Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Japanese fiction

Original title – Chikyu Seijin

Translator – Ginny Tapley Takemori

Source – personal copy

I got this book last week for my birthday i had given Amanda a list of books that I thought maybe on Tuesday’s booker longlist and this was one of two Japanese novels this was one the other was Breast and Eggs which if it is on the list Tuesday i will get otherwise it will be a while before I get to that one anyway back to this the second book by Sayaka Muruta to be translated into English the first Convenience store women was a hit and one of those books I didn’t read due to the hype but this had been on my radar mainly because I loved the cover art which in fact relates to the book. Sayaka Murata grew up reading sci-fi and mystery novels from her family see even started to write a novel when she was 14. Finally publishing a novel when she was 24 she has published 11 books so far winning one of Japan’s biggest book prizes Akutagawa prize for her book convenience store women. Her books deal with Family, sex, celibacy, asexual relationships, and sci-fi elements.

I took Piyyut out of my bag. He loked like a white hedgehog plush toy, but actually he was an emissary sent by the magic police on Planet Popinpobopia. Piyyut had given me the magic wand and mirror to help meuse my maigical powers, I explained.

“Wow, Natuski, thats amazing” YUu said, his face serious. “It’s thank to you protecting the earth that we’re living in peace”

“Right”

“HEy. What sort of place is that Planet Popinpo- What’s it called again?”

“Popinpobopia. I don’t know really. Piyyut said it was secret.

“OH”

She is given magic powers to help save the earth by the plush to that is an emissary from another planet.

The novel is told from the point of view Natsuki she grows up spending her summers with her family in the remote mountains with their grandparents in the WIld Nagano Mountains and also there is her Family her Aunt and Uncle and her cousin Yuu. it is during these summers she buys what Piyyut which she thinks at the time is a white hedgehog toy but he is really an alien from the planet Popinpobia to give Natuski magic powers to save the earthlings. What follows is an account of her youth which has two events that shape her future and that of her family the first is abuse from a teacher that sexual abuses her and the other is a sexual awakening alongside her cousin Yuuwhich they are caught meaning the family unit is split and they stop talking to the aunt and Uncle. So when many years later when she is trapped in the city she describes it as a baby-producing factory and she is stuck in a sexless marriage. As she is driven to go back to the mountains this leads to a reunion with her cousin and also the secrets of her youth breaking through the loss of family she missed the after ripples of the kissing and sex with her cousin in her youth. This leads to a shocking end to the journey through the book.

I once asked my husband why he’d registered at Surinuke dot.cpm. “I thought it was written into our contract not to pry into that”, he said, clearly uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry, that was out of order. I didn’t mean to infringe on our contract>”

“No it’s okay. I feel suprisinglu relaxed talking with you. Natsuki.”

It wasn’t that my husband had no interest in sex. Instead he thought it wasn’t something to do rather something to observe. He enjoyed watching, but he was apparantly disgusted by the notion of touching and being touched by someone else who was discharging fluid. Another problem my husband had was that he hated working. This was obvious in his behacviour at work, so he found it hard to hold a job down.

Her advert and contract husband isn’t all she had hoped for at times.

I am not a huge sci-fi fan as you may know but this uses the sci-fi to drive the narrative and also to point things out. This is studio Ghibli if they let the writers from Law and order special victims unit had written it this uses the sci-fi element as a sugar coating to the horrors of sexual abuse from a teacher which then leads her fumblings with Yuu which then leads to suicide and a family break up these events then lead to her marriage and the events at the end of the book. Murata manages to tackle the subjects subtle and with a uniquely Japanese take on events Piyyut is like a Pokmon character manga creation, then things like advertising for her husband in a very Japanese way the loneliness of the city, and being friendless as a teen the knock-on effect of abuse is seen. A powerful work Natsuki is the flip of those lonely males of Murakami’s novels a female perspective on modern Japanese life. Have you read this book or her first book ?

Winstons score  -A an unusual book

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Janakay | YouMightAsWellRead
    Mar 27, 2021 @ 21:44:28

    I just finished reading Earthlings earlier this week and am still thinking about it. So much transgressive material and such an interesting book. Although I didn’t think the ending particularly worked, the novel is definitely worth reading and will stay with me for a very long time. Actually, as far as the ending is concerned, it’s hard to see how Murata could have gone in a different direction.
    Last year I read Convenience Store Woman, which I enjoyed although never bothered to review (I don’t write many reviews). Obviously, it contained the same theme of alienation, of how one copes (or doesn’t) in a culture of conformity but treated these in a much lighter way, i.e., the darker aspects of sexual abuse were absent and the family dysfunction was much less severe and brutal. The same deadpan emotional affect, however, was pretty characteristic of both works.
    I’d love to read at least a few more of Murata’s novels — hopefully something will be translated into English in the foreseeable future

    Reply

  2. whisperinggums
    Mar 28, 2021 @ 00:38:20

    I’m not a huge sci-fi fan either Stu, but I can be persuaded and this looks like the sort of sci-fi that would persuade me.

    BTW I did read Convenience store woman, and really liked it. It was a reading group choice and most of us liked it. Such a strong voice, that I can also see in the quotes you choose from this book.

    Reply

  3. Lisa Hill
    Mar 28, 2021 @ 02:22:53

    Thanks for reading this, Stu, so that I don’t’ have to!

    Reply

  4. Lisa Hill
    Mar 28, 2021 @ 02:23:13

    oops, typo, that’s “don’t”

    Reply

  5. MarinaSofia
    Mar 28, 2021 @ 10:29:33

    Studio Ghibli as written by Law and Order SVU is a fantastic description, had me in giggles!

    Reply

  6. Annabel (AnnaBookBel)
    Mar 28, 2021 @ 15:36:11

    Can’t say I enjoyed this book, but it was compulsive, and uncomfortable reading. I didn’t think the ending worked either, and I was very annoyed with the Guardian who spoiled it in their review. Still, having loved Convenience Store Woman and realising she’s an exciting writer, I’ll read whatever comes next, I’m sure.

    Reply

  7. Trackback: That was the month that was March 2021 and Booker reaction | Winstonsdad's Blog

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