Jin Runong, PhD candidate, Department of Chinese Literature, National Chung Hsing University
The year is 2020 and Taipei is slowly recovering from a massive earthquake that occurred near Taoyuan County’s Turtle Mountain six years earlier. But Wanhua, the city district closest to the quake’s epicenter and home to the once-bustling Ximending shopping district, suffered severe damage and has yet to be rebuilt. To restore the area’s former glory and preserve citizens’ memories of the past, the Taipei city government has decided to create “VirtuaStreet” – a virtual Ximending – in conjunction with an American company. The project will allow netizens to relive former days by strolling through virtual Taipei locales, interacting with the environment and virtual human beings by means of a force feedback system.
The setting is standard sci-fi with a touch of “cyberpunk,” but the plot is a purely “orthodox” (Japanese: honkaku) detective story. During VirtuaStreet’s testing phase protagonists Oyama and Luhua discover that someone logged into the program but hasn’t yet logged out, so the two enter into the cyber world to search for traces of that individual. However, when they locate him at one of Ximending’s busiest street corners he’s a virtual corpse. By checking the log they discover that the dead man was a petty gangster, killed by a violent blow to the head. But this leads to another problem: to avoid trouble of this sort all of VirtuaStreet’s force-feedback coefficients have been reduced by 20% – in other words, it would be impossible to inflict that kind of lethal harm. Thus, the killer’s identity and the way in which the crime was committed become the story’s biggest riddles.
Adrift in a Virtual City (2009) took first place in Japan’s Soji Shimada Mystery Awards. The awards are based on the ideals of Japanese mystery writer Soji Shimada’s “new-orthodox” school, i.e. that “both the appearance of and solution to the mystery should engender shock and amazement.” What’s worth noting here is, detective fiction’s elements of “artifice” are exactly what garnered the most attention in Adrift in a Virtual City.
Mr. Pets once worked as a computer programmer, thus he’s created a highly believable virtual world, fleshing the story out with relevant technical details. But the author didn’t just set out to write a science-fiction mystery novel – he also wrote the book to awaken contemporary Taiwanese society’s collective memory of Ximending; that is, he attempts to preserve the unforgettable growth experiences of Taipei residents born in the 1970s.
Parent-child relations is another of the book’s themes: Luhua and her foster mother’s “made-up mother-daughter” relationship and Oyama’s warm interactions with his son explore the human need for familial love. “If love between parents and children can be artificially created, is that love real?” That’s the novel’s most thought-provoking question.
Wang Pinhan, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Mr. Pets (1980- ) is the penname of Wang Jianmin, a native of Keelung’s Ruifang District. A graduate of National Taiwan University’s Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering, the writer has served as software engineer at Ulead Systems, InterVideo Inc., and Corel Corporation. As a university student, Mr. Pets was a member of the campus Mystery Fiction Research Club. After reading Kyotaro Nishimura’s The Double Winding Line Murders (1971) and Akimitsu Takamura’s The Tattoo Murder Case he decided to try his hand at mystery writing, vowing to “dedicate himself to producing moving detective fiction.” He continued to participate in club activities following graduation and later joined the Taiwan Association of Mystery Writers, serving as the association’s secretary-general.
Mr. Pets primarily writes mystery fiction. In 2007 his “Red Line Crime” won first prize at the 5th Annual Ren-Lang-Chen Mystery Writing Awards (renamed “Taiwan Association of Mystery Writers’ Awards” in 2008). In 2009 his novel Adrift in a Virtual City took first place in the Soji Shimada Mystery Awards. Other important works include the short story “A Killer’s Observation Report” (2005), the short-story collection I’m a Bastard (2008), the novel Murder in the Clouds (2013), and S.T.E.P. (2015), a collaborative effort with Chen Haoji.
Stylistically, Mr. Pets currently works in a classic deductive vein, but has also been influenced by the Japanese “new orthodox” school. In addition to his ingenious solutions, the writer also been lauded for creativity and characterization, ranking as one of Taiwan’s most important mystery writers.
|Work(English)：||Adrift in a Virtual City|
|Anthology：||Adrift in a Virtual City|
|Publisher：||Crown Culture Corporation|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010446253|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “book.com.tw” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|