"I was convicted of being Japanese. It was my only crime, and when found guilty, I was sentenced to Assimilation."
So begins Black Sheep, by Ben Peek, a dark dystopian journey into a world where segregation is perfected, and opposition--even in thought--results in the mind numbing horrific act of Assimiliation.
Isao Dazai, having recently immigrated to Asian-Sydney from Asian-Tokyo, finds himself in a world--once again--divided by race. Sydney is no different than Tokyo. Segregating Asians, Africans, and Caucasians into walled cities guarded by featureless Segregators, grave consequences result at even the thought of crossing cultural boundaries.
From the beginning, (not counting the fact that the first few lines of the book offer up his fate) we know that Isao is destined to buck the system.
While he is continually curious about the happenings in African or Caucasian-Sydney, his apathy and restlessness, even in his own Country (before immigrating to Asian-Sydney) speaks more of an existential angst, a discomfort in his own skin, than a true desire to search out alien culture. "...it was a well kept secret that I believed that I could live in any city, in any country, and feel the same ambivalence."
But we're not just talking about angst rising out of the uncertainty and discomfort of your own existence, we're talking angst that blooms and thrives in an environment where all of your actions are caught on surveillance cameras, your voice recorded, and dissidence rewarded with the stripping of your pigmentation--an erasure of sorts--placing you in environs eerily reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps.
While I was hoping for the dark brooding humor that plagues (in a good way) his blog, Peek's Black Sheep--while void of lightheartedness, (this is dystopian after all)--was impossible to put down.
Peek creates a sterile world where your name is your sickness, your Family is your enemy, individuality is prohibited, and nothing is ever what it seems.
It must be review week for me. I've noticed that these things tend to come in groups.
Anyhow, a while back, Miller told me that Black Sheep had ended up as the extra curricular reading in a course out in Texas, if I remember right. For a moment, I thought I should apologise to people, but then I realised that this meant people had to buy my book, and course marks were a suitable bribe. Since the book is pretty much dead, the idea of anyone buying it seems alien and obscure, I decided this was quite a good thing.
Link to Amazon, where you can buy it, review it, recommend it, do whatever with it.