Monday 7 March 2022

Abe, Kōbō "Inter Ice Age 4"

Abe, Kōbō (安部 公房 Abe Kōbō) "Inter Ice Age 4" (Japanese: 第四間氷期 Dai yon kan pyouki) - 1959

This was our international online book club book for February 2022.

Before I start talking about the book, I must point out that I never liked science fiction. I don't mind dystopian literature, if it is something that could really happen or that would have happened, had a certain even not taken place or succeeded or whatever.

This is none of that. It really is more a fantasy of someone who would love science to do things that aren't possible. Maybe they will be in future. But a lot of times, we wouldn't even want that to happen.

Sometimes, a science fiction novel has interesting characters or a good plot. This one had neither. I couldn't warm to any of the figures, you hardly got to know them at all. And the plot, well, this was a very predictable novel, you could tell what was going to happen and it happened exactly as I thought it might. Strange and weird might be the most positive remarks I might give it.

I doubt that I will ever read a book by this author again.

Comment by another reader:
"For me the read was not very easy right now. It reminded me of the cold war while watching real war on the news ... so I ended up finishing the reading some days too late. The author was all new to me, but what really opened up the book for me was the afterword where he wrote about his intention to make people think."

From the back cover:

"A Novel of the Future

This is yet another of Mr. Abe's ominous configurations (Woman in the Dunes etc.) this time staking out its uncertain ideological imperatives in a grave new world submerged under water. In the beginning, however, Professor Katsumi who has a computer capable of making predictions, has no idea of the work undertaken in a still more dehumanized laboratory. But a double murder, an analysis of one of the bodies & some anonymous phone calls (this is all quite exciting) alert him to a traffic in human fetuses corroborated by his wife's enforced curettage. Witnessing the works in progress - growing rooms for human submarine colonies which will make human survival possible - he is also threatened with his own extinction betrayed by his own machine & he's made to consider various ethical conjectures & priorities: should one deny one's self - should the present be expendable in the interest of the future? While not everybody's book, Abe's conceptual startler has a chilly precision which makes the unthinkable only too threateningly possible. Kirkus


  1. What a strange book club choice. What made people choose a 50's Japanese SF novel? I've been reading SF for around 50 years now (much less now than in my youth) but I don't think I've ever read any Japanese SF. I have enjoyed some of their Anime/Manga output but not their novels. I imagine that there's quite a few cultural hurdles to get over even before you get to the SF stuff.

    I'm a BIG fan of dystopian fiction. Its a bit like listening to the Blues in that things *usually* don't ever get that bad so when you finish it you're left with a sense of pleasant relief.

    1. Good question, Kitten. We are an international internet group and there seem to be quite a few people who like SF (not me, the more I read, the more I loathe it and this will definitely be the last one that I participated in for a while).

      Reading Japanese (or any Asian) fiction is always very different for us Europeans but I usually don't have a big problem with that because I find it all very fascinating and have read a lot.

      I like your description of dystopian fiction (which I also enjoy). But to me, dystopian is something that could happen if we don't do certain things or things that would have happened if certain events hadn't taken place (like all those "if the Nazis had won the war" and similar themes). This was SF disguised as dystopian. Not a good choice.

      But thanks for the comment, it was a good contribution.

  2. I'm sorry this one wasn't better. But without any interesting characters or a better plot, I wouldn't like it either.

    1. It just isn't my thing, Lark. And as I just told CypberKitten ^, I think I've read to many like this lately. Time for a break from that kind of books.

  3. Yeah, this isn't one I would enjoy either. Book clubs are at least good for getting us to read out of our comfort zones!

    1. That's what I love about book clubs. But lately I have the feeling that many in that group don't want to do that and rather read what they like, SF. I need to get them to read some good classics. ;)

  4. "Strange and weird", yes that's Kobo Abe alright, lol.
    The Woman in the Dunes was actually interesting.
    And I really liked The Face of Another.
    But I just reviewed The Box Man, and well... you'll see

    1. Thanks, Emma, I'll have a look at that. I doubt I will read another book by Kobo or any sci-fi book soon.