Usurper of the Sun

I am in love with Haikasoru, a little division of Viz Media that is specializing in English translations of Japanese hard sci-fi. This is the second title I've read from this imprint, and I have to say I really liked it.

Usurper of the Sun, by Housuke Nojiri, does something rarely seen in science fiction. Unlike so many novels where time is simply overlooked as a plot point, here, it is absolutely central. We follow the life of Aki Shiraishi as she grows from a precocious high school astronomy student to one of the most important voices in world politics.

The plot is primarily concerned with a decades-long space project begun when the young Sharaishi discovers a massive-scale antenna-like apparatus extending from the planet Mercury. It begins to create a huge ribbon-like metal sheet spanning the entirety of Mercury's orbit, and creating serious atmospheric problems on Earth as it blocks a substantial part of the sunlight we receive.

As Aki grows up, forever followed by fame over her discovery and subsequent theories over the purpose of the ring, she goes to college and becomes the world's most respected authority on the Ring. When the situation becomes too serious to overlook, she is part of a team of astronauts sent to destroy the ring at all costs. But, the outcome of that mission will affect her in ways that no one could have foreseen, and her insights into the race who created it, The Builders, will take over the rest of her life.

An extremely interesting piece of speculative fiction that looks at space exploration and extraterrestrial life with a philosopher's mind and a cognitive scientist's curiosity. Aki is reminiscent of Card's Ender Wiggin character - alone, and obsessed, hopeful, and carrying the weight of two civilizations on her shoulders.