ユートロニカのこちら側 - Informal Reading Group

Nah, it’s not Art in his mind, just a work of art, a product. Both in the toilet and on the paper. :joy:

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Section 21. I found this section harder than average for some reason. There were politics and war stories and family trees, and I don’t do well with any of those. If Yuki’s grandfather was in WWII (I’m assuming, because of mention of Americans and Guadalcanal), then our story doesn’t take place in the future after all? Or at least, it’s a very near future, as in a few years from now? Not outside the realm of possibility, to be honest.

Section 22. (I’d been reading about Alzheimer in 半落ち and now about dementia in this one. I think I prefer holes as a recurring theme. :thinking:) Anyway, so Yuki went to America to continue her studies after quitting in Japan, and reluctantly befriends another Japanese boy who she initially dislikes, and who is nicknamed ララ (Rara? Lara? Lala?), when they join up for a project on Ray Bradbury. They plan a trip to Agastia, Yuki having a vague idea of fighting the system from within, but she is refused access for undisclosed reasons. Does it have to do with her family’s political views? With the fact that none of her family (and I assume herself) ever gave information to the Information Bank? In any case, ララ becomes quite militant about it and even joins an anti-Mine group (run by one of Yuki’s relatives). Meanwhile, grandpa’s condition is deteriorating, but he chooses “freedom” over drugs. The concept of freedom comes up a lot in this chapter. Does Mine actually restrict anyone’s freedom by not allowing them to enter Agastia?

Section 23. Dorfman makes a reappearance! He’s out of Mine now, or at least he doesn’t hold his previous role any more, and he’s doing seminars about the ins and outs of the crime prevention system of Agastia. Yuki now knows that she was refused access because the system couldn’t predict her future behaviour, good or bad (apparently she can’t even predict it herself). ララ is now fully radicalized and wants to plant a bomb to ruin Agastia. Yuki wouldn’t consider harming people, but when she watches her grandfather’s last desperate flee to freedom, searching for a post office that doesn’t exist to post a letter he can’t write, she somehow takes it as a message to herself to continue the revolutionary line of the family. Following ララ’s half serious plan, she enrolls at Mine University in order to have access to Agastia, but her Mine-hating family disowns her before hearing her reasoning. The debate about whether fitting grandpa with a tracker would turn the family into Mine was also interesting. We’re monitoring him for his own protection is the same argument Agastia uses. However, in the case of Agastia, citizens are aware of the surveillance and accept it. Grandpa would never accept it, but on the other hand, is he fit to decide? And who decides who is fit to decide?

For some reason I started writing summaries instead of just comments. I need to stop :eyes:

Seriously, this book deserves more readers. So many abstract concepts, so many morally grey areas and controversial topics. It would make for great discussion.

Section 24. So Yuki is now planting the “bombs”. In quotation marks, because we don’t know what they are, and neither does she. She does it for the sake of freedom. What is freedom though? It can only exist in contrast to the lack of it, her great-grandfather wrote. People choosing to live in Agastia believe they’re free: free from danger, free from the struggle to survive. Is Yuki herself free? She feels very much like a prisoner of her family’s history to me. Her grandfather may be free of the mind-controlling drugs, but the price is that he is a prisoner to his own disease. Is that freedom? It’s an elusive concept for sure.

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Section 25 and 26, end of chapter 5.
Well this was another difficult part. Too many abstract concepts for my little head so late in the day… :sweat_smile:

So things didn’t go as planned. But two unnamed police officers decided to disregard instructions and help our two revolutionaries escape. Making the orders they had public - which were to let the crime be committed first so as to arrest them red-handed - could possibly damage Mine more than a terrorist attack would. But of course, they are caught. A strange scene follows, where I was often confused about who was speaking and what exactly was going on. The policeman pretends to take Yuki hostage, talks about an incident some twenty something years ago where a robber/murderer fell off this cliff with the loot, so that the victim, the killer, and the loot were all lost (is the policeman Stevenson? It must be), then dives himself off that same cliff. Yuki philosophizes a bit about the meaning of freedom again, and we learn nothing about what happened to any of them. Then a hard to understand article about consciousness (is that even the right word?) dropping when there’s no threat of “freeloaders” in an altruistic society (that would be the Utronica of the title), and an easier to understand article about the launch of yet another resort, this time in Seattle.

Just to testify that I’ve not fallen off the wagon yet :sweat_smile: I finished Section 18:

Agree with you that Jenkins really doesn’t seem like a pleasant guy, that Dorfman seems to be the prototypical eccentric (“I accidentally grabbed the necktie that was determined to be worn on Friday” :laughing: “how can I wear it two days in a row?”) and his mother is really off, with this arch radiating bad energy (“nobody here has a girlfriend, that’s proof enough!” :woman_facepalming:)
I did not get that ovulation thingy at all. First I thought it’s something like a hatching box for chicken eggs or something, but it says 剤 so it must be some type of drug? I mean I can see that the couples in there would have difficulties having children (cf. Jessica and what-was-his-name-again) so generally speaking, couples might want something like this, maybe? But what does Dorfman do with it? :thinking: Does it turn him on to think about fertility?

I guess that the recordings are not necessarily accessible by everyone, they are first and foremost for use of the company. So journalists would still have plenty to investigate. Especially if they discover that somebody was kept isolated against his will…

I really wonder why so many bits were thrown at us (Jenkins, the mother, details about Dorfman). Waiting for the guns to fire :grin:

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Finished Section 19.

Wow, that poor little girl! That was quite shocking… This stupid journalist was really on a mission to prove the Mine people wrong and to demonstrate that Jenkins is nothing more than a poor mourning victim, sigh. I hope he at least understands what he did here…

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Finished section 20 and chapter 4.

Indeed a rollercoaster chapter! :laughing: I was so so impressed by Dorfman‘s interview answers, so deeply reflected and morally sound! I had suspected that he might be a fanboy of his own creation, but he was really reflecting on the effects the system would have on people when used to detect their „bad“ thoughts already. And he promptly gets to experience this when the system points him out as being dangerous when he is just super frustrated by the interview (I was so furious! And this happens often enough irl :flushed:) and goes a bit overboard in needing to vent…
And yes, I agree not everybody will be equally reflected (or rather, most won’t be, especially not if-the-machine-says-so Riley!), proof of which can be seen in the news article at the end, they are planning to make the system more powerful after this murder… I‘m actually surprised that it took them 10 more years to get to that point. Or did they just need a strong pretext? :woman_shrugging:

I must say the previous chapter felt a bit like 1984 ver. 2.0 so I did get slightly bored, but this chapter got me!

EDIT: Can’t add more comments so I will put them here instead.

Finished section 21.

Very interesting new story! Interesting family - it’s the first time that I read about left-wing Japanese, I guess? Pretty refreshing. In a way, I like the unruly grandpa who refuses to take medicine :joy_cat: but of course I‘m also with the family who suffers most from those illnesses. I‘d have cried as well in Yuki‘s place.

For the difficulty, I was quite scared after your comment @omk3 :sweat_smile: but I didn’t think it was more difficult than normal - I think I could relate quite a bit to the family stories and stuff.

Finished section 22.

It’s really interesting to see the parallels of „freedom“ (or lack thereof) regarding dementia and the resort, I agree!
I was not really surprised about Yuki’s rejection (given her family history), and I was not really surprised to see that Rara got upset (given he planned to go to the resort together with Yuki), but I was mildly amused that he tried to object so much and even wanted to go to court about it. I mean, it’s a private company, and they are not required to let everybody in, nor to give a rationale for their decision. And any type of resistance would probably only harden the case, I guess… Yet another parallel to grandpa: The more his clothes were hidden, the more he acted up… :thinking:

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Section 27. I had some serious comprehension issues here at first, as I interpreted ティム as “team” at first, and not much made sense, the little pigs at the end especially. :rofl: Anyway, all good now. アーベントロート (I won’t even try to write it in Latin characters, no idea) used to be a priest, but not any more.アーベントロート was also the surname of Mine’s CEO. Any relation? He vividly remembers a series of conversations with an unnamed person that I suspect we should be able to recognize (who, though?) about freedom. Now, Christianity’s definition of freedom is not better than anyone else’s, and could very well be described as lack of freedom by non-Christians, I’m sure.

Spoiler 28. So Peter has a super-intelligent and inquisitive young son, Tim, who always analyzes and questions everything and grandpa-pastor can’t keep up with his questions and relentlessly scientific approach to things. The family’s take on the three little pigs was fun to read about. Tomorrow they’re leaving and moving to Florida, just outside the resort (or San Francisco? I’m confused)Agastia in San Francisco. It’s not yet clear to me what they’ll be doing there. We’ll soon find out, I’m sure. By the way, I found it a bit chilling to have a little child discuss the relative “ranks” of the family. And speaking of chilling, I almost forgot to comment on the pastor’s horrific marriage. I kept wondering why on earth they weren’t just divorcing, then I got my answer. Let’s just torture ourselves to death instead - that’s the Christian thing to do. :tired_face:

Section 29. So Peter is the one who wrote the Utronica book we read about at the end of the last chapter, and it inspired so much hate that he and his wife had been hunted down for years, and his wife was killed in the process, as was the poor director of the movie the idea was based on. Peter moved into a witness protection program with his father and son, then tried to move to Agastia but he himself was rejected. He is accepted now though. What changed? And why is there a plan for Florida too, even though children are not accepted there? When he said earlier that he could meet with Sara whenever he liked, did he mean through the Yours program? Were there even recordings of her since they lived outside the resort? So much I don’t understand. Only two more sections to end the book and I worry that’s not enough pages to resolve everything.

Section 30. So we indirectly learn the identity of the mysterious man. It’s the same one who jumped off the cliff last chapter, and who I believe to be Stevenson. The plan failed spectacularly of course, because no one cared (but they did care about a book claiming they’ll lose consciousness). We still haven’t learned what his unforgivable crime is, nor what he’s planning to do. I’m worried. By the way, I seem to have misunderstood several things in this chapter, and realizing it as I read on. I think it was that ティム misunderstanding that completely threw me off at the start. :sweat_smile:

Read on or leave it for tomorrow? It’s so late, but there’s only so little left!

Finished the book! I need some time to let it all sink in, I think.

First of all, really? You introduce the priest in the last sentence, even though his identity had been super obvious, but leave the mystery man unnamed? I still suspect it’s Stevenson, but it could also be Reid, or even Reilly who somehow started doubting the system? I’m sure there were clues I missed, but I don’t have the energy to look for them.

I’m not a fan of religious themes, and it especially irks me when I run across mentions of Christianity in Japanese books (I get enough of it at home, after all), but I can see how it made a lot of sense to include. We get a look at Agastia from all sorts of different point of views, and a religious one was a good addition to the mix. Even if I personally disliked it.

This was a philosophical book that poses a lot of unanswerable questions, the main one of which was the definition of freedom. The world in the book seems to be divided into people who are more than happy about all Agastia has to offer and eagerly (try to) join in (among them there’s people like John who find they can’t cope, but they still have nothing fundamentally against the system), and people who strongly disagree and feel they have to fight against the system, to “save” others. Much like religions and revolutions, fighting to save people who never asked to be saved is never as black and white as it seems in the minds of those fighting. I’m with the priest on that one, I’d constantly second-guess myself. Does Yuki, Stevenson and the rest have any right to destroy what for some is a utopia? I have no answers.

The parallels with life as we know it were more than transparent. We’re already giving up personal information left and right, most of us willingly, or at least carelessly. At least Agastia is honest and open about the information it gathers (all of it), and gives back security and a trouble-free life to those who provide it. But surely Agastia couldn’t exist without the outside world? To have so many residents that it pays to have a luxurious and carefree life, it must use the information it gets for gain. If everyone was in Agastia, what would be the use of that information? What would cover its costs?

While technology is neither good or bad in itself, and we can see both its dangers and benefits in the book, it’s the humans themselves who are always the problem. Most humans behave erratically throughout the book, but even more than the individual characters, it’s the “general public” that is always very clearly mistaken, from pushing to change the law to punish intent, to hunting down all those even tangentially related to a book the content of which offended them.

I finally started this book, and finished sections 1 and 2!

I don’t know if I’m imagining this, but the characters speak so American! I can’t stop imagining a dubbed Hollywood movie with American actors, and the Japanese voiceover. なのよ、だよ all the time. It’s really funny because that’s exactly how the Japanese dubbed version sounds usually.

I‘m not sure what to think of the dynamic of our couple yet. Kind of weird? How Jessica was like „no, I don’t understand your reservations at all“, come on, surely you must at least rationally understand his doubts.

It’s also funny how they explain American laws to the reader, like the one about drinking in public spaces.


I admit I found it quite strange reading about American people and places in a Japanese book. Going over some reviews of the book after I finished, several readers complained that the katakana names were extremely hard to remember. First time in a Japanese book that I had no trouble remembering names… :grin:


Finished section 3, John‘s therapy session with the doctor.

I just want to say, I didn’t have this impression at all :sweat_smile: I also think that it shouldn’t be against the resort‘s interests to keep people mentally healthy, just as they probably strive to keep them physically healthy. The doctor seemed quite nice, and his point about adhering to social rules even if nobody is watching, I actually found that quite interesting.
My only question was, why is Jessica present at John’s therapy session? xD

Also, I did not expect to ever learn the Japanese term for the good old Über-Ich: 超自我 :smiley:


Section 4.

Well, „chose“… I don’t know about that :sweat_smile:
They both seem unhappy and they know they would be happier „outside“, but they can’t because of family and/or their financial situation.

I can see why John might have an aversion against the servants / robots due to his experience with them, being basically forced by them/due to their „recommendation“ to give up his pitcher position. Probably makes it much harder to just forget about their existence in the resort.


Section 6

I thought the same thing, it seemed very telegraphed. Not surprising at all.

Section 7

The article again proves why I don’t think Dr. Bobson is a bad guy.

Section 7

I think the others in the session would’ve known about that, not sure.

It‘s also Main to me :joy: I always get confused when people talk about the main haha character of 本好き (?) who gets romanized as Myne?? Wild stuff.

And I think it’s servant. Savant wouldn’t have the 伸ばし棒 in my mind. But not sure.
I checked, apparently savant is romanized as サヴァン. French silent t and stuff.

Finished chapter 1, and started chapter 2. I‘m kind of sad that we get different characters :frowning: I’ve read too many books recently where the viewpoint switches around. But I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.


Me too! It’s surprisingly common, isn’t it? Almost as common as books containing three novellas instead of one full-length novel. Maybe that’s a workaround? Multiple viewpoints are a little like short stories within a longer one.


Finished chapter 2.

I was so confused as well because I thought that was his first name. Haha. But his name is Alan Reed. Which also solves this:

It feels so normal to only call Japanese people by their last name but so wrong when it’s foreigners.

Haha, I caught that too! Coincidence? I think not :laughing:

I still can’t believe how his boss basically picked him up from the street and did all these nice things for him even though he was basically a criminal (well, a petty thief, but still).

Also, I wonder what that comment from the mom to Rosie was all about. She said „you should tell Alan“, and Rosie said „It’s your job to tell him.“? Does this mean Rosie was aware of all the recording going on, and Alan was the only one who didn’t know? That would also explain why the lawyer said that they only wanted him to notify Alan in their will.


I don’t remember exactly, but I think they were telling him off about him not caring about exams or studies or something? My impression was that the mother was asking Rosie to chime in too, and tell him he should be taking things more seriously. I think Rosie never knew about the experiment, no idea why.


Ohh, yeah that makes more sense!