The Adventures of a Galactic Loan Shark

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The Adventures of a Galactic Loan Shark
Author: Yūsuke Miyauchi
Specifications: ISBN  978-4309024936
287 pages
13.0 x 18.9 cm / 5.2 x 7.5 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Kawade Shobo Shinsha, Publishers
Tokyo, 2016
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The five linked stories in this humor-filled sci-fi collection take place on the first exoplanet that humans have succeeded in colonizing, familiarly referred to as “Second Avenue,” where a loan shark and his boss go about collecting debts from androids.

The narrator is an employee of a company called Nova Finance. He has been posted 17 light years away from the head office on Earth to the firm’s Second Avenue branch. His boss there is Yusef, a brilliant but eccentric man of Muslim heritage and a first-line expert on quantum financial engineering. Yusef directs him to undertake tasks that result in a constant string of life-or-death difficulties as he attempts to carry them out.

It is an era when androids have become commonplace alongside humans. Nova Finance is a subprime lender that has found its niche offering loans at inflated interest rates to androids, bacteria, aliens, and other intelligent life forms that the major financial institutions shun. And when it comes time to collect, the company’s motto is to pursue the debtors to the farthest reaches of space or the deepest trenches of the seas, whether inside a nuclear reactor, on a planet with temperatures of -190°C, or to the very ends of hell. Our narrator literally puts his life on line with every hazardous collection mission on which he is dispatched.

In “To Bridge Everything,” the final story in the volume, Yusef plots to force the narrator out of his job. The narrator’s next position is as leader of an ultra-rightwing political party that agitates for exclusionary, anti-android policies. His every action is followed in real time by the public over the Internet, and within a month he has gained wide name recognition, though voters are sharply divided between supporting and vilifying him.

Meanwhile, Second Avenue is hit with a string of cold-blooded crimes perpetrated by an acrobatic android serial killer who comes to be known as “Spring-Leg Jack.” Some of the victims are borrowers from Nova Finance, which means Yusef and the narrator are directly affected. The narrator in particular wonders if his own human-supremacist rhetoric may have been a factor in inciting the killer to his ugly deeds.

Forming a backdrop to these events is the persistent class antagonism that exists between humans and androids, as well as the question of android sentience. Although androids have been continually refined to behave more like humans, prejudice against them remains deeply rooted among the human population and they are forbidden by law from using the Internet. This has led them to construct a “dark web” that only androids can access, but the incidence of mental illness among them has nevertheless seen a dramatic rise in recent years. In an effort to track down Spring-Leg Jack, Yusef detains the narrator and sends him willy-nilly on a mission into the dark web . . .

As one of the rising stars of Japanese science fiction, author Yūsuke Miyauchi has already demonstrated many unique gifts. In this comedic work, he presents a future world and the many new technologies that shape it with a precise—and at times deeply contemplative—eye for detail. It is a highly stimulating work that testifies to the remarkable talents of the post-cyberpunk generation of writers.