It’s been a while… Not only have I not updated this blog, I also, I’m afraid, haven’t been working as hard on the novel as I should have. Life and day job got in the way rather seriously… But now it looks like everything’s settling down at last, and I can go back to my proper job.
And what better way to get back into the whirlwind of writing in the middle of the summer than by joining Camp Nanowrimo! You can follow my progress starting (fingers crossed!) tomorrow, here. I don’t know if I will reach any sort of goal – the book is 2/3rd written as it is, so it’s mostly about finishing the project and tidying up the first draft, but, we’ll see where we get from here!
As with Bundle I (1-4), this one also contains some additional exclusive content, all the maps from the four books, and an exclusive new cover created by the same artist, the brilliant Collette J. Ellis. Fittingly, like my very first cover, this one also shows Bran himself, but for the first time with his faithful dragon, Emrys!
So this is it, friends. The final, final book. One day I might return to this world for another story, but for now I’m focused on a whole new, completely different project, of which I might start telling you in a few months.
The final volume of the Year of the Dragon saga, the Last Dragon King, is now available at all retailers. So if you haven’t yet made a pre-order, now is the time! (and if you have, you should be receiving the book today).
This is the end of this story – and the beginning of another. Starting next year, I’ll be posting updates on my brand new project, The Superb Tyrant! Until then, it’s time for:
THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON, BOOK 8: THE LAST DRAGON KING
How will Bran save himself from a cave full of hungry, feral dragons? Who’s the mysterious man Gwen and Nagomi meet at the Gates of Otherworld? Will they be able to rescue Sato from the Serpent’s claws? And will the Southern Imperial Army manage to defeat the Taikun’s forces in their march on Edo?
All these questions – and more – will be answered in the thrilling, double-length conclusion to the Year of the Dragon saga, the eighth and final volume: The Last Dragon King!
I first noticed this book because of the traffic it was bringing to my old post about Tokyo’s Sanya district. “The Vanished” seems to be making a lot of noise in the Japanophile, and not only, circles – and the premise of the book is promising: telling the stories of the “Evaporated People” – johatsu – the deliberately missing people of Japan, those who have fallen through the cracks of the system and ran away to start a new life in a different part of the country.
But from the start, there are a few problems with the premise. For example, is Japan really a place with unique numbers (and categories) of disappearances? The book quotes the number of the missing, for any reason, at 120-180,000 a year. But in UK, with half of Japan’s population and with no natural disasters, there are 200-300,000 people going missing every year. It would seem the French author might find a more interesting story across the Channel, rather than traipsing half-way across the globe…
Another problem I notice early on is that, although the book was published in France just two years ago, there is already a sense of it being out of date. Most of the interviewees “evaporated” during the Lost Decade of the 1990s, out of fear of debt collectors and the mafia, or because of economic hardships their companies had suffered – which is hardly a uniquely Japanese experience. The Sanya as described in the book is not the Sanya I know today, with the slums and “extended stay” hotels being torn down to make place for trendy backpacker hostels, boutique cafes and art galleries. Abenomics may be controversial, but it’s changing the surface of the places described in the book at a pace that’s difficult to keep up with, and it would perhaps be more interesting to read about how the forces of gentrification and a flood of cheap yen tourists impacts the local population, rather than slog through another cliched description of the homeless sleeping at the train station (as they do all over the world), or a woeful tale of the author getting lost in the meandering, narrow streets of suburban Japan (it’s the 2010s, don’t you have a GPS in your phone?).
The one unique aspect of the Japanese “evaporation” that is, indeed, worth exploring and reading about – and which is the supposed main topic of the book – is the organized and efficient manner in which it is happening. Instead of the government or the NGOs dealing with the scale of the problem, everything is left in private hands. The stories of the secretive companies engaged in the “night escapes“, which provide everything from unmarked removal trucks to cash-in-hand jobs in remote parts of the country, make for a good, intriguing read, but they are too sparse and too few to make up for the rest of the book, petering out after a few chapters. The authors seem to be aware of it, spending far too long explaining how difficult it was for them to find enough contacts to fill out the 200 something pages.
Half-way through, the narrative degenerates into a rambling sequence of non-sequiturs, brief essays only vaguely connected to the theme of “vanishing” or escaping, and veering dangerously at times into the “wacky Japan” or “mysterious Orient” territory: the seclusion of the hikikomori, the suicide cliffs, maid cafes, the Tohoku earthquake, the North Korean abductees; these are all topics worthy of separate research, and having them thrown in among the other stories only compounds the feeling of not having enough proper material for what is, for the price (£12 in half-price e-book deal) a fairly short collection of words and photos.
These cliches accumulate until, at last, I am almost forced to give up reading further, as Mauger begins quoting from the antiquated and often discredited “Chrysanthemum and the Sword“. This only confirms my suspicions that her understanding of Japan is merely skin-deep and full of preconceived opinions. It is a pity: a better author could take the subject and go into some really interesting places with it. Perhaps somebody having more sympathy to Japan and the Japanese way of life might notice that the “evaporations” seem, after all, a better way of dealing with the hardships of modern urbanized life than suicide or turning to a life of crime. That even though places like Sanya or Kamagasakiare considered “slums” in Japan, life there is still infinitely easier, and safer, than that in actual slums of Africa or South America. And finally, perhaps somebody would find a way to write an entire book about this single topic, one more deserving of the hype and raving reviews than this jumble of random, forcefully cobbled-together stories.
‘Kamagasaki, Home to approximately 25,000 people — absolutely dwarfing Tokyo’s equivalent, Sanya — the area is a far cry from the neon-lit, modern image of Japan’s sprawling urban centres. Although as a cruel reminder, Abenobashi Terminal Building, the country’s tallest, now looks down on the district and its residents with cold, unseeing eyes. Just like the city that sanctioned it. A nameless place, with faceless people.
I just stumbled on this article about Osaka’s equivalent of Sanya, which I wrote about before a couple of years ago. Go read the rest of it here.
From what I hear, like San’ya, Kamagasaki has become a backpacker destination due to cheap hostels. It would probably be my choice of accommodation as well, had I ever needed to stay the night in Osaka… I can only expect it to eventually gentrify, again like San’ya, though where will its current inhabitants go when that happens is anyone’s guess.
Yes, it’s finally here! After four long years, the story of one memorable year in Japan’s fictionalized history – and in a certain Welsh boy’s life – at last comes to an end in The Last Dragon King, Book 8 of The Year of the Dragon series. The Amazon preorder launches today – the full release on all platforms is scheduled for December 27th.
It all started in the summer of 2012 – though preceded by two years of writing and editing – with the simultaneous release of The Shadow of Black Wings and The Warrior’s Soul. Four years later I have eight finished books, over 700k words published (a lot more written!), nearly 30,000 copies sold, and, most importantly, an invaluable experience in writing and publishing that will hopefully make my next projects go a lot more smoothly! AND I’ve managed to tie up all the plot threads and lose points by the end – I bet you didn’t expect that! 🙂
It’s day 6 of the countdown – the pre-order launches tomorrow! Today, the final treat, is a sneak peak on the final cover of the series.
I know, you’ve seen the cover to The Last Dragon King already – but there’s still one more book left to release: the second of the two four-volume bundles,containing Books 5-8, with working title “The Serpent’s Head”.
As before, the cover will be produced by Collette J. Ellis of Flying Viper Illustrations. The release is still some time away – I have it scheduled for January, both in e-book and paperback, so what we have for you today is just a sneak peak of a preliminary sketch – but you can already see it’s going to be the most powerful of my covers to date!
Don’t forget – tomorrow is the launch of the pre-order, and the last of these countdown posts!
It’s day 5 of the countdown – only 3 days left until pre-order launch, and for today I reveal the final map in the series!
As you may know, I like to have a new map in each volume of the Year of the Dragon, and this time it’s no different. The map in The Last Dragon King is in a new style: a late-19th century tactical map. It shows the Dan-no-Ura Straits and surrounding area, in the day before the launch of the decisive Battle of Kokura – one of TWO major battles in the book! (did I mention this volume is more action packed than any before? 🙂
Visit tomorrow for the final reveal in the countdown, before the pre-order is launched on Wednesday!