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Gene Mapper by Taiyo Fujii
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Gene Mapper

by Taiyo Fujii

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I started to read this and was inundated with technobabble about some strain of rice. Then we get people calling a woman doing her job a bitch as well as saying that Google somehow caused the internet to die out completely and it's replaced with TruNet. We get sentences that invoke images of abuse that involve "spanking" Mother, which is some kind of computer system or something?
They also go on at length about 32-bit dates causing the end of the world VS 64-bit dates and 128-bit dates. My head started hurting form all the bullshit when they said that gene mapping was as easy as XML sheets. No really it's called gXML. Then they are wondering why their crops are growing all funny. I got to about 11% before my mind just noped out of the book. The author just didn't do the research on things combined with the misogyny I just ain't having it. ( )
  Maverynthia | Jul 27, 2017 |
In the world of Gene Mapper, much of the world's natural crops have fallen to a blight called Red Rust, leading to a rise in genetically engineered foods. Mamoru Hayashida is a gene mapper who works for a company, L&B, developing Super Rice 6, or SR06. Only the field of SR06 that's been planted appears to have some sort of invader, which could spell trouble not only for L&B, or Mamoru's career, but genetically engineered (or in L&B's preferred nomenclature, genetically distilled) plants entirely. It's Mamoru's job, with the help of Takashi (a victim of a side effect of L&B's super rice zero), to figure out who and what the invader is and whether or not they can stop it. It's a high-tech mystery, a whodunit of virtual reality proportions.

I think it's the translation that hinder this book for me. It's as if something is being lost in going from Japanese to English, and I have a certain sense of being lost. I really like Fujii's concept of augmented reality, using AR stages for conversations and work and broadcasts and all kinds of things, but I don't really understand how it works. I can see someone entering an AR Stage and seeing the augmented reality, but what would someone not on any stage see them doing? They're talking and moving in their stage, sometimes having private conversations, and so wouldn't they be talking and moving in the real world as well? I guess I don't understand the privacy factor of that, just as an example. And again, I think this is partly due to the translation. The worldbuilding, while interesting, is not very clear in english, and more difficult to really engage with.

In another part of the book, Mamoru goes into the SR06 field wearing a special suit that has a weird kind of emotional control built in. The 'augmented reality' turns into a real hindrance, but that whole portion just makes no sense to me. I don't understand why they're wearing the suits in the first place--maybe to prevent contaminating the field, though I'm not sure with what, if the genetically distilled rice is supposed to be so stable--but also, I really don't understand why they would need or even want emotional control in the first place. That just makes no logical sense when you look at how it completely derailed Mamoru's mission. The only purpose I can see it serving is a plot point that reveals Takashi's true nature, which really, it needs to make sense on the surface as well as move the plot forward. Thumbs down.

I found the ending to be a little forced, but I won't go into that here because spoilers. I appreciate the effort to provide an ending that isn't just black/white everything's-fixed-now-everything's-ok but this one just didn't work well for me.

Overall though, if you don't mind feeling a little lost in a sea of buzzwords, it's not a bad read. I think a lot of other fantasy and scifi I've read has primed me to be okay with not necessarily understanding everything that's going on, though I like clarity more. It's a fun read on it's own, and high-concept, which is always nice. But somehow it also doesn't necessarily stand out to me. Not bad; but not necessarily great, either.

http://tealeafbooks.blogspot.com/ ( )
  Onionspark | Jul 7, 2015 |
Gene Mapper is Taiyo Fujii's debut work as an author. Originally, he was employed in design and software development, a background that to some extent informs Gene Mapper. In 2012, he self-published the novel as an ebook and it became a bestseller, catching the attention of Hayakawa Publishing, a major Japanese publisher of science fiction. Fujii subsequently expanded and revised Gene Mapper for release by Hayakawa in 2013. It was this edition of Gene Mapper that became the basis for Jim Hubbert's English translation of the novel released by Viz Media's speculative fiction imprint Haikasoru in 2015. In addition to being a bestseller, Gene Mapper has also been critically well-received. Although ultimately the novel didn't win, Gene Mapper was nominated for both a Seiun Award and a Nihon SF Taisho Award (which Fujii would later earn for his second novel Orbital Cloud). I was thus very happy to have the opportunity to read an early review copy of Gene Mapper.

Mamoru Hayashida is a gene mapper specializing in style sheets for color expression and design. Although he works as a freelancer, many of his recent projects have been for L&B, one of the leaders in distilled crops, a science in which plants have been designed from their DNA up to produce bountiful harvests with high nutritional value that are resistant to disease and pests. The problem of world hunger has been solved because of distilled crops, but there continue to be people who are skeptical of these synthetic creations, believing them to be unnatural, unethical, and unsafe. When SR06, an advanced strain of Super Rice that Hayashida helped to design, begins to inexplicably mutate, it seems as though those criticisms may be justified. In order to investigate and hopefully put a stop to the impending crisis before the media and the rest of the world finds out about it, Hayashida is first sent to Ho Chi Minh City to hire Yagodo, an expert Internet salvager, and then to the SR06 fields in Cambodia along with his agent Kurokawa. It's only after they are there that they discover just how dire, and dangerous, the situation really is.

Gene Mapper falls into the category of realistic near future science fiction and it is an excellent example of that subgenre. A few elements initially drew me to the novel, specifically the developments and applications of new agricultural and biotechnologies, but the more I read the more I found to capture my interest, such as the implications of the collapse of the Internet (an event that occurred before the beginning of the story proper) and the prevalent use of augmented realities of varying types. Some of those new technologies and systems are unnecessarily over-explained towards the beginning of the novel, bogging down the story, but soon the details become better integrated into the narrative and Gene Mapper begins moving along quite quickly. Although human society in Gene Mapper is still believably imperfect, Fujii's vision of the future and the role of technology in it is largely a positive and optimistic one. While the potential for technological developments to be used for great harm is a recognized concern in the novel, those same advancements are also shown have the potential to be used to greatly benefit humanity. The tension between those two possibilities is one of the driving forces behind the novel.

What makes Gene Mapper such a thought-provoking and engaging work is the importance placed by Fujii on technology and science and how people interact with them. The novel's exploration of the tremendous potential presented by new technologies as well as it's examination of related concerns and fears is extremely relevant to issues being discussed even today. I grew up in a farming community and so am well aware of the debates and controversies surrounding the use of genetically modified crops and other advanced agricultural technologies. Gene Mapper presents one plausible future based on logical extensions of current genetic, agricultural, and information technologies without ignoring the dangers that they present or how they impact society in both positive and negative ways. Just as in reality, scientific advances in Gene Mapper don't exist in a vacuum. There are personal and societal interests as well as business and commercial interests at work in the direction that the future will take. Missteps have been and will be made, but innovations will continue as long as humanity is able to survive them. Gene Mapper argues that in time solutions will be found to old problems and new challenges will arise as a result.

Experiments in Manga ( )
  PhoenixTerran | Jun 27, 2015 |
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"In a future where reality has been augmented and biology itself has been hacked, the world's food supply is genetically modified, superior, and vulnerable. When gene mapper Hayashida discovers that his custom rice plant has experienced a dysgenic collapse, he suspects sabotage. Hayashida travels Asia to find himself in Ho Chi Minh City with hired-gun hacker Kitamura at his side--and in mortal danger--as he pushes ever nearer to the heart of the mystery"--… (more)

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