Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki

Space-age cyberpunk crosses with Japanese aesthetics to deliver a memorable experience that explores much more than galactic time travel.

Izumi Suzuki was born in 1949. After dropping out of high school, she worked in a factory before finding success and infamy as a model and actress. Her acting credits include both pink films and classics of 1970s Japanese cinema.

When the father of her children, jazz musician Kaoru Abe, died of an overdose, Suzuki’s creative output went into hyperdrive, and she began producing irreverent and punky short fiction, novels and essays.

Izumi Suzuki as photographed by Nobuyoshi Araki
Izumi Suzuki as photographed by Nobuyoshi Araki

She took her own life in 1986, leaving behind a decade’s worth of ground-breaking and influential writing.

Known as the counterculture icon in her day, Suzuki seemingly going against the grain when making career decisions.

Terminal Boredom

This short collection includes seven distinct stories;

  • Women and Women
  • You May Dream
  • Night Picnic
  • That Old Seaside Club
  • Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
  • Forgotten
  • Terminal Boredom

All of which follow the premise of existing in a futuristic timeframe, or on an alien planet.

Who Runs the World?              

This is an excellent little collection of short stories and serves as a great introduction to Suzuki’s work. Each has a unique Sci-fi brand, often focussing on themes of Gender and an over-reliance on technology.

Women rule while all men are contained within a unique sanctuary on this space-age planet, observed on school trips like zoo animals.

All of the women take on roles as both the provider and the nurturer. The working member of the relationship is often more butch. Suzuki’s way of balancing the equilibrium, allowing women to be free in assuming whatever position comes most natural to them, is a fresh approach.

However, for the women to continue getting pregnant, they need to visit the hospital and receive an injection. It’s implied that this is the semen collected from the men, who are harvested as so.

Suzuki plays on traditional sexuality, often mixing the roles and creating relationships that feel unbalanced compared to other science-fiction pieces. It’s also the unique selling-point of Terminal Boredom – a penchant for the unexpected.

Technology Overload

It’s disturbing to think that a reliance on technology was a futuristic perspective that’s now come true. Think about how much artificial intelligence we use in our everyday lives, from mobile phones, laptops, coffee machines and car navigation. Technology has become so ingrained in our lives that we scarcely notice it – something that Suzuki is constantly warning against.

Time is another of the facets explored here, playing a part in each of the stories. Whether it’s through the use of hard drugs to take control of the ticking clock or through the delayed process of doing simple tasks.

As is the case in ‘Night Picnic‘, it takes the Mother four days to prepare for the picnic. So much so that they end up arriving for their lunch around midnight.

The worlds throughout maintain a particular Blade-Runner aesthetic to them – the future written in a time far gone. There’s also a distinct cyberpunk feel to the action – Devices that produce products within an instance seemingly morphed out of thin air and unknown monsters that inhabit darker sides of the planet.

Next year will see the release of a second collection, Love < Death, and I’ll be first in line to read it.

Closing Thoughts

Terminal Boredom is a nifty little collection that allows for a peek into Suzuki’s counterculture writing, not translated into English until now.

Whilst not every story hits the mark, there’s plenty of politics mixed into the campy nature to keep you reading until the end. Recently, I reviewed Land of Big Numbers, and although this is a lot more casual in its tone, both use surrealist imagery to get their harsh points across.

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