My thoughts about The Sea is Ours: Spider Here
I really like and enjoyed the Sea is Ours. As I skimmed through the book, I came over several familiar settings, names, and places (coming from South-east Asia myself). I think it’s great to have curated sci-fi works from various minority writers — all I know before this class (I guess from the Holywood influence) are steampunk and cyberpunk stories from American/English producers. It really is interesting to think how the personality, background, and ethnicity of each writer could really influence the writing. Hopefully, more sci-fi from other parts of the world get spread around more, and maybe adapted to movies soon. Finally, I choose to cover Spider Here by Robert Liow.
The story sets in Nanyang (reflecting Singapore). A young girl, named Dai Ji, excels in biophysics and synthetic neurobiology. She is, therefore, a “Shaper” who can bioengineer various things. One of her interesting artefacts is the walking chair, that she can strap on her waist and can basically help her walking, roaming, and climbing around (sounds like a flesh version of exoskeleton to me). She is also a leader of a spider-fighting group, and is responsible for making good “casings” or skin armor to help these spiders winning their fights. Having the casing on you is like having another “brain” or “muscles” working for you in one body.
Fig 1. A possible “casing”
There is a page or two about how she can do her “magic”, extracting nervous systems and make neural circuits from various animals (snake and chicken) and fusing their muscles and skin cells together in some ways (pretty hard to imagine, but very interesting) to make these fighting-spider casings. This kind of animal-fighting was a hype in my country back then, though it was Betta fish (header pic) instead of spiders or scorpions. It was actually pretty sad to see these beautiful creatures being sacrificed for amusement purposes. I could see the expansion of this story that in the future, human will have these second bioengineered “living skin” giving them superpowers to fight or maybe, more positively, to survive extreme weather. The story is really focused on this girl and her spider-fighting team, and not yet on how other people who “Shape” could do crazy things.
Sometime while Dai Ji and her team is in a competition, a big explosion occured, which really gave a trauma to Dai Ji throughout the story. I guess the author tries to bring this political and military setting and “bombing” tension as her story continues. Some of the places mentioned there really brought me back to kampung “village” in Singapore. When I read about how the author came up with the story and looked for inspirations, I also learned more about some history of Singapore, and how it relates to Malaysia and Indonesia back then with the bombing and feud in between these countries.