It’s been a little while since I wrote about the Red Circle Minis; a series of short works by Japanese authors but published first in English translation, I’ve read and covered the first six releases and all have been fascinating and very varied reads. So I was very pleased to hear that another Mini was on the way, and Red Circle were kind enough to provide a review copy. The new Red Circle is “Monkey Man” by Takuji Ichikawa, translated by Lisa and Daniel Lilley; and although the publisher hints that the book is aimed at a Young Adult audience it certainly made fascinating reading for me, and I’m miles away from being young!!

Ichikawa also authored one of the earlier Red Circle Minis, “The Refugees’ Daughter” (Mini 4, which I wrote about here) and in many way explores here concepts related to the first book. The story is set in a world facing ecological catastrophe (much like our own, then…) and our misfit narrator Yuri is starting a new high school. Her past has been a difficult one and she hopes to settle in and be a normal student. However, her life is not like that, and an encounter with Tengo, a rather invidual classmate, reveals that he is not what he seems – and nor is Yuri. Many young people of this world are blessed with special abilities which they keep hidden, for a very good reason.

If we lose our reason to primitive instintcs, the rest is simple. People will comply with whatever The Complex says. They’ll dance along to their tunes of divisive rhetoric and see all other groups as enemies. Excessive collective group-demands generate a mandate for strong, autocratic aggressive and populist leaders. In short: dictators.

The Complex, a rather worrying organisation with seemingly unlimited power behind the scenes, is tracking down the youngsters to harvest their abilities for nefarious purposes. However, Generation Alpha have had enough of the mess their elders are making of the world and are determined to fight back, using technology and online gaming platforms to subvert the dictators. But are Yuri and Tengo strong enough to escape the clutches of The Complex and its operatives?

Kindness is the very reason why we didn’t end up extinct and managed to keep surviving until today.

“Monkey Man” is a short but exciting read, with the young people up against powerful forces, and you do fear for their safety at time. The Complex, of course, featured in Ichikawa’s earlier book, and it’s clear the author is exploring concerns about the control large organisations have over us all, and the effects of corporations on the planet. Of course, activitists like Greta Thunberg have demonstrated just how committed the young can be to changing the ways of life on our planet for the better, and we can only hope that the rest of her generation will continue to take their elders to task.

As I mentioned, “Monkey Man” is aimed at Young Adult readers, but I think it has much to say to *all* readers; corporate control, blind acceptance of authority and the fact that we hand ourselves and our lives over to social media organisations lock, stock and barrel is worrying. Works like this, as well as being good reads, are vital in reminding us to try to take back control of our lives every day – if we all did that, who knows what the effects might be! 😀