In this future dystopian world society is highly chaste based. There are the professionals or those with technical skills and live in enclaves and the untouchables which are the vast poor. Both sides have one thing in common the Arena. In this future professional wrestlers compete in gladiatorial games. Games that are fought with a variety of weird weapons and to the death. Lately there have been a growing number of desertions from the military. A group known as Aiki or in Japaneses spiritual harmony has been spreading.
Into this comes Capitan who is a monitor in the group and runs a dojo in Brooklyn. His involvement eventually gets him involved with the Arena. The main champion Mantis who started the blood sports and wants to fight Capitan. A novel filled with deep mystical eastern philosophy of good and evil battle for the future.
So this book is one that by mom found in the dollar bin at Walgreens and thought I would like. She said it reminded her of the movie The Running Man which we had just recently seen. Yes there are some similarities with a future of gladiator death sports televised. I remember that when I read this a new game show called American Gladiators had come out. No to the death fights on it but got me wondering if that was the future down the road. It still does since a decaying society does turn to more extreme bread and circuses.
Now this was a book I would have never bought on my own. The title doesn’t engage me and the cover was also not that exciting. Which is probably why it was in the dollar bin at Walgreens. I found this to be an enjoyable read. A future where the government had infiltrated the martial arts to coop them. There was a sort of hubris to how the death sports in the Arena came about. Mantis at a match in Tokyo asked the audience for a thumbs up or down. When they gave the thumbs down he obliged. Then argued in court that it was hypocritical for the government to allow lethal weapons in the Arena that did at times result in death but condemn him when he follows the will of the audience. A somewhat believable outcome for a society in decay.
Capitan and Mantis are the personification of good and evil. There is a lot of deep mysticism to the story. I found that reading this the future it envisioned didn’t seem that dated after all these years. Sure there are some things like a Soviet Union still around and they use land lines. Otherwise the future was still believable. This was John Gilbert’s first and to my knowledge only novel. A nice little happy accident thanks to my mom.