Novel of the week: Red Girls by Kazuki Sakuraba

Viz Media first appeared on my radar in the late 80s and early 90s with their pioneering work bringing translated Japanese manga to the USA. Trying to strike translated gold twice, in 2009 Viz created its imprint Haikasoru to publish English versions of Japanese science fiction and fantasy novels. 

The results of this work are paying off. Their translation of All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka inspired Hollywood to buy the rights to the novel, which eventually become the Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow. (Side note: Haikasoru editor and author Nick Mamatas wrote a synopsis of the book, part of which Hollywood absolutely loved. This resulted in the following bit of Nick's writing becoming the most widely read and quoted words he ever created: "Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers".)

Now Haikasoru has released Red Girls by Kazuki Sakuraba, a novel which, if there's any justice, will be read by even more people than All You Need Is Kill.

The subjects of these two novels couldn't be more different. Described as a "multigenerational saga of matriarchs, manga, and murder," Red Girls fits more comfortably in the genre of magical realism than hard fantasy or SF. The novel follows the lives of three generations of women in the Akakuchiba family in a steel-producing town in rural Japan. Spanning the times from Japan's defeat in World War 2 to the modern day, Red Girls is — to play off Nick's quote above — Forrest Gump meets One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Except that the novel is also far more than that. Red Girls is gripping, beautifully written, and as insightful as any fiction I've read this year. The characters draw you in and keep you moving through life with them. And this is a novel even non-genre fans will love. My wife, who isn't a fan of SF/F stories, loves Red Girls.

With All You Need Is Kill and other translated novels and anthologies, Haikasoru has proved there's a market in the Western world for Japanese genre fiction. They continue their winning streak with Red Girls by Kazuki Sakuraba. I urge people to read this novel, which will be on my shortlists for next year's Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards.