Review: 'United States of Japan' by Peter Tieryas

JapanUnited States of Japan by Peter Tieryas
Angry Robot Books (March, 2016)
400 pages; $10.77 paperback; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington

United States of Japan is Peter Tieryas’s third book. It began as “a story revolving around the tragic events on the Asian side of WWII.” The book is inspired by Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, as well as the author’s time at Electronic Arts and his experiences traveling in Asia.

For the most part, I’ve never been much of a fan of alternate history stories, but John Liberto’s cover art caught my attention and I did enjoy the Amazon Prime series The Man in the High Castle, so I decided to take a chance.

As in The Man in the High Castle, the Japanese have taken control of much of the West Coast following the Asia-Pacific War of WWII. The Germans are exerting an influence in what was once the Eastern United States, but that’s where the similarities end.

This story begins in one of the Japanese internment camps during the war. After their liberation by the Japanese Empire, the action quickly moves to 1988.

The times are very different in the 1988 under the rule of the Japanese Empire. There is so much going on in this story. there are many little details woven into the tale.  Marvels like “porticals,” which are very addictive iPhone-like devices. There’s a little-used technique where “private messengers were making phones powered by the biochemistry of their body, electric pulses from the heart, additional radio connectors integrated into their intestines.” And Mechas—robotic soldiers that were as tall as skyscrapers—vigilantly guard the skies against enemies outside and within.

When a video game emerges that posits a world where the Allies won, a game censor and an Imperial Government agent discover truths about the empire that make them question their loyalty.

There is a marked difference in culture between the America I grew up in and the United States of Japan as envisioned by Peter Tieryas. It’s a story filled with wild ideas. The war may have ended forty years ago, but it’s not exactly a peaceful time. There’s a radical resistance group which calls themselves the” George Washingtons” who employ a particularly horrific torture involving genetically engineered ants with a taste for human flesh.

Available as an e-book, in paperback, and through audible from Angry Robot Books, The United States of Japan was a compelling read, thoroughly entertaining, and the ultimate “what if?” story.

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