ユートロニカのこちら側 - Informal Reading Group

Reply on section 3:

Right? :rofl: Well, Jessica is very much like the teacher’s pet, she wants to prove she’s the best at everything in this new paradise of hers. She enthusiastically takes part in everything and does all she’s supposed to. I’m pretty sure she never gave John a second thought most of this time, just assumed he was going along (it feels like in the application process it was pretty much the same). The impotent thing may not have started right away, or she may have been just too tired at the end of the day for sex, and got interested in it again only after she had another project in mind: children. Who knows. In any case, they said that the bedroom and toilets are not recorded - not that I’m sure I trust them. When there’s a camera, it’s always possible it’s on. :eyes:

While the ad was, like nowadays, very suspiciously on point (suspiciously? they know they’re being watched), actually helping people who have trouble adjusting wouldn’t be against the interests of the resort. I thought that kicking them out would be the best and easiest option, but either because they want to keep up a socially acceptable face or because it’s part of whatever human experiment they are conducting within that resort, a dedicated clinic doesn’t sound like such a strange idea. It may or may not be sinister - I guess we’ll see.

I took 鈍感 to mean “thick-skinned/insensitive” rather than “dull”, given the comparison with John’s oversensitivity. It sounded like an insult but in these circumstances (and many others) being 鈍感 is a blessing. Sensitive people have way more problems than thick-skinned ones in their daily lives, that’s for sure.


Finished section 4.

John decides to go to the sanatorium for 3 days. He bumps into his old baseball pal Derek from his youth, who also lives at the resort (but spends most of his time in the sanatorium).
Derek (who moved to the resort with his wife and mother) shares a hilarious story about his mother’s very openhearted sex life with another resort inhabitant. Derek is not amused :rofl:
We also learn about John’s past as an aspriring pro baseball player who could not pursue his career due to the fact that his shoulder joint had become weak (or so he was told) and so he was not allowed to play his favorite role of pitcher any more.


Finished section 5.

We learn more about the past of John and Derek. While John dropped out of baseball and took on a job at a car dealer where he was successful but rather unhappy, Derek stayed in baseball, took up a pro contract but could not achieve anything there, and after being sold to another club he finally dropped out as well. It seems like it was pretty easy for both to let go of their lives and to join their respective spouses in moving to the resort…

I found that quite an interesting aspect as well!


Finished section 6.

Yes, same here. And then, it’s not like „bam he‘s gone“ but dragging this out and keeping the hope alive that maybe, against all odds, he can survive, is really fire :kissing_heart:
Also, I‘m curious to learn what it was that frightened him so much…


Finished section 7 i.e. chapter 1.

I wondered about that as well… On the other hand, we still haven’t learned what tipped Derek over the edge to jump. I mean, in his situation I would sympathize with him jumping any minute, but the way it was described was that there was a certain trigger? It just crossed my mind that he was maybe using this service and got triggered that way :thinking: which then made the company send the service back to the drawing board, maybe?

Also, Jessica really seems to have broken up with John internally… interesting development. I thought she’d be happy to have him back, and be happy about him enjoying the environment and everything. I wonder what tipped her off so much? Also, I guess there won’t be any talk about babies any more :thinking:

Haha omg :woman_facepalming: I am so visual / non-auditive that I read this as “Main” the whole time :rofl:

It really feels like a standalone episode, does it? Curious to see how the book continues.

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Well, you never know with katakana. Speaking of which, do you think it’s “servant”, “savant”, or something else entirely?

I ran a search for the names of the main characters, and while Jessica doesn’t seem to reappear (by name), John does but I’m not sure whether it’s even the same John. Derek also appears again, but much, much later.

That’s a very interesting thought, and very likely now that I think about it. I figured it was justthe divorce papers over everything else but your take makes perfect sense.

I’ll continue reading this tomorrow. Looking forward to it!

Again, I just thought it was only natural. They had basically separated already before, just never noticed. She was fully absorbed in resort life while John was basically a hikikomori and she only noticed when she started wanting babies. Those three days she had more time to realize that she’s perfectly happy without him. His way of using analogies to get to the point rubbed her the wrong way, and helped her realize that they’re not in tune any more. But maybe something did happen while he was away like you suggest. I guess we’ll find out if that’s the case.


Hmm, “savant” is an interesting take! So far I considered it to be “servant” though.

Oh yes, absolutely! I just wondered why she swung around so much all of a sudden after only three days. But as you said:

Ah, that’s a good point, that sounds very plausible to me.

I hope that we will learn more about them at some point!


Section 8:

New person, new situation. We learn a bit about his life as a teenager, and when at one point he wanted to go to Disneyland with his dad but after riding the train for one hour, the dad suddenly needs to return home because of an issue at work. (I guess we need to remember that later.) Our teenager (his name is リード but what on earth would that be, Reedo maybe, or Lido? :thinking:) gets super angry and subsequently runs away from home, and never returns until his parents and their home and the whole village get buried and die in a landslide.

Section 9:

OK turns out the father worked for Mine! He was a tester for the bodycam and bodymic systems. Now what might have been the incident that required him to urgently return home? :thinking:
Anyways, リード (who grew up in Florida) is on his way to Japan because he is visiting Mine.
BTW did I fall asleep in between or something? There was the lawyer informing him of something that his parents had left behind for him, then there is a gap, and in the next scene he is talking about not yet having arrested a serial killer? Was there a longer timespan that was left out, and is he now working as a police officer? Or did I read a passae in my sleep and forgot about the contents?
No matter what, he arrives at the Mine lab in Hachiouji and is guided to a room by a young researcher where he is supposed to use the newly developed Yours feature that will take him back to when he still lived with his parents…

Section 10 (start):

He really became a policeman. Interesting way of introducing information in the previous chapter :face_with_monocle:
Now he is reliving how he is at home at age 15. So far nothing interesting has happened.

But I need to go to sleep now, so I’ll leave the second half of that section for tomorrow.


Section 10:

This section covers all of his reliving that scene at home when he was 15. The memories were recovered from his mother’s and father’s recordings. Surprisingly, these recordings include a lot of details about him even when the parents were not in the room, like when he sits at his desk and writes in his music diary. The researcher had told him it was extrapolated from the recordings, but not everything sounds as if it could be extrapolated… I thought it was interesting that he could really walk around in those “memories” and was not only tied to the eyes and ears of the person who did the recordings. They really generate a world out of the recordings and make it accessible. Powerful!
Interesting detail: His manga only consist of blank pages, but his music diary is filled with information. Which means his parents must have read it :exploding_head:
Also, リード sees at the end how his father cries, probably because he realizes how broken his relationship to his son is? I did not fully understand that. And why did the father praise him all of a sudden? And who is this other person (Alan?) that gets mentioned out of nowhere? :thinking:

Section 11 i.e. Chapter 2:

リード catches the train back to the hotel, reflecting about the session he saw. He tries to play the band game again that he had once played with his father. (Oh interesting by the way: Why did the father create that game? Because he knew from the music diary how important music and bands were to his son? Or was that obvious anyway, from his manga and guitar and whatnot…)
But he realizes that his imagination has declined, and he has a hard time coming up with the vivid story he used to spin in his childhood.
Finally there is a research article about exactly this: That the imaginative power is inversely proportional to the rank (? or mental ability?) of a person. I wonder whether this is actual research? And thus the whole story is built up from bits and pieces of actual theories? That would be an interesting twist…)


My turn to be behind, sorry! Several minor but annoying factors contributed to me not reading at all (:scream:) the last couple of days, and we’ll have to see about today… I promise to try and catch up real soon though!

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Section 8

I’m thinking Reed?

Section 9

Aha, so a whole village was a testing ground for resorts like Agastia. Super creepy, especially for the children who had no idea (even after coming of age) they were being constantly recorded. Kinda like the children whose parents upload every minute of their lives on social media, but worse. And now Reed will get to test Yours too, and live a memory his parents recorded. He set a very specific date and time, so I wonder what he has in mind.

Reed is an adult and judging from the serial comment and a few others (about his captain, whose furigana is 警部) he is police. He left his village after graduating high school if I understood correctly, and never went back. For years he received Christmas cards from his parents, so the landslide didn’t happen soon after he left. However, the Mine contract ended when he was 15, so while he was still there (maybe even on the day of the Disneyland incident?).


Section 10.

I read this yesterday but was way too sleepy to post by the time I finished it. I thought we were going to replay the memory from either of the parents’ point of view, but no, Reed could control himself as he walked around a world reconstructed by everything his parents had recorded - what they hadn’t was blank, what they had was all there in every detail. I wondered how he could see his parents expressions when they talked, but I guess the fact that the other parent was also recording would explain that. Why he could see his sister’s face as she was talking to him in his room is more of a mystery. It seems recorded memories are creative reconstructions after all, just like real memories.

Other than that, nothing much significant was revealed, other than what I’d been suspecting, that the parents weren’t allowed to leave the village (Resemble?) or they’d break their contract, which is why the Disneyland trip was cut short. Poor father was secretly proud of his on but could never show it properly, and could never explain why. He was so happy to be free of the contract at last.
So his family keep calling him Alan (they did so before, don’t remember when). Did he change his name after leaving the village behind?

Section 11, end of chapter 2

Since the name issue got no further mention, I now believe Reed to be his surname, and Alan his name. This section was all about imagination. It’s true that our imagination powers diminish as we grow older, or at least I personally find it to be the case. Reed finds he can’t play the band game as effectively any more, and then we get an article about research on the subject. We still don’t exactly know what increases a person’s information level (the amount of information they submit to the information bank? the way they live their life? how well they follow the rules?), but imagination and grade seemed to be in reverse proportion to each other. The article presents it as possibly a good thing: The brain has built shortcuts and does less work to come up with an answer than a brain that imagines everything from scratch. It is compared to a chess player who can easily recall the position of pieces on the board. I can see how there can be two sides to this I guess, but I regard imagination as a good thing. Interesting how the test subjects were exactly 1984 by the way.


Section 12 and half of 13 (up to the paragraph with lots of English words, at 36%)

Too sleepy to complete the section today, I’m afraid. We now follow Stevenson, who turns out is Reed’s captain - Reed appears again too. He’s woken up in the middle of the night to go after a murderer. It seems that the murder happened at the marina opposite Agastia, and there were anti-Mine protests taking place nearby too. We learn a little more about how information grades are calculated, which is where I stopped for today.

Completed section 13 - it may have been my favourite so far. I really like Stevenson - he’s the quintessential cynical cop, and he has good reason to be so. How are you even a policeman if you just answer simple crime scene questions and let the Servants solve the crime? Why was he even woken up in the middle of the night to rush to the murder scene if he’s no use at all? You’d think that with the victim being a temporary Agastia resident, replaying his last memories would do the trick, no human intervention needed at all. But all the more worrying was the clueless total acceptance of the status quo by the Agastia police guy. “Surely if you don’t understand something you can ask the Servant?” He gave the impression of being as much of a robot as the Servant itself, totally failing to understand sarcasm or even other completely human concerns like individuality and freedom.

Section 14. The Servant produced a list of two suspects, one of whom still lives in the resort, and the other was expelled from it, so it becomes clear that the resort police officer does need to be involved. Lacking any homicide experience though, he still needs Stevenson’s babysitting. After that we learn some more about Stevenson’s former roommate, Olivier, who must have been quite a character (not that Stevenson isn’t, they make a great couple). I wonder what role he’ll play in the story.

Section 15. Did I mention how much I like Stevenson? The quickest way to eliminate crime is to eliminate laws. The second quickest, to eliminate people. Stevenson acknowledges the irrationality of human behaviour (he’s often acted irrationally himself, which makes him interesting), and also respects human emotion, another thing machines can’t properly get. Lyle, or Reilly, or whatever he’s called, on the other hand, sees only good in the resort system. Prevent crime before it happens? It sounds ideal, but would we really want to allow ourselves to be constantly monitored for our safety? As for potential criminals, they are isolated, or thrown out of the resort. If the whole world was like the resort, what would be done to them? And if thoughts are penalized before they’re ever realized (and most thoughts remain thoughts only), where is the line drawn?

Bonus: Unexpected furigana

Screenshot 2023-02-21 at 22.58.21 :joy:

Section 16, end of chapter 3. Well, that was sad. I had guessed that Lisa must be Olivier’s little sister, but I hadn’t realized Olivier was dead, even though Stevenson still having his jacket was a big clue. I hope we get to see more of Stevenson. The chapter ended with an article about some of Mine’s temporary laws possibly being unconstitutional and invading the citizen’s privacy (no way!).


Section 17. The beginning was rather uncomfortable, I’m very leery of this Dorfman. Yet it turns out he’s a resident expert (we’ve seen him mentioned in the Yours article before), and in this case responsible for handling criminals-to-be, as the system judges them. Even though he seems like a good candidate for a criminal-to-be himself, and just knows how to hide well, which is scarier. He definitely used a dirty trick to send this man into quarantine and short-term treatment. Yet I guess I have to acknowledge the fact that they don’t just throw out whoever they deem dangerous, aware that they would be even more dangerous out there. Oh, we also see Reilly (or however his name is spelled) again.

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Sorry for my looong silence, I’ve been slowly but steadily reading along, and I am about to finish chapter 3. I did not have too much to add for Section 12 - 14 apart from what you wrote though.

Section 15.

I really like Stevenson as well. Especially his episodes with his former roommate Olivier were so refreshing. Also his father’s saying that crime and lottery are the most worthless things :sweat_smile:. And that he can’t remember what tonight’s dinner is supposed to be about :grin: Very nice and relatable.

I think he does not assess the resort system at all, he just does what he is told. The system says that Angus (? :woman_shrugging:) is the top suspect? Well we need to find proof to confirm the system’s view. He just does not think for himself.

Welcome to the dystopia! :grin: And Riley (maybe? or Reilly?) is the prototypical perfect inhabitant of this dystopian world. Reminds me a lot of “1984” with some sprinkles of “Brazil” :laughing:
But yes, I had the same thoughts. Let’s see how this continues, and whether we will also get some confusions here. The “find the suspect based on what the machine says” plot sounds like it’s very prone for confusions…


Section 16.

That was really sad, first Olivier dying and then Lisa’s breakup. I had suspected that he was somehow gone, as he did not appear in person, only in memories, but I had not expected him to be dead. Indeed, the jacket should have been a clue - I was actually a bit puzzled about that, but then somehow shrugged it off. Lisa being his sister, on the other hand, was not clear to me at all. Sweet, sweet story, and then so bittersweet. :sweat_smile:


Section 18. Okay, so Jenkins seems to truly be dangerous (poor cat :grimacing:). And maybe Dorfman isn’t a potentially dangerous weirdo, just an over-intelligent eccentric. It’s hard to tell (and it’s a thin line anyway). The author decided to focus on his personal, intimate quirks to an uncomfortable degree, something he hasn’t done for other characters so far, and this raised alarms. His mother certainly seems overbearing and a little crazy, though. And I have no idea what to make of that ovulation inducing drug. None at all. Oh well. Let’s see what happens with this journalist. I’m a little surprised that in this society where everything is recorded there are still journalists looking for scoops, but I guess all that wealth of information isn’t just available to anyone.

Section 19. :fearful: Why?! Why couldn’t he have attacked the stupid journalist, who was so dense that he couldn’t even sense the weird signals Jenkins was sending, never mind heed the clear warnings Dorfman had given him? I’ve got to say, so far the Servant is getting it right every time, and it’s the humans who tend to mess things up.

Section 20, end of chapter 4. That was one rollercoaster of a section (of a rollercoaster chapter)! The interview editing was infuriating (it happens often enough in our society after all), especially after Dorfman gave such balanced, logical answers. I had been regretting suspecting him as dangerous for a while now, but especially during the interview he seemed incredibly sane and morally robust, despite his rotten upbringing. I even wondered whether the author had done this on purpose, focusing on his private quirks in the beginning, so that we would realize how flawed our own human perceptions can be as opposed to those of a system like ABM’s. And then… After the brief comic relief with his mother’s harmless obsession about bad energy arches, Dorfman understandably does go a little crazy. But is he dangerous? Perversely, even though I was leery of him in the beginning, I was totally on his side now. He might cause some damage to a building’s facade, but he wouldn’t actually harm anyone. Yet he was instantly carried away before he could lift his hammer. The little girl couldn’t be saved, but the arch was. How ironic. And I worry that the people he’s leaving behind, like Riley for example, don’t have his intellect or sensibilities when evaluating the system’s data and deciding on a course of action. Because apparently there are still decisions to be made, not everything is up to the system (yet). The chapter takes place about 10 years after the resort was established, I think (or was it 10 years after ABM was established?), then we jump forward 12 years later to the first (domestic) murder in the resort that the system again predicted but didn’t manage to avert. The author does a great job of not providing clear answers. Is Agastia a dystopia, after all? Is our own society one? Possibly both, and both seem to be built on good intentions after all.

Can’t wait to read on, but I’ll need to pause a bit to make time for 半落ち, which I’m also very much looking forward to. So many good books, so little time.

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Finally made it through section 17 (despite being very busy and probably continuing to be busy for the next 3 or so weeks…).

I thought it was hilarious how Dorfman (by the way from the katakana-ization this could also be read as “Doofmann” = “idiot” in German :grin:) gamed the system to find free time for his drawing sessions - he knew all the details, even how long he should spend on average in order to not become suspicious. This did not lead him to reject the system, though, interestingly. This kind of split morality is not uncommon for people who live in an oppressed system. Or maybe I’m slightly biased right now because I just read the wikipedia article about Hannah Arendt who got mentioned in this section. I knew next to nothing about her, tbh, and I wanted to learn about her 「仕事」but I couldn’t find anything in the English article (there was some brief mention in the German article but nothing that I could deeply relate to this section).
What I found, though, was a phrase that Arendt coined: “No human being has the right to obey.” and maybe that’s what this section wanted to touch upon?

OK, back to the text itself. I thought it was extremely risky to put the poor policeman through this, and without deep briefing, and I think it only turned out well because Dorfman intervened and dictated what he should say. Jenkins seems to be properly unhinged. Let’s see whether he turns himself in just as planned, or whether he will become suspicious last minute…

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Thank you for reminding me about her!

I too had a quick look at the wikipedia article at the time, but didn’t find anything relevant immediately and wanted to get back to the book, and of course afterwards I forgot. Now I looked again and found this:

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) distinguishes three types of work: Labor, which is work for survival. Work, which creates a product, a “work of art.” And, finally, action, which is creative activity, the making of something new out of the freedom to create for creation’s sake. Action is, therefore, the highest kind of human activity, an expression of fundamental freedom of human beings.

So, yes, 仕事 was right :rofl:

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Oh thanks, that was super helpful! The German article used the words Arbeit (= labor), Herstellen (= work), and Handeln (= action). In my mind, 仕事 = Arbeit (and also Arbeit = both work and labor), so I could not align the German article with my usage of the words and the book’s usage of the word. But coming from this English text, it makes much more sense.

On the other hand, shouldn’t Dorfman label his drawing sessions as “action” and not as “work” in the sense of Arendt as he is creating for creation’s sake, without the intention to ever show anybody, as he himself states? :thinking:

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