Tara Cheesman-Olmsted at The Quarterly Conversation:
Born April 12, 1933, Yoshio Aramaki’s writing comes to us from a different time. His novel The Sacred Era, originally published in Japanese in 1978, has more in common with classic American sci-fi short story writers like Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury—sharing their preoccupation with wonky metaphysics, biblical allegories, and performative misogyny—than with speculative fiction writers working in the present day. He leads readers down the same well-trodden genre path where impoverished young men discover they are, despite an often remarkable lack of initiative, destined for great things. But Aramaki’s brilliant leaps of imagination and use of experimental, non-linear plot structures are too ambitious for the resulting work to be dismissed as outdated or derivative.
On a dying planet Earth ruled by a future iteration of the Roman Catholic Church, a young man named K is sent to the capital city to take what amounts to a Civil Services exam. On passing (an outcome of which there is never any doubt) he will join the elite ranks of the Papal Court of the Holy Empire of Igitur. He will be sent to study Planet Bosch, a distant planet named for and said to resemble a banned painting by the Twilight Era artist Hieronymus Bosch. Planet Bosch is a green, verdant paradise in stark contrast to the dystopian and dying desert landscape that Earth has become.