Sunday, December 23, 2012

Perchance to Dream


"Is there no god in your town, Michiru?
- No.
Who do you rely on in life?
- We rely on ourselves.
Are you yourselves gods then?"
"God Save the Queen"

It's creepy how fast time goes by if you're playing Animal Crossing. If you think about it, it's not that much different from a social game, well, except for the fact that you can perfectly play it on your own and it might make you actually less social in real life, but... so... addicting...

Earlier this year I reviewed the audio drama of Labyrinth in Arm of Morpheus, the second entry in Mori Hiroshi's 100 Years series; earlier this week I finally found the audio drama of Joou no Hyakunen Misshitsu (English title: God Save the Queen), the first adventure of journalist Saeba Michiru and Walkalone (android) partner Roidy. It is 100 years in the future (literally, as the books are set in 2113), technology had significant advancements resulting in androids, flying cars and the works. But cars still break down (especially when you are are heading somewhere to research an article), which leaves Michiru and Roidy wandering around on foot in the middle of nowhere, until they arrive in the walled city of Lunatic City. City-scale self-governing states can be found anywhere in the future, but Lunatic City is, as its name implies, a bit strange. According to its inhabitants, the city, ruled by Queen Debou Suho, is controlled by the god, leading to a for Michiru incomprehensible attitude towards death. In fact, nobody ever 'dies' in Lunatic City, they just fall in a long sleep. Which is what happens to prince Jura. He falls "asleep" in the royal quarters on top of the palace. And gained imprints of some hands on his neck in the process too. But witnesses (including the Queen, who was also present in the royal quarters), swear that nobody entered or left the palace. And what makes this case all the more hard on Michiru: it's not even considered a murder case because death, and therefore murder, doesn't exist in Lunatic City.

I just noticed something in my review of the previous book which is either an enormous coincidence, or I actually used to pay attention when writing my reviews. Anyway, I liked Labyrinth in Arm of Morpheus in general, so I was really looking forward to God Save the Queen and as people might know, whenever someone starts a review like this, chances are it ended up being disappointing. And yes, it was.

Let's just start with the bad: this is not really a fair locked room murder mystery. Not really, in the sense that Mori plays with the rules a bit, that definitely makes sense in-universe (Lunatic City), but not from the perspective of the reader. The problem of the vanishing murderer is solved instantly the moment the hint appears in the story and while I admit that thematically, it is a bit like the impossible crime situation in Labyrinth in Arm of Morpheus (and while I haven't read/listened to that much of Mori, I suspect it's a theme he likes a lot), the decapitation murder in Labyrinth was much more interesting than the murder in this story.

The story is also quite 'heavy' on the reader, who has not only have to cope with the eccentric world of Lunatic City, but also with Michiru, who has a shady past which is revealed as the story progresses. Which is not a bad thing per se, but if you have to deal with a(n unfair) murder mystery, a strange world and a protagonist whom the reader can only see as another mystery, well, it makes it hard for the reader to connect to the world.

Like I mentioned in the Labyrinth review, I quite like these travel-to-new-lands-with-its-own-culture-and-rules stories and I liked the concept of Lunatic City, but I have to say that a world where death is not recognized as such, thus resulting in a world where murder doesn't exist, would really drive a detective-character insane. Michiru wants to find the murderer of the prince, but nobody in Lunatic City seems to be helpful, only looking at Michiru and Roidy as outsiders who don't understand the world (but they are friendly enough to hold banquets in honor of the two).  I've read mysteries before that played with the archetypical roles of detectives, assistents and murderers, but one that actually messes with death, and therefore murder?

God Save the Queen is a fun adventure story with a mystery twist on it, but you shouldn't expect a real fair locked room murder mystery. The radio drama is made extra fun (at least for Detective Conan-fans!), because Takayama Minami, the voice actress of Conan, is doing Saeba Michiru. And yes, everything Michiru says sounds just like Conan.

Original Japanese title(s): 森博嗣 『女王の百年密室 GOD SAVE THE QUEEN』

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