... an intimate exploration of anxiety, pain, and sadness ... Even though sometimes they are 'out of this world' aliens or living in reimagined societies of the future, these are people struggling in the same ways we struggle today ... In this collection, Suzuki’s stories are reminiscent of the unhinged science fiction dystopias of the master of the craft, Philip K. Dick ... like Dick, Suzuki often leaves out concrete details in favor of ambiguity, a sense of disconnection, and a grayness between black and white truths. This vagueness projects a sense of purposeful exclusion, allowing space for the reader to fill in many missing points while preventing the narrative pace from dragging ... Suzuki focuses on the character’s relationships with each other, the friendship between Emi and the narrator, the narrator and Noashi, a famous celebrity, rather than on the surrounding setting. The science fiction serves as set dressing for their humanity ... Although she has been dead for a quarter century, the stories retain a contemporary quality and relevance. Suzuki is confronting issues still very much in the cultural zeitgeist. Terminal Boredom provides a solid foundation to introduce her work, and the stories extend the canon of twentieth century science fiction.
That Suzuki’s prose has been described as 'punk' has more to do with her disaffected narrators than her formal choices. Her plots are straightforward, even slightly predictable, though that may be a generational matter; what passed for speculative warning in the 1970s and ’80s, now seems more directly descriptive of our present ills ... The work and messages of Ursula K. Le Guin, the author’s longer-lived contemporary, come to mind. Both Suzuki and Le Guin knew that gender roles are a matter of costume or control, affect or affliction. The terms we use to define humanity are often inhumane.
... the themes of [Suzuki's] fiction still thrum with a resistant, brightly grim tension. Passing decades certainly haven’t dulled the the razor’s cut of her punk sensibilities ... Instead of one translator handling the entire collection, the stories are split between six: Daniel Joseph, David Boyd, Sam Bett, Helen O’Horan, Aiko Masubuchi, and Polly Barton. Across their individual stylistic approaches to Suzuki’s prose, bedrock features come through: crispness edging toward a cruel gloss in the dialogue, emotional saturation (or desaturation) as both literal experience and speculative metaphor, references to American films and Jazz music. The future, or a dream of the future, always arrives alongside struggle for people whose lives don’t match up to the mainstream—who stand a step outside of comfort ... I’d argue it’s a curatorial misstep on the editors’ part that Terminal Boredom doesn’t include an introduction—or even notes on the original publication dates, in the edition I read ... Suzuki’s prose reached through time and snatched the breath out of me—rolled me under the crush of nakedly real depictions of human failure to connect, of awfully prescient future imaginaries, and of the cold calm knife of boredom juxtaposed against a frantic desire to begin life again. The speculative frameworks are integral scaffolding for Suzuki’s frank explorations of longing, attachment, addiction, and social control ... The book hurt, exquisitely, to read. Suzuki wields affect with the skill of an emotional surgeon and the imagination of a dreamer who recalls to precise detail the world’s flaws ... I felt a lot of things while reading Suzuki’s stories; most of them were as intimate as a stab-wound, and bled just as hard ... Whether forty years ago or last night, Suzuki’s use of speculation to explore frightful and naked emotion remains powerful. She was, as this collection shows, a master of her craft—and given that, I’d argue Terminal Boredom: Stories is best read slow. Immerse yourself inside the exchanges of dialogue and the quiet still moments. Read with your soft underbelly available for the occasional knifing observation or turn of phrase. Be patient and luxurious and attentive. These stories offer a glimpse into countercultures past—as well as into Suzuki’s unique understanding of what it meant to be a woman struggling with attachment and addiction. However, the fresh hells of technological saturation, depression and confinement, and constant risk of state violence that appear in these tales feel vitally contemporary, as if Suzuki peered through the decades and saw the future darkly true.