Agastia Resort is an experimental city that guarantees all aspects of life in return for the provision of personal information. The people living in this ideal environment face an “eternal silence” that reveals evolution and the future - the northernmost utopia of a new generation of science fiction writers who have made a splash with The Kingdom of Games!
There are six large chapters in the book, but there seem to be multiple breaking points (blank lines). I divided the first chapter into sections (skipping some line breaks that were too close together), so that when we comment on the content, we can specify how far we’ve read by naming the section we’ve just finished. This will help other readers avoid inadvertent spoilers.
end of chapter 1
end of chapter 2
end of chapter 3
end of chapter 4
end of chapter
end of book
This is an informal reading group that formed spontaneously when both me and @NicoleIsEnough showed interest in the book. As such, we don’t have a schedule nor weekly assignments. Please join whenever you like and read at your own pace!
The tentative plan is to start at about February 11, 2023, but of course anyone can choose to start earlier or later than that.
Please feel free to comment on the book or ask questions while you read it. As we are reading at different paces, it is crucial that everybody generously applies spoiler tags. Discussion for the whole book will take place in this thread.
Who is interested in reading this book?
I am interested in reading this book.
I am currently reading this book.
I have finished this book.
I have stopped reading, but I will return at some point.
I bought it (couldn’t resist for that price ) I still have a few other books and manga I need to finish up before joining, but I’ll probably join in on the fun around the end of February, looking forward to it as it seems an interesting premise ^^
Got curious and took a look at the first page. So far I found the writing style to be pleasantly straightforward, not too many difficult vocab either. Contents-wise it starts with some philosophical thoughts, which were not too hard to digest either. But I guess if it continues in this fashion, it might be easy to get lost in the philosophical ideas. Which sounds like interesting material for questions and discussions
Damn I just realized that the page I was reading is just a quote from a different author Who in their right mind puts two quotes at the start of their book
Anyways, will now dip my toes into the real story…
Read the first two sections. I’ve got to say that after the quotes and the introductory article, it flows much better.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the protagonists are Americans given the cover, but I must say it feels strange to read a Japanese book about Jessica and John. There’s a lot of katakana practice in there too, although I dislike having kanji as furigana, they’re almost impossible to read…
Non-spoiler question from early on in the first section:
Not sure what that means. She works at a pizza place and serves lumps of grass on carbohydrates?
As for the plot, Jessica has been obsessed with Agastia Resort even since she heard about it, and after 8 applications she and her husband are finally in. Agastia Resort is a self-sufficient artificial city off the coast of San Francisco, where residents are paid to live while making all their visual and audio data available to the managing company non-stop. This sounds like the dream for anyone who had financial problems, but hardly a choice worth making for anyone else. How are the residents not exclusively people who had serious problems in their lives so far? Surely that’s not the sample the company is looking for? Although it’s not clear at all what they’ll do with the data. Many other points are not clear yet: Are residents allowed to come and go? To accept visitors? It seems they’re allowed to start businesses in the resort, and not allowed to have children (are they kicked out if they do?). It seems to me that their status is constantly evaluated and they may be made to leave any time? Surely a risky life choice, if nothing else.
I’m not entirely sure myself, and I’m basing myself just on the sentence without surrounding context, but I think it’s に as in a parallel marker, though I haven’t encountered it myself before in that use (as far as I can remember), so might be mistaken. 草 here would be in the context of herbs, so she’d been at pizzerias where she had to just load lumps/masses of carbohydrates and herbs on and serve that to customers would be my guess?
I should actually read it up to that point to see if I could glean some more from context, but that would be my first (probably wrong) guess.
Entry on this form of に from the Green Godess
14 〔添加・並列・強意〕 and; plus…; in addition to…; together with….
two rooms, a kitchen and a toilet; a kitchen and a toilet in addition to two rooms
12 メートルに 20 メートルの土地
a plot of land 12 meters by 20
a girl in a blue skirt and a white blouse
5 に 3 をかける
multiply 5 by 3
4 に 6 を足す
add 6 to 4
an acceptance letter that one has been waiting and waiting for
be extremely late
suffer defeat after defeat.
They scrambled like mad to catch up with a rival firm.
Entry on this from several monolingual dictionaries
There really is no context, that’s all that’s said about pizzas.
Is 草 used for herbs (as in oregano, for example)? Or green vegetables? Or is it just grass, the green stuff that grows on the ground? Herbs on pizza I can understand, vegetables are less common to mention like this (just pepper, usually, zucchini or rocket or something if you’re being fancy). Usually it’s cheese and various meats that you serve with carbohydrates at a pizza place, isn’t it? Anyway, it’s really not important, just wondering
While I feel like you’re WAY more likely to see ハーブ used, it is used even for pizza and the like occasionally given a quick google search, such as here for this wild herb pizza :
In the above article herbs mentioned would be things like dandelion, Japanese parsley, honeydew, … You’re more likely to see it in the context of 摘み草 (picking herbs) than just stand alone though, but I feel like herbs would be what was meant in the context, again, don’t dare claim any certainty though
Sections 3 and 4. I learnt some interesting new vocabulary.
Section 3. Jessica is thriving, but John can’t function in this environment at all. Interestingly, a mental clinic has opened for cases just like his. The doctor’s verdict: His wife is thick-skinned, lucky her
Section 4. John spends three days in the sanatorium, where he meets his childhood friend Derek. I wonder if the author chose to set the book outside Japan so that his characters could swear freely The guys were together in baseball, and had bad experiences with those AI servants or savants (whatever they are) before. Yet they went and chose to go live in Big Brother City years later.
We learn about a company who’s hiring, and we get to know Jessica who is in some kind of midlife crisis (although she is a bit younger than the usual age). Everything is kinda fine but nothing is really great, and there are lots of weak points to everything. (in other words, life).
She and her husband learn from his uncle that the company who is hiring builds a huge observation center for the inhabitants. This rings bells from 1984 to TV shows like Big Brother or Terrace House - let’s see how it plays out. First prediction: Jessica will apply to the company.
Derek has been served divorce papers, signed by his son too(? why?), who will be coming to live in the resort soon. I gather his son is still young, yet they left him behind to go live in “Paradise”? Derek sees everyone as “radio-controlled”, like John had described them in their first brush with the AI back in high school. We haven’t seen too much evidence of that though, at least so far. Sure, people may be striving to keep up a life style that will raise their score, but isn’t it true in society as a whole, and in any company? Not to mention that looking back, the AI seems to have given solid advice: John’s shoulder really was close to breaking, he was successful, even if not happy, at his new job, and Jessica apparently was a better choice than his previous girlfriend.
The hardware vs software talk in the sanatorium cafeteria was interesting. So that man was saying that the constant recording of all your data won’t let you live in peace with your own white lies, and some people can’t get past that? That’s an angle I hadn’t considered at all when thinking about how totally giving up my privacy would feel.
Thank you! A little better today, hoping for a full recovery by tomorrow cause it’s been very annoying. At least I could get some reading done
Section 6. It was obvious something would happen to Derek the moment John wanted to share his “revelation” with him… Some vivid descriptions there…
Section 7. Derek survived, not sure whether that’s a good thing for him. John is out of the clinic with a newfound will to take life as it comes, but there’s definite distance between him and Jessica now. The chapter ends with an article about how Mine was rethinking its memory replay program where citizens of Agastia would be able to “relive” anything recorded in the past. Our good doctor voiced his reservations as to whether the human mind could take the difference between the actual past and its embellished memories. Good point. But then we do replay some memories in video form already, even if we’re not actually “reliving” them, and the effect is not that dramatic. Unless it’s a very old, very powerful memory? But Agastia citizens haven’t had the time to create those, I shouldn’t think.
I wonder if the next chapter is about the same characters, or even about the same place. Let’s see.
I guess the end of the chapter is a good stopping point. I was planning to return to my other books for a couple of days, till the discussion here gets a bit more lively
(feeling better, hopefully I’ll be back to normal tomorrow. And I will have other things to do)
Our new friends arrive at the resort and get checked in. Jessica knows everything already and has diligently studied all the procedures, while John is not so invested in the resort life and also raises concerns about how quickly they left their old life behind, including all their stuff which they sold or gave away. Jessica seems to be the happy-go-lucky type and brushes away all his concerns. Lots of options for disaster ahead
I… have questions! How is this even possible? She came to the resort, and about one year later she wants to have a baby, but all of the sudden she discovers that her husband has become impotent because he (very much relatably!) feels observed in bed? She notices one! year! later?
Also: How can she be so stupid? Does she really believe the resort will send her news that counteract the interests of the resort? She even knows that this “doctor” cooperates with the resort - and she delivers John to them free of charge, so that they know who runs counter the resort’s interests and should be observed closely - and potentially be… ?!?
For John, I can understand that he needs to open up at some point, and being outside of the resort and even without camera and microphone lets him talk freely for the first time. But he also knows whom he talks to, right? I can rather go with his action as usually doctors are bound by professional discretion, but does this also apply here?
And then again, I wonder how often we behave equally stupidly without noticing it - how often do we fall for obvious flukes, handle our data way too lightly, and trust people who might act against our interests?