A damaged young man meets an enigmatic waitress in a Tokyo café, and they embark on a journey that will change everything … an emotive speculative literary novel set in a near-future Japan.
It’s our world, but decades into the future … an ordinary world, where cars drive themselves, drones glide across the sky, and robots work in burger shops. There are two superpowers and a digital Cold War, but all conflicts are safely oceans away. People get up, work, and have dinner. Everything is as it should be…
Except for seventeen-year-old John, a tech prodigy from a damaged family, who hides a deeply personal secret. But everything starts to change for him when he enters a tiny café on a cold Tokyo night. A café run by a disgraced sumo wrestler, where a peculiar dog with a spherical head lives, alongside its owner, enigmatic waitress Neotnia…
But Neotnia hides a secret of her own – a secret that will turn John’s unhappy life upside down. A secret that will take them from the neon streets of Tokyo to Hiroshima’s tragic past to the snowy mountains of Nagano.
A secret that reveals that this world is anything ordinary – and it’s about to change forever…
Hi and welcome to my review of Beautiful Shining People!
Oh my poor heart, you guys, this book! I was going to say I have no words, but I do, they’re all just a big jumble in my head. Beautiful Shining People is the second novel by Michael Grothaus published by Orenda Books. His debut, Epiphany Jones, blew me away and was my book of the year 2020, and one of my favourite books ever. I was over the moon when I heard a new book was forthcoming, but in light of my ridiculously high expectations, actually picking it up and reading it was a tad scary.
All I can do is repeat what I said about Epiphany Jones: Beautiful Shining People is EVERYTHING. It couldn’t be more different but it is equally poignant. I wasn’t even halfway through and I’d already put it on my to-buy list, and in hindsight I can say I hadn’t even got to the best bits yet! Cos that finale, Christ on a toaster, it is perfectly heart-wrenching.
The story is told from the perspective of John in the first person. It starts out on the quirky side, with John, an American boy genius in Japan for a meeting with Sony, whose insomnia drives him to a café with a mountain of a sumo wrestler behind the counter, a gorgeous waitress called Neotnia and a dog with a comical haircut. Beautiful Shining People has hidden depths, though, and tiny little hooks that pull you in, hold you captive and leave their mark long after you’ve turned the final page.
It’s a hard book to describe in terms of genre, if I had to put a label on it, I might say Beautiful Shining People is a sci-fi love story for people who don’t particularly enjoy sci-fi or romance (a.k.a. me). The world-building is amazing, Beautiful Shining People is steeped in Japanese culture and Japan a few decades from now is utterly believable and feels very real and authentic, as is the ongoing conflict between the world’s superpowers. And John and Neotnia… I mean… they’re like the Romeo and Juliet of the new age.
There is so much I would love to say about this book, and about John and Neotnia, and just why it hit me right in the feels, but that would be a huge spoiler, so I’ll let you find out for yourself when you read it. Not if. When. Seriously. Trust me on this one. Get your preorder in now.
Beautiful Shining People is just devastatingly beautiful. It made me smile, it made me weep, it made me turn the pages faster and faster, holding my breath in suspense. Beautiful Shining People is quite simply immense and I cannot recommend it enough.
Beautiful Shining People is out in paperback and digital formats on 16 March.
Hugest of thanks to Orenda Books for the eARC. All opinions are my own.