantasy
The plot used in this book is one that will be familiar to readers of Dystopian fantasy novels. That is the concept of warped realities, cloning, and scrambling of identities. Generally, I will be thrilled to read a book like this, but that was not the case with this one. It was a struggle and I couldn’t finish it. Considering that this book is supposedly a ‘brainy‘ read and one that was met with massive applause, I recommend that you do give it a try before you chuck it. That said…
What I could understand from this book was that it was an underhand critique of modern Japanese society and society as a whole, in that we seem to have lost what makes us unique. A person can decide to take on another person’s identity and those who are closest to that person might not be able to tell the difference. In today’s society, it seems we are clones of each other. For example, in this book, the protagonist (Hitoshi) steals an identity and uses it to scam, but he invariably becomes that identity and even those closest to his stolen identity can’t tell the difference between him and his stolen identity. Ever had your identity stolen, and the thief wears the identity so well, that it now seems as if you stole your ‘You’ from that person? Happens all the time – particularly, in today’s virtual world.
Beyond all that, some might view this book from a psychological perspective, as a critique on our refusal to be vulnerable with each other – thereby making us essentially vulnerable to copycats (scammers). Our vulnerabilities might be what makes us unique. As I mentioned, it is supposed to be a deep, brainy read – so, I recommend that you read it over the weekend.