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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Gene Mapper

Fujii Taiyo

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To purchase Gene Mapper

Title: Gene Mapper
Author: Fujii Taiyo
Genre: Novel
Written: 2013 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 237 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Gene Mapper - US
Gene Mapper - UK
Gene Mapper - Canada
Gene Mapper - India
  • Japanese title: Gene Mapper - full build-
  • Translated by Jim Hubbert

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Our Assessment:

B : thriller-aspects rote/familiar, but lots of good ideas

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 18/5/2015 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Fujii builds a new kind of cyberpunk novel thatís well grounded in the physical world and modern computing. The extrapolations of new technology and the increasing strain on resources both come across as natural continuations of the modern world. Hubbertís translation is easy to read, though some of the more technical explanations can bog down a little" - Publishers Weekly

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:

       Gene Mapper is set in 2037. Two decades earlier: "the Internet collapsed because of built-in flaws" and it has since been replaced by TrueNet -- which was:

no Internet free-for-all. All programs and data on TrueNet are closely vetted and administered. Nothing non-essential is allowed.
       Other technological advances make for a world where reality can be augmented in a variety of ways, facilitating in-person contact even when the parties are physically far apart, or adjusting how behavior and speech is perceived to normalize it (handy for those with limited social skills). This is also an age of genetic engineering, as genetically designed crops have really taken off -- vitally so after a red rust blight had wiped out most rice crops and led to five years of famine.
       Gene Mapper is narrated by Mamoru Hayashida, a freelancer who was hired by L & B, a leading company in the field of 'distilled crops' (the 'GMO' variation of genetically modified organisms now superseded by ones that aren't modified from the real thing but designed from the ground up) -- Monsanto having long since gone under. Mamoru's job was to map logos on the crops -- so that the fields could be identified (and advertised) as those of L & B -- of the latest, revolutionary rice-type, SR06. Getting the plants to change color in order to 'write' or 'draw' on the fields is relatively easy, but Mamoru's skill is in getting the changes just right across a whole field so that an enormous logo becomes visible.
       There's a test field of the stuff in Cambodia, at the Mother Mekong site -- and now there's a problem: SR06 appears to have started mutating. There's no really good explanation how this could happen -- the stuff has been carefully genetically engineered, and the field is well-protected from any possible contamination. Since Mamoru's work might have something to do with it, the project manager, Takashi Kurokawa, tasks him with looking into the very urgent problem.
       When Mamoru gets the code for a genetic sample he is stunned to see the file is 200GB large -- the human genome in the same program takes up only 25GB. Worse yet -- and bafflingly -- the sample shows red rust vulnerability -- something that was supposed to have been designed out.
       To get to the bottom of things and find a solution Mamoru has to find information about old rice strains only available on the lost Internet, so he has to hire a 'salvager'. Together with Takashi he travels to Ho Chi Minh City to work with the salvager; they also travel to Cambodia to the site itself to inspect it first hand and collect more samples.
       In a world where the use of augmented reality is so widespread, people are not always who they seem, and that is repeatedly an issue here. When they travel together Mamoru meets Takashi for the first time in person, and aside from the unexpected physical difference between Takahashi and the version Mamoru had been dealing with there's something else Mamoru doesn't know about him: Takahashi was a victim of an earlier 'distilled' rice crop, and thus might have some pretty good reasons not to fully support what his employer is doing.
       Tracking down what's actually going wrong with the genetically cultured plants, and then trying to figure out who is behind it and how to counter it unfolds in fairly generic science-thriller-mode. Complete with dramatic final showdown, the novel doesn't really rise beyond the usual thriller in its action scenes. What Fujii does do well is in presenting and utilizing the various technological advances. While the idea of 'gene mapping' -- logo-painting using the plants themselves -- seems a bit silly, much of the other technology here is impressive, and impressively utilized. A nice touch, too, is all the information that was lost with the collapse of the Internet -- and the few outposts where some of this can still be retrieved.
       The cause of the mutations is also a neat idea -- as then is the quandary Mamoru finds himself in regarding what to do with the knowledge he has: does he try to bury it, or does he make it essentially open source, revealing everything to the whole wide world. Given the fate of the Internet, the free-for-all with this technology and all its potential might also not be the way to go .....
       Gene Mapper bogs down on occasion, but for the most part is an engaging story. Fujii's depiction of the technological advances of the times are particularly entertaining, and they are utilized well in the story. The treatment of the broader implications of the genetic design of food, as well as of that which causes the mutation, necessarily remains relatively superficial -- and the most interesting questions are raised in the resolution. A final chapter, set six months after the events, rather too easily offers a happy end -- for now; Fujii does leave himself lots of room and material for further exploration.

- M.A.Orthofer, 5 July 2015

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Gene Mapper: Reviews: Fujii Taiyo: Other books by Fujii Taiyo under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Fujii Taiyo (藤井 太洋) was born in 1971.

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© 2015-2017 the complete review

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