Spring Break Book Review #3: George Takei’s Science Fiction Ninjas.

Yeah, you read that right.

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Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe

by Robert Asprin and George Takei

 

Of course I bought it for the authors’ sake. Of course I did. I don’t even think I read the back, and I certainly didn’t pay attention to the cheesy picture on the front (Which is too bad, because that picture is actually quite important.). But I’ve read most of Robert Asprin’s books – all the Phule’s Company books and the Myth, Inc. books – and I admire the hell out of George Takei as a humorist and activist, and not incidentally as a star of The Mighty Trek. So of course I bought the book.

Took me a while to read it, though. Because while “starstruck” may be a reason to buy a used book, it’s not really a good reason to think you will enjoy the book.

Here’s the good news: I actually enjoyed the book. Quite a lot, in fact. It is a near-future sci-fi, (Though the setting’s date, in the 23rd Century, bespeaks the same optimism that gave us the Jetsons and Buck Rogers: now I think that the next two centuries will bring us closer to The Walking Dead or The Postman [Read the book by David Brin. Screw Kevin Costner.] or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Maybe, if we’re really lucky, The Running Man.) and tells the story of a professional duelist who takes a job supposedly as a fencing instructor, but actually as an industrial spy and saboteur. The cool thing? He’s a ninja.

That’s right: this is the first real ninja story I’ve enjoyed. I mean, ever. And it is a sci-fi novel from George Takei. Seriously, is there anything that man can’t do?

So the story is of a ninja who goes into a robotics company seeking a way to halt their production, so he can earn a gigantic fee from their primary rival; he ends up fighting to save the world from the robot apocalypse. Everything that had to do with the characters, particularly the ninja protagonist Hosato, who grew up on the colony planet Musashi, and is part of a centuries-old clan of ninja assassins, is excellent; Hosato is not only interesting, he is well-rounded and nicely written. The other characters aren’t as fully realized, because the book is actually quite short, but they are all worth rooting for – and amusingly, Takei has no problem red-shirting several of the more minor characters, who quite frankly drop like flies.

It’s not all good: the robot apocalypse is lame-ish. They relied on Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, which they reference by name; but they never talk about why those laws exist or why they are important—they never even list them out, honestly, which is a little annoying: I can accept you taking a major plot point from another author — after all, Takei and Asprin didn’t invent ninjas – but at least explain the damn plot point. The apocalypse comes too suddenly and without enough explanation, and the explanation when it comes is lame. On the plus side, the way they fight the robot apocalypse is excellent, along with the twists at the end; and the final fight, and the point it makes – the fight in the picture, and the point in the title: that our creations are mirrors of their creators, namely us – are both splendid.

Definitely recommend if you just want a quick sci-fi read. Highly recommend if the idea of reading a book by these two men appeals to you as it did to me, because they don’t let you down.

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