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Salmonella Men on Planet Porno (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – January 12, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Marvelously wacky and psychologically insightful. . . . Tsutsui’s fabulously morbid sense of humor, his obsessiveness and his wit make this collection sufficiently entertaining and disturbing to warrant our attention, especially today when the world as we know it has indeed tilted into the fantastical.”
San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Fans of Haruki Murakami will relish this delightful collection. . . . A strange, magical journey.”
Entertainment Weekly
 
“Darkly funny and still fresh and relevant.”
Los Angeles Times
 
“Each and every story sizzles with energy, teems with issues and sweeps you happily along into the fantasy. . . . Tsutsui is at his best when juggling all the apples, devising entertaining, whimsical worlds and scenarios that camouflage scathing criticism. . . . The collection unabashedly romps in the sexual facets of modern humanity and culture. But Tsutsui’s work does so much more, sometimes brilliantly, often hilariously, always fantastically, never bound by reality or convention.”
The Miami Herald
 
“For once, a book that merits its wacky title, this collection . . . playfully skips across the conventions of both sci-fi and slapstick. . . . [In it,] the sense of a world bordering on paranoid hysteria is as strong as ever.”
—BBC
 
“Insightful and funny. . . . [Tsutsui’s] dark satire should find a loyal audience in the states.”
Rocky Mountain News
 
“Memorable. . . . Quirky and entertaining. . . . Tsutsui shrewdly reveals the hairline stresses, lusts, and insanities that no society can ever completely wall in.”
The Harvard Crimson
 
“Tsutsui is a shrewd satirist. . . . Potent are those stories where the author eschews genre pyrotechnics and reveals the strangeness and horror of the ordinary.”
The Review of Contemporary Fiction
 
“Off-kilter and marvelously entertaining. In Tsutsui's world, the fantastic and the mundane collide, throwing the lives of ordinary men and women into disarray. . . . Just what the doctor ordered.”
Tucson Citizen
 
“This collection is not for the faint of heart; you must be open to receive its infinite joys.”
The Honolulu Advertiser
 
“[These] stories show [Tsutsui’s] trademark fearlessness in the face of taboos; war, sex, the media, and the sheep-like mentality of groups are all fair game.”
Theme Magazine
 
“Imagine a cross between the music group the B-52s, Thomas Pynchon’s V., Ryu Murakami’s Coin Locker Babies, and James Turner’s graphic novel Nil: A Land Beyond Belief, throw in a good dose of sf tropes and bitter social satire, and you’ll start to get a good idea of what’s in store for you in this collection of 13 imaginative stories from one of Japan’s best-known sf writers.”
School Library Journal
 
“With a sharp eye towards the insanities of contemporary life, Tsutsui crafts an irresistible mix of imagination, satiric fantasy, and truly madcap hilarity.”
Bookmarks Magazine
 
“Imaginative, farcical stories that sometimes amuse and sometimes perplex. . . . [They] focus on the comic follies and irrational whims of the human race.”
—ArmchairInterviews.com
 
“Weird, wonderful and wild. . . . Sparkles with biting pieces of social and political satire that reveal a formidable talent. . . . Tsutsui’s voice is witty and quirky, seducing us to suspend our disbelief for even the most fanciful narrative.”
BookPage

About the Author

One of modern Japan's most renowned writers, Yasutaka Tsutsui has won the Tanizaki Prize, the Kawabata Prize, and several other awards. He was decorated as a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. He lives in Japan.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307389154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307389152
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,091,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yeah, I am not big fan of Murakami, but yes, there is something common in the way how author tells a story. I mean short stories, cuz there is big difference in short stories and long ones. These stories are very well written and very interesting to read. Some of these stories are scary, but all of them are written with humor, very specific humor. At the first glance, stories looks quite fictional and even surrealistical, but after short thinking I could tell that most of these stories are very realistic, and very possible in our world. I think that the best story is "Commuter Army", which reflects real commuter world in multinational country like USA. "The Very Edge of Happiness" is quite exact snapshot of average middleclass family. "World is Tilting" and "Last Smoker" are very scary stories, but the same, with some sarcazm it reproduces general internal policies in USA Government institutions and some large american corporations.

I do not know why, but it is not first book, where name of Murakami used as some measurement to author, and that is funny, because I think that Yasutaka Tsutsui does not need that comparision, he is great in his own way.

I took one star off just because there are couple places, where, I believe, author cared more about appearance, which makes story shallow. However, I love that book and would recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
Rather surprisingly, this collection represents the first appearance in English of the amazingly prolific Japanese author of some 30+ novels and 40+ short story collections. According to his web site, Tsutsu's major influences are Darwin, Freud, and the Marx Brothers -- all of which are well in evidence in the somewhat uneven mix of thirteen short stories.

The mix of surreal and slapstick can be exceedingly successful, such as "Rumors About Me," in which a typical salaryman wakes up one morning to discover he is the topic of a TV news report. As the week goes on, his daily life becomes the subject of a rapidly escalating wave of media hype, in a sly poke at shallow celebrity culture. Another fine story with a touch of cultural critique is "Commuter Army," in which a salesman for a Japanese weapons manufacturer is forced to go to the front lines of a decades-long border war between two fictional small Asian countries. The war has dragged on to the point where the army is trying to entice people to commute to the front on a daily basis and there's an especially funny scene in which the Japanese man is trying to catch the train to the front so he won't be late his first day. Easily the best story in the collection is "Hello, Hello, Hello", which features a mysterious customer service rep from a bank, who pops (literally) in and out of the life of a financially strapped couple, to dictate what they shouldn't buy. It's a hilarious and scathing attack on consumerism.

However the uneven nature of the collection is such that other stories with similar sensibilities are somewhat less successful. For example, in "The Dabba Dabba Tree," a houseplant/tree blurs the line between sexy dreams and reality, resulting in mounting social chaos.
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Format: Paperback
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno" is the sort of book you often come across by accident and start reading because it has a title that promises more in the way of titillation than the title of the book you were originally planning to read, "Memories, Dreams, Reflections" by C.G. Jung. Its a collection of short stories by Yasutaka Tsutsui, a Japanese author of sci-fi and metafiction, not well-known, or much-translated here in the U.S.--and now in his seventies, he's no spring chicken.

I'd say these stories are satire more than they are sci-fi--the kind of biting (and bracing) although sometimes heavy-handed satire (think bludgeon as opposed to scalpel) once practiced by the likes of Jonathan Swift. Tsutsui usually sets these tales in some undefined future but the worlds that his characters characteristically inhabit are just as often grotesquely and comically absurd as they are futuristic, as they might be in an Ionesco play, for instance.

Tsutsui's surreal fantasies, however, are almost uniformly dark, even when they are "funny." Bonsai trees that promote lifelike erotic dreams, anti-smoking regulation that leads to the literal exinction of smokers, a planet (planet Porno) whose inhabitants, descended from hippies, have managed to create a world where everything makes peace not war...this is a sampling of the sort of "what-ifs" in which Tsutsui engages. He doesnt seem to like government much, nor marriage, nor the human race, taken as a whole. In one grim little shocker, he has a family on vacation marching off into the sea, like lemmings, along with the rest of the beach crowd.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are many things I liked about Tsutsui's stories. They're dark, surreal, satirical, engaging, and yet, some how, it seems so often grounded in the mundane that you might feel like such ridiculous events might happen to you. Each story is unique and standalone, but are connected by common themes of death, sex, violence, and working the 9 to 5. The collection has a good range of lighthearted humor and biting social commentary, but never feels likes it's pushing its agenda. It's hard to pick a favorite as the stories each achieve different things, but I think the books high point is having "Bear's Wood Main Line" and "The Very Edge of Happiness" back to back.

However, I think the book would have made a stronger impression as a whole if the story "The World Is Tilting" would have been omitted. It seems like a cautionary tale against the dangers of feminism and women in general. It would have been so much better if it didn't come off as completely sexist or if didn't have such atrocious puns for character names (I don't know how much of a role translation played in this fact). My other criticism is that many of the main characters in the stories feel trite. Most seem to follow the same formula: male, neurotic, unsatisfied wife, struggling to advance professionally. This is probably not a fair critique, as most of the characters fit into their respective plots, but it would have been nice to see more sense of character development.

I'm still not sure what I think of the titular story. "Salmonella Men on Planet Porno" reads like a XXX version of Alice in Wonderland, including all sorts of strange creatures and weird wordplay. I'm sure others enjoyed that story more than I did, but you have to admit it's the kind of title that catches your eye.
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