Salmonella Men on Planet Porno

Published By: Pantheon

Book Category: Fiction,


Reviewed by Gene Hayworth

The stories in Yasutaka Tsutsui’s new collection, Salmonella Men on Planet Porno, defy any conventional classification. Equal parts science fiction, fantasy, and satire, the cohesive component of the stories is their focus on the comic follies and irrational whims of the human race.

Though author Tsutsui fashions the plots from the fabric of daily life, he weaves elements of the unconscious into each story that suggest how easily our monstrous desires can quickly master our more sensible natures. Many of the narratives focus on family relationships. In the thirteen stories that make up the collection, the author explores the existential questions that arise when the internal and the external worlds collide. In the title story, “Salmonella Men on Planet Porno,” Tsutsui examines what the world would be like if plant life could express sexual desires and deftly describes how a human might reach a higher plane if forced to give up the same desires. In “The Dabba Dabba Tree,” a man and his wife play out their sexual fantasies when the husband’s father gives the couple a small tree that stimulates erotic dreams. Tsutsui creates the illusion of a world in which dreams and reality coexist.

These are imaginative, farcical stories that sometimes amuse and sometimes perplex. In “The Last Smoker,” we are presented with a writer who becomes increasingly irate because he has been asked to stop smoking; the request drives him to consider suicide. By the end of the story the reader is left to decide his fate.

The author, Yasutaka Tsutsui, has garnered considerable recognition in his native country. He counts among his many accomplishments the Tanizaki Prize and the Kawabata Prize. The translator, Andrew Driver, deserves equal recognition, for he has captured both the grace and the terror of the original Japanese texts.

Armchair Interview says: Unique mix of genres in one collection of stories.

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