Mecha Samurai Empire: Peter Tieryas takes us on a personal journey of robots, politics and pop-culture inside the USJ
For USJ fans, Mecha Samurai Empire is the long anticipated follow-up to Tieryas's alt-history, sci-fi novel, The United States of Japan. Mecha isn't a sequel, but rather another story inside the USJ universe told first-person through Makoto Fujimoto's (Mac to his friends) journey into the elite Mecha Corps of the Japanese Empire. Tieryas's prose is quick and witty, with a deeper look at life in the alternate universe he created, originally inspired by Philip K. Dick's, Man in the High Castle.
It would be easy to see Mecha Samurai Empire as an obvious dive into robot battles, but Tieryas manages to traverse complex societal, and very personal psychological ground—what it means to serve the whim of politicians, having friendships across cultural divisions and the impact of negative self-image. While fans clamored for a sequel to the rousing USJ, Tieryas wrote Mecha Samurai Empire, which feels more personal. Layered into the first-person narrative is a nuanced look into the USJ world view—the allegiance to the structure of a divinely ordained emperor, the way other countries view political and cultural structures outside of their own and even how they approach technology—that could be easily overlooked in a casual read.
Philosophical waxing aside, Mecha delivers on the expectations from the title with well-crafted action sequences between human-controlled anthropomorphic creatures. The battles are fierce and the technology is well thought out with just enough magic to keep the focus on what is happening in the story. The struggle between the Empire, the Nazi regime and the NARA (National Revolutionaries of America) is real and the weapons they would use to keep the peace and incite war make for a great time between two covers. Pick up the book for the mechas, but get lost in the journey of Mac and his friends in the lush culture of The United States of Japan.