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365 Views of Mt. Fuji:
Algorithms of the Floating World
by Todd Shimoda

reviewed by J.M. Frank

As I picked up a book that boasted of character bytes, had ‘algorithm’ in the title and character descriptions, contained digital art, and was written by someone studying artificial intelligence, I was both intrigued and suspicious. The suspicion stemmed from knowing too many people in the computing and artificial intelligence arenas who give computers too much credit for intelligence and the human mind far too little.

Thus, I started the first few pages warily but I was immediately swept away by the strength of the narrative. The style is innovative from the start, with the author giving a descriptive blurb about each of the main characters before the story even begins. The main text is told in first person, and along the margins there are stories and incidents about the other characters in the novel. The parallel narratives, the initial character descriptions, and the artwork all work surprisingly well. They enhance the main story while still allowing the entire work to flow smoothly.

Although the author is a third generation Japanese American, the literary style shows a strong Japanese influence. The Japanese style in literature (as in art, manufacturing, and other areas) tend toward simplicity and clean lines rather than the Western tendency to value complexity. This is not to say that the plot and characters in this novel lack complexity, but the narrative style is deceptively simple, clean, and very readable.

The story itself takes place in Japan and tells of a bland art curator who takes a job working for a rich but eccentric family. The family wishes to start a museum of the 365 Views of Mount Fuji, a collection of works by an 1800’s Japanese artist that the family has inherited. Despite its simple style, the story takes some interesting twists and does well exploring deeper issues including the nature of art, aesthetics, genius, and madness.

By the end, I found that my suspicions were unfounded; Shimoda is an author who clearly appreciates the complex mystery of the human mind and the world that surrounds it. 365 Views of Mt. Fuji is a memorable, refreshing, and surprising novel that is definitely worth reading.

365 Views of Mt. Fuji is published by Stone Bridge Press

365 Views of Mt. Fuji

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