2018’s Sisyphean is a standalone work of SF that hovers between a short story collection and a novel. The stories are connected by their setting. It was translated by Daniel Huddleston, written and illustrated by Dempow Torishima.
Welcome to the exciting world of tomorrow, where many of society’s institutions appear not to have changed, even if the beings that inhabit them are unfamiliar in form.
Sisyphean (OR, Perfect Attendants)
In a biotechnological version of the Actor’s Nightmare, the worker has no real idea what it (neither a she nor a he) is, what the vast, incomprehensible President it serves might be, how it got to the vast, isolated platform where it toils, or how it gained the skills with which it works. Fortunately, it does not need any of those things to fulfill its purpose.
The author feels little need to explain explicitly what is going on, allowing readers to work it out for themselves. The story reminded me of a John M. Ford novel.
Cavumville (OR, The City In The Hollow)
A mutant, the sole being of his kind, Hanishibe struggles to find his proper place in a society plagued by disaster and chaos. In so doing, he glimpses the nigh-forgotten history that led his world to its current state.
Castellum Natatorius (OR, The Castle In The Mudsea)
A mere dodgejobber and borderline career criminal, Radoh Monmondo should have kept its head down. Instead it allows itself to be dragged into a diplomatic crisis involving two city states.
Although much history has been forgotten and the people in these stories are in no way human, Radoh recapitulates a story arc any number of pulp-era private detectives would recognize: the low-level grifter who is entangled in affairs well out of its league.
Peregrinating Anima (OR, Momonji Caravan)
Some survived the great calamity that transformed the world. Their descendants face yet more setbacks. Perhaps it would be a good idea to flee the world in vast starships? Perhaps. But they are, after all, descended from the people who rejected that option.
Sisyphean includes numerous black and white illustrations. They are as unsettling as the prose.
In these four pieces and the interstitial material between them, the author slowly paints a picture of a world very different from ours, peopled by beings who are sometimes like us and sometimes not. We are given sufficient clues that by the end of the book the fragments connect into a comprehensible whole. If you like your science fiction gooey and enigmatic, this is the book for you.