A decent respect for readers and book buyers requires I explain why I requested a review copy of this book from Amazon.
Japan, unlike many nations of the advanced Western world, has not been stupid enough to allow a great deal of immigration. They don’t buy that they need immigrants to pay old age pensions or do menial jobs or that large amounts of unskilled labor are going to make them wealthy.
They like their culture just fine. They’re not even fond of ethnic Japanese who didn’t grow up in Japan.
I like Japan’s refusal to embrace ethnomasochism. (Why, yes, that is a mound of Korean noses, and, no, we’re not going to apologize.)
Now, like anything, that can go to extremes as in this book, but I find it preferable to the opposite extreme.
The Japanese, though, have a problem. They’re dying off, births aren’t keeping up with deaths.
So whose going to take care of all those Japanese in their golden years if not immigrants?
Robots, answer the Japanese, and that is the very subject of this, according to its cover copy, “tour de force tapestry of science fiction and historical fiction”.
Review: Plum Rains, Andromeda Romano-Lax, 2018.
This novel centers on two characters: Sayoko, a Japanese woman nearing her centenary (and the attendant media coverage of that birthday), and Angelica, the Filipina immigrant nurse caring for her.
It’s the year 2029. Robot development has taken a “Pause” after the Musk-Hawking 2015 letter warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence. There was the South Korean Sexbot Ban of 2025 and the E.U.-U.S. AI Accord of 2026 (rather short-lived since the E.U. goes into the ashbin of history in 2027). Other regional agreements put similar bans in place.
But it’s just a pause, and that’s made clear when a new model of Taiwanese robot shows up to take care of the rather technophobic Sayoko. It’s was ordered by Itou, Sayoko’s son and employed by METI, according to some the government agency that really runs Japan.
The best part of the book is that robot, Hiro, and his conversations with Sayoko and Angelica. Hiro is not a programmed robot. He’s designed to learn and, particularly, learn about his charge Sayoko. Continue reading “Plum Rains”