Like all Purebred with their menial jobs, Ken eeks out a living sweeping the floors of Kyoto Peacekeeping Central. His kind serve as a benchmark for XHumans to measure how far they’ve progressed, and a reminder of what homo sapiens once was. His life will change when eight-hundred-year-old Ryu crosses over from the World of Rivers and Lakes, looking for a lost temple; and Aya, a beautiful hacker whose Sensory Interface perceives the Ether Cloud as Feudal Japan, learns that XHumans aren’t as perfect as they thought. They’ve edited out the genes which allow for Cultivation. That will give Ken a chance to surpass them. And maybe use mythical martial skills to save the world from an oppressive government, spirit beasts, and alien invaders.
Warning: This story contains graphic scenes describing the Daoist methods of sexual intercourse. Suggested audience 18+.
Note: This is my personal review and is not related to FanFiAddict’s role in SPFBO
For the uninitiated: Now, I’m not expert but in brief Cultivation Books (xianxia, wuxia etc) are books where the characters progress to develop their body using Asian Philosophies (Tao/Dao etc). As they gain understanding (also called enlightenment) over their body, weapon or soul, they can transcend and surpass normal human abilities. Think of the gravity defying sword fights in Crouching Tiger Hidden dragon, here! There is a bit of “Dual Cultivation” which is dao-speak for cultivation though unity of male and female i.e. sexual intercourse.
Now I’ve read enough books to realize how difficult it is find ones of good quality among the numerous available options, so when I hit the metaphoric jackpot, I have to post a review!
First, the Setting…the most common setting for Cultivation books are medieval Asia. Which make the future Japan setting quire refreshing from get go. We have a vibrant future culture where most humans have genetic upgrades living longer and stronger lives, whilst a minor groups who have fallen too far behind in the cycle for upgrades continue as inferior ‘purebreds’ in a nicely done trope inversion.
The plot starts with introduction of mysterious stranger (Master Ryusuke) comes through a portal and finds a modern society where most humans are genetically enhanced and crime is nearly zero. His clan forsook the genetic enhancements and secluded themselves in an alternate dimension, centuries ago learning to live and survive with the monsters and demons of that realm. Now with the barrier between somehow weakening, he has come back to kill the demons who have slipped through.
In this dimension he meets 17 yo Kentano, a purebred cleaner in a medical facility and 18 yo Aya, a master hacker. Events throw them together as they seek to evade the peacekeepers and fulfill their objective. Once they realize their objective may have a bigger implication in Galactic politics between two alien species who have been visiting Humans, things get more expansive and complicated.
The plot moves at brisk pace all through, never lagging as we are treated to a roller coaster ride. The dynamics between the characters is done realistically as we get to see an expanding story through their interactions. There are lots of cracking martial arts scenes mixed in with some good old enhanced solider tropes which adds to the flavor and excitement.
The fight scenes especially deserve a special mention as we get to see the author’s expertise reflecting in the prose. Being a martial arts master himself, JC Kang’s scenes delve way past the superficial and provide insights into the cultivation techniques themselves, which I rare found in other books.
Though there are some graphic sex scenes, they are not there just for entertainment, as author actually explains the Daoist principles behind that too. However it is kept to a minimum and actually forms part of the storyline.
Overall, this was a light and fun read and if this becomes a trilogy/series, I’d be happy to dive into the next book!