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December 23, 1990|Charles Solomon.

THE BEST JAPANESE SCIENCE FICTION STORIES, edited by John L. Apostolous and Martin H. Greenberg (Dembner: $9.95). This very mixed bag of stories includes work by noted mainstream authors Kobo Abe and Morio Kite, as well as genre specialists. Although they contain some native elements, most of the stories are surprisingly derivative of Western models, especially the writings of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke. Sakyo Komatsu's "The Savage Mouth" transforms a Japanese ritual suicide into a grisly fantasy of self-cannibalism. "Standing Woman" by Yasutaka Tsutsui combines a reverence for nature with a bizarre form of capital punishment that turns people into trees. Ryo Hanmura's "Cardboard Box" is a nicely written fantasy, but its subject suggests an assignment for a basic creative-writing class. If the 14th Amendment didn't prohibit it, some Japanese publishing conglomerate probably would try to buy Asimov, Bradbury et al.

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