Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rising Sun

Rising Sun
385 pages
© 1992 Michael Crichton


In downtown Los Angeles, in a gleaming tower of Japanese commercial success, a woman lies dead on a boardroom table.  The  grand opening of the Nakamoto Corporation's downtown skyscraper attracted celebrities and politicians alike, all anxious to impress the Japanese businessmen who play such an important part in the U.S. economy. It was supposed to be a festive occasion, but instead it's turned into a source of anxiety and dread:  this murder-in-the-office stuff is very bad for publicity. It turns out to be a major source of trouble for the police assigned to investigate, too, because to Nakamoto, business is war...and if trouble-making cops can't be bribed, they can be 'removed'.

Rising Sun combines a police procedural with a business thriller, and ends with an ominous note from Crichton that the Japanese are taking over the American economy and we'd better do something.  Published just as the Japanese were drifting into their 'lost decade', that warning now makes it seem slightly dated. Despite this, the technological aspect gives the book a solid sci-fi edge;  though set in the 1990s, we see wireless cameras, facial-recognition software,  and image manipulation so intensive that the courts no longer permit imagery as evidence.  Here we have forensic technology long before CSI made it popular,  but most of the character-lecturing is done in regards to Japanese culture, history, and business practices.  I know next to nothing about Japanese economic history, so I don't know when Crichton leaves history  behind for alt-history here. His 1990s-America is virtually a Japanese economic colony, with only its university system keeping it from being an utter subordinate. So awed by the Japanese are these Americans that Japanese lingo has crept into common usage among the political and business elite, and their power is such that LA cops have a time getting the Nakamoto Corp's officers to let them investigate.  I was a little suspicious of Crichton's economic doomsaying; if the Japanese were 'dumping' under-priced goods onto the American market, why couldn't those goods be purchased by American companies and sold as their own?    Crichton's fear is not quite as irrelevant as it seems, because today we hear the same fears about China. right down to the concern that their ownership of so much  American debt is a national security problem.  Awareness that there must be a line between national security and profitable participation in the global economy has become an issue in the presidential debate this year as well.

Despite being dated in some ways, Rising Sun made for a very interesting read, both as a technologically-savvy police novel ahead of the curve, and as an alt-history piece which features Japanese characters and culture heavily.

6 comments:

  1. Read this ages ago (pre-Blog) and remember enjoying it. Rather paranoid versus the Japanese but that's not exactly unusual for any country to fear and resist perceived 'takeover' by a foreign power [hence results like Brexit - grin]. Lots of interesting views on Japanese culture as you mentioned.

    The 1993 movie version was pretty good too (for the time) and was, IIRC, close to the novel. Have you seen it?

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    1. The only movies I've seen based on Crichton's films were the Jurassic Park ones. I'd like to see "Sphere", despite its critical reviews, if only for Samuel L. Jackson and Dustin Hoffman!

      I've been in a fiction mood the last week -- I suppose I needed a little break!

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    2. Oh! And "Timeline". Forgot that one. It inspired the Reads to Reels series, I believe.

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  2. 'Timeline' was frankly terrible. 'The Andromeda Strain' though is a well deserved classic. Not forgetting 'Westworld' which he apparently wrote... [grin]...and 'The 13th Warrior' which I really liked... He's been a busy boy has Michael!

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  3. I saw one book while browsing today that was apparently historical-fiction, about an Arab who visits the Vikings? Very varied, Crichton.

    Oh, yes, Timeline was absymal. The only high points were a couple of the actors -- Gerard Butler and the older Scottish fellow.

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  4. CK mentions "The Andromeda Strain," and I had a flashback to one of my favorite reading experiences spoiled by the film experience. Half a lifetime later I enjoyed "Next," Crichton's last offering. Perhaps I ought to revisit those books. I need an escape from here and now, and Dr. Crichton wrote some worthy vehicles. Thanks for reminding me about him.

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