A stand-alone science fiction book.
Translator (from Japanese): Jim Hubbert
Publication year: 2009
Page count: 196
Miyo is the shaman Queen of a part of ancient Japan (248 AD). However, she’s very constricted in her role and she sometimes wants to escape it. One day, when she’s sneaked outside for a walk, she and her ten-year-old slave/defender Kan are attacked by a mononoke, a monster from legend. Kan is grievously wounded but he and Miyo are saved by a man whom Miyo believes to be a messenger from heaven. Later, the man tells his tale to Miyo.
The man is Messenger O, a cyborg from the year 2598. Humanity is in a desperate battle with a mechanical enemy and the only way to stop humanity from being wiped out of existence is to send an army of cyborgs to the past. The enemy has also sent their machines to the past and the cyborgs will have to rally the humans in defense.
Messenger O, who chose his name as Orville, is just one of the cyborgs sent to the past. However, since the cyborgs will have to change the past in order to destroy the enemy, he can never go home. He fell in love with a human woman in 2598 and they had a brief relationship. Orville knows that most likely he will never see her again.
Every other chapter is set in ancient Japan and follows the characters battle against the insect like machines. The other chapters are set first in the future and then follow Orville when travels to further and further to the past. The time travelers don’t have time to be subtle and they have to alter the past in order to fight the enemy.
Orville feels like a human character. He doesn’t keep himself apart from humanity or “explore” feelings or any of the other things which artificial human characters usually do. He knows that he’s faster and stronger and heals quickly but he doesn’t dwell on it. He’s grimly determined to keep humanity alive. At first, he wants to do this by working with humanity but when it becomes increasingly clear that humans are petty, unreliable, suspicious, and prone to squabbling with each other (ah, the humanity!), Orville wants to save humanity no matter what the cost. He and the other cyborgs are aided by an AI with a lot of resources. She’s called Cutty Sark.
Miyo knows that she’s a figure head but she does what she can, mostly to organize things and to keep up the soldiers’ morals. She also has to try to make the various faction leaders work together instead of trying to outmaneuver each other.
I really liked this approach to time travel where everything is out in the open and the travelers have to change to past in fundamental ways instead of trying to preserve it. However, because the book covers a lot of years, many things are just glossed over instead of shown. Of course, if that wasn’t done, the book would have been a lot longer.
The enemies were a bit disappointing to me. They are non-changing machines. Their masters don’t communicate with humans, so the humans don’t know why they are attacking.
I was really impressed with the translation. To my eyes it feels like the book was written in English and doesn’t have any awkward sentences or word choices.