Two futuristic novellas present bold and highly intriguing thought experiments on extreme eventualities the world could face in times ahead.
In Taiyō (Sun), an artist named Michel Tayama believes that if the nuclear fusion that powers the sun can be accelerated past a certain threshold it will be transformed into gold, and his idea leads to a cataclysmic end of the world. Harking back to the alchemists of old who sought to transform common metals into gold as well as to achieve longevity and immortality, Tayama refers to his endeavor as “the great alchemy.” He is a ninth-generation descendant of Dongo Dionmu, a man who lived in Africa at the beginning of the 21st century and prophesied that humanity would attain a “second form” and gain immortality. This has indeed come to pass. After much deliberation, Tayama commences his great alchemy experiment by starting up his fusion accelerator device. For a brief moment he becomes the man who produced the greatest quantity of gold in history, but then he perishes in flames with the rest of humanity. The sun that has been turned to gold swallows up the planets one after another and expands to envelop the entire solar system.
Wakusei (Planet) unfolds through a series of exchanges between Tokyo psychiatrist Yozoh Uchigami and American biologist Dr. Frederick Carson, one of the world’s leading authorities in his field?starting with unilateral emails sent by Uchigami that Carson had treated as junk mail, and years later their face-to-face meetings. The work is heavily influenced by Polish science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, and by Russian director Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky’s film adaptation of that novel. Uchigami is a figure much like an omniscient and omnipotent god, knowing both everything that has occurred in the past and everything that can occur in the future, and he styles himself “the final conclusion.” Carson, on the other hand, is a “super human” with the power to wipe his own memory clean every five years, as well as the ability to gain psychological control of others through his rhetorical virtuosity. When not only humans but animals as well have become integrated into a single vast network that seems to represent the ultimate evolution of the Internet, effectively making them all a single organism akin to the ocean that covers the planet Solaris, Uchigami and Carson carry on a profound exchange about the future of humanity as the two last surviving flesh-and-blood individuals.
Both stories delve deeply into questions of individuality and difference among humans.