Book Review – Tokyo Ink by Ann Vremont

Genre: Gay, Futuristic, Urban Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Cyber-Punk
Publisher: Changeling Press (2008)
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-60521-018-6

About the book:

“Shimizu — the once-glittering glass pyramid in the middle of Tokyo Bay that housed a million people — is now a crumbling super-prison owned by Iyashii Corporation. Tetsu Hogosha’s mother was caught in the city’s conversion. In a criminal system where the care and feeding of a child adds time to the mother’s crime, she signed him away to be an Iyashii bond employee as her only chance at freedom.

Now Tetsu is a free man and head of Iyashii’s security forces for the country. But he has a secret sideline that might one day break Iyashii’s hold on Shimizu. For months, he has watched the male dancer serving Iyashii’s executive tea room. Tetsu knows every flawless movement the male geisha will make, from tea ceremony, to fan dance, to the slow revelation of his naked, tattooed flesh before he takes the executives, alone or in pairs, into the bedroom suite adjoining the tea room to satisfy their every desire.

For just as long, Tetsu has tried to convince himself he watches his unwitting accomplice only to record the secret messages embedded in the tattoos’ design. But when Iyashii sends its top assassin after the male geisha, Tetsu is faced with the cold hard choice of protecting the message and its secret language at all costs or rescuing the one man capable of challenging his loyalties.”


Tokyo Ink is really more of a novella, it’s way too short to be called a novel; it’s more of an EP versus an LP, and because of that, it definitely suffers in plot and character development.

I did find the backstory very fascinating, to be honest, I liked it more than the actual novella itself. It’s set in a dystopian future Japan where the corporations literally have taken over the government, and have privatized or annexed certain parts of the country. It’s a world where citizens are just bonded employees or slaves. Such a system is totally perfect for an uprising by rebels, right?

The hero of the novella,Tetsu Hogosha, appears to be a model citizen and is in fact a favoured employee of Iyashii Corporation, being in charge of security. In reality, he is a rebel, working towards destroying the system. Of prime importance to the rebel movement is the way they communicate with each other – it’s via the ‘Code’ – a form of secret writing. Youran, a young dancer/ male geisha, is the unwitting accomplice to the rebel movement, as the ‘Code’ is tattooed onto his skin in beautiful patterns. It’s a perfect device as no one is the wiser as Tetsu reads the secret messages and passes them on each time Youran comes to Iyashii headquarters to pleasure corporation higher-ups. And that’s just the backstory – it’s brilliant, right?

Unfortunately, the actual novella falls far, far away from the promise of the backstory… The novella begins when Tetsu discovers that the movement has been betrayed or compromised; an assassin has been dispatched to kill Youran – and Tetsu goes against all reason and his training – by saving Youran and going on the run for their lives – essentially outing his cover.

Then all shit hits the fan – excuse my French – and that includes the plot itself – with Youran seducing Tetsu (who has time to have sex while running for your lives?) and Youran being revealed as being more than a geisha – surprise! Youran is actually someone very important, the son of … [spoiler] – okay, it’s a freakin’ novella – so I don’t really want to spoil anything… but trust me when I say that the whole thing becomes pointless and silly – and in my head, I’m going – what the hell happened to that awesome future dystopian backstory? It got flushed down the toilet for a couple of very detailed sex scenes that were more clinical than erotic.

Other reviews of Tokyo Ink are found at Rainbow Reviews.

Check out Tokyo Ink and help support Ann Vremont.

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~ by RandomizeME on June 12, 2009.

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