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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Salmonella Men on Planet Porno

Tsutsui Yasutaka

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To purchase Salmonella Men on Planet Porno

Title: Salmonella Men on Planet Porno
Author: Tsutsui Yasutaka
Genre: Stories
Written: 1979 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 252 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Salmonella Men on Planet Porno - US
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno - UK
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno - Canada
Hombres salmonela en el planeta - España
  • Japanese title: ポルノ惑星のサルモネラ人間
  • Translated by Andrew Driver

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Our Assessment:

B : wild and often fun ideas and twists, but not enough beyond that

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weekly A- 5/11/2008 Jennifer Reese
The LA Times . 30/11/2008 Ed Park
The LA Times . 21/12/2008 Thomas Israel Hopkins
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/2007 Pedro Ponce
San Francisco Chronicle . 16/11/2008 Abby Pollak

  From the Reviews:
  • "Readers can expect an equally strange, magical journey." - Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly

  • "Salmonella Men on Planet Porno bursts with wildly surreal situations." - Ed Park, The Los Angeles Times

  • "These stories are also, as the title telegraphs, very weird. Tsutsui frequently writes in (or borrows from) sci-fi, fantastic or metafictional modes (.....) But the distance of three decades creates a different strangeness, an air of 1970s-era sexism that's almost more bizarre than the situations and plots." - Thomas Israel Hopkins, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Tsutsui is a shrewd satirist whose targets, at times, are toppled with a bit too much force (.....) More potent are those stories where the author eschews genre pyrotechnics and reveals the strangeness and horror of the ordinary" - Pedro Ponce, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "In addition to the occasional awkwardness in this British translation, and the unevenness of the stories (some seem little more than sketches, or riffs on time machines or over-the-top anti-smoking regulations), this collection was written in the 1970s, so Tsutsui's satire and sexual politics are often too predictable. We have developed a certain comfort with the conventions of the uncanny, with the intrusion of the fantastical into the quotidian, which makes Tsutsui's sensibility, albeit often marvelously wacky and psychologically insightful, not unfamiliar." - Abby Pollak, San Francisco Chronicle

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Tsutsui Yasutaka's stories are, if nothing else, very creative flights of fantasy. Though many are grounded in fairly realistic descriptions and situations, almost all make at least one big leap into the fantastical -- and some considerably more. The stories are also marked by Tsutsui's willingness to add yet another sharp turn, anywhere -- and, often, then another, final twists that take the often surreal stories in yet another direction.
       Tsutsui keeps the reader guessing. Even when you can see what might be coming, Tsutsui tends to take it to a different level -- as in 'Bad for my Heart', where a man gets posted to an island by his company, his greatest concern being that he has a supply of medicine for his heart ailment (one which nobody else is very convinced of), his desperation ruining pretty much everything else in his life.
       Sometimes the most effective story-telling comes in the holding back from that final leap: 'Bear's Wood Main Line' is an enjoyable detour, a man finding himself off the beaten track (and on a railway line that's being illegally run by the locals, after the railway company shut it down). The narrator describes his odd but believable experiences among the locals, who eventually get a bit carried away. When he joins in the local song-and-dance things go ominously -- but not too obviously -- wrong, the story closing with only the feeling of catastrophe, rather than it actually happening.
       Elsewhere Tsutsui is willing to show the darkest of visions, as in the family-tale 'The Very Edge of Happiness', the narrator and his family going -- like everyone else, it seems -- on a beach-outing which turns into an eerie lemming-like march out into the sea.
       'The Last Smoker' envisions a world where smoking bans have gotten out of hand (a step further than even Benoît Duteurtre imagined in The Little Girl and the Cigarette), while 'Commuter Army' is a comic twist on modern warfare. There's fairly conventional science fiction -- 'Don't Laugh' is little more than a time-machine scene -- and even close to straightforward fiction, as in the effective 'Hello, Hello, Hello !' about a very driven "Household Economy Consultant" (Tsutsui's most compelling character-invention) badgering a whole neighbourhood to watch their money more closely, who turns out not to be quite what he seems.
       Among the most enjoyable stories is 'Rumours about Me', about an average Joe who suddenly finds himself at the centre of a great deal of media attention, the newspapers reporting on his every move ("MORISHITA BUYS ANOTHER PAIR OF SOCKS (BLUE-GREY, 350 YEN)" screams one headline ...). And 'The Dabba Dabba Tree' is an entertaining overlayering of dreams and reality (with a good dose of sex to liven things up)
       One character in the title story tries to explain Planet Porno:

But things aren't always normal on this planet, or to be more exact, things tend to veer from the normal towards the obscene, if anything.
       In that case, they really do tend to the (incredibly) obscene, but there's a similar tendency on what can be called planet-Tsutsui, where out of kilter is the norm (and where it's no surprise that there is a story which describes literally what its title suggests: 'The World is Tilting'). And 'veering' describes these stories, too: they may start out fairly close to normal, but wind up going all over the place. And, one has to hand it to Tsutsui, he's not very predictable: you expect some sort of catastrophe in 'Farmer Airlines', for example -- another island-expedition that results in a desperate flight out during a typhoon where the pilot hands off controls for a while to breast-feed the baby she's carrying on her back ...), just not quite the one that happens -- or the cold (but funny) closing punchline.
       The collection is bubbling over with ideas,and Tsutsui often shows a deft surreal touch. 'Bravo Herr Mozart !' is a nice, short exercise, cleverly summing up and reimagining Mozart's life from a different perspective -- suggesting, for example:
     Mozart was born at the age of three. The reason for this is not known. He was born in his father's house in Salzburg -- probably because he didn't have a mother.
       But many of Tsutsui's narrators have more common stories to tell (until, of course, it all goes wrong), and he handles those voices quite well too. Still, it's clear throughout that the ideas and concepts are what Tsutsui is really interested in. He fleshes out the concepts well enough, turning them into 'stories', but the focus is on what's underneath and not the telling of the tales. They're still enjoyable enough, but often there's a feeling of them being constructed, of Tsutsui's art not quite up to the challenge of all his ideas.
       Fun and very varied diversions, but perhaps not all they could have been.

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Salmonella Men on Planet Porno: Reviews: Tsutsui Yasutaka: Other books by Tsutsui Yasutaka under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Popular Japanese author Tsutsui Yasutaka (筒井 康隆) was born in 1934.

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