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ME: A Novel


The unsettling story of a young man who suffers an identity crisis after getting tangled up in a telephone scam.

$15.95 $11.96

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What people are saying…

“In Hoshino’s dystopia, identities are fluid and any one is as good as another . . . Hoshino’s ambitious novel is pleasingly uncomfortable.”
Publishers Weekly

“The premise of this funny and ultimately disturbing novel hinges on a telephone scam rife in Japan: someone – typically elderly and ill-accustomed to cellphones – gets a call from somebody saying only ‘it’s me’ and frantically pleading for help, usually in the form of wired cash. But when the novel’s main character tries the scam, he’s drawn into a bizarrely warped reality in which the scam itself seems to be cloning and scrambling the identities of the scammers – a reality in which it really is ‘me.’ I was quietly thrilled throughout.”
Open Letters Monthly, included in Best Books of 2017: Science Fiction and Fantasy

“Hoshino’s latest-in-translation (rendered by De Wolf) begins as black comedy and devolves into an antisolipsistic treatise on the impossibility of individual identity.”

“Part existential fable, part Night of the Living Dead, Mr. Hoshino’s inventive novel, accessibly translated by Charles De Wolf, paints a nightmare vision of Japan’s rootless millennials, who work grinding dead-end jobs that leave them little time for family or individual passions . . . At first Hitoshi and his fellow MEs are happy to band together against an uncaring world. But the camaraderie doesn’t last, since every time one reveals a character flaw the others take it as an indictment of themselves. As the MEs’ failures and weaknesses become intolerably magnified onto the ‘living but useless rabble’ they’re gripped by a suicidal impulse that unleashes a crazed murder spree. The frenetic, knife-wielding finale reaches its climax in—a McDonald’s, of course. None of them can think of any place else to eat.”
The Wall Street Journal

“A Kafkaesque journey of a lonely narrator being absorbed by an impersonal system.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

ME is a searing critique of how the individual’s sense of self erodes under the weight of modern urban culture in Japan. As Hoshino tilts the reader into a schizophrenic questioning of identity, it is easy to forget how the story started: a common, two-bit crime in a McDonald’s. The ease with which Hoshino leads Hitoshi—and the reader—into a vertiginous alternate reality is so seamless that the novel requires a second read to fully appreciate its nuances. A testament to Hoshino’s imagination and ambition, ME is a delightfully surprising and bizarre story which develops into a masterful interrogation of how individuals and families come to terms with themselves in an ever-evolving society that is often just as confused as the people themselves.”
Harvard Review Online

“A cell phone stolen on a whim turns into a full-blown scam when Hitoshi pretends to be someone else to line his own pockets, but he quickly finds his deception is unnecessary—everybody, even his own mother, sees him as the man whose identity he stole. In this reflective novel, Tomoyuki Hoshino explores the nature of identity while providing commentary on Japanese society as a whole.”
World Literature Today, included as a Nota Bene selection

“An eerie exploration of the comforts and terrors of conformity, ME is part parable, part nightmare, part slapstick comedy, and part something I’m not sure has any label at all.
The Weekly Standard, included in the Winter Books 2017 Roundup

“There’s speculative fiction that imagines other worlds and alternate realities, and then there’s the kind that unsettles us precisely by its slight tweaking of everyday situations. ME is the perfect example of the latter. When the narrator engages in a common telephone scam, he suddenly finds himself inhabiting a new identity. No one seems to notice that he and others have switched families, as if the switch itself had never happened. A strange, unnerving story set in contemporary Japan.”

“The imaginative story of a rather unimaginative camera salesman, ME features Hitoshi Nagano; his troubles begin with his impulsive theft of a cell phone from another customer at a McDonalds. They end with a post-apocalyptic future for everyone in Japan.”
New York Journal of Books

“It’s an excellent take on the problems of Japanese society, looking at what it means to play your role in the community while keeping a sense of individuality. However, in Hoshino’s trademark style, what starts off as a story based in reality very quickly pushes the envelope in terms of everyday life, soon taking us into far more speculative territory.”
Tony’s Reading List

“Mr. Hoshino’s superb talent allows for a development of the richly imaginative details that is completely natural, without any hint of forced contrivances . . . There is a clear distinction to be seen here between ME and the sort of television drama or potboiler fiction already available that take up telephone fraud as a social topic. Nor does the novel allow itself to slip into simplistic allegory. The weight of reality it creates reflects the substantiality of the author’s prowess. [Chapters 3 and 4] surpass even Kōbō Abe, Japan’s great forerunner in the power of literary thought. The author has leaped to a higher level.”
—Kenzaburō Ōe, Nobel Prize–winning author of The Silent Cry, from the afterword

“Tomoyuki Hoshino’s ME is a daring literary triumph, unlike any book you’re likely to read this year or any other. Inventive, absurd, and thrilling, Hoshino draws upon the work of a wide array of literary masters—Abe, Camus, Vonnegut, and Chandler—to create a character and world that’s wholly unique. A thoughtful, somewhat surreal exploration of the darkest self-reflexive tendencies of this modern moment. I strongly recommend it.”
—Joe Meno, author of Marvel and a Wonder

“There is more than a little of a great episode of Black Mirror in Tomoyuki Hoshino’s funny, frightening ME. But ME is considerably more than a clever premise, and as I moved deeper into mental and physical dislocation alongside its hero, I felt my own sense of reality being pulled apart. Hoshino’s sharp, understated prose, in Charles De Wolf’s excellent translation, is what makes this incredible journey possible. The whole is both pleasurable and profound.”
—Laird Hunt, author of The Evening Road


With an afterword by Kenzaburō Ōe. Translated from Japanese by Charles De Wolf.

This novel centers on the “It’s me” telephone scam—often targeting the elderly—that has escalated in Japan in recent years. Typically, the caller identifies himself only by saying, “Hey, it’s me,” and goes on to claim in great distress that he’s been in an accident or lost some money with which he was entrusted at work, etc., and needs funds wired to his account right away.

ME’s narrator is a nondescript young Tokyoite named Hitoshi Nagano who, on a whim, takes home a cell phone that a young man named Daiki Hiyama accidentally put on Hitoshi’s tray at McDonald’s. Hitoshi uses the phone to call Daiki’s mother, pretending he is Daiki, and convinces her to wire him 900,000 yen.

Three days later, Hitoshi returns home from work to discover Daiki’s mother there in his apartment, and she seems to truly believe Hitoshi is her son. Even more bizarre, Hitoshi discovers his own parents now treat him as a stranger; they, too, have a “me” living with them as Hitoshi. At a loss for what else to do, Hitoshi begins living as Daiki, and no one seems to bat an eye.

In a brilliant probing of identity, and employing a highly original style that subverts standard narrative forms, Tomoyuki Hoshino elevates what might have been a commonplace crime story to an occasion for philosophical reflection. In the process, he offers profound insights into the state of contemporary Japanese society.

Kenzaburō  Ōe is considered one of the most dynamic and revolutionary writers to have emerged in Japan since World War II, and is acknowledged as the first truly modern Japanese writer. He is known for his powerful accounts of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and his struggle to come to terms with a mentally handicapped son. His prolific body of work has won almost every major international honor, including the 1989 Prix Europalia and the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature. His many translated works include A Personal Matter (1964), Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness (1969), The Silent Cry (1967), Hiroshima Notes (1965), and Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids (1958).

Charles De Wolf, PhD, professor emeritus, Keio University, is a linguist by training, though his first love was literature. Multilingual, he has spent most of his life in East Asia and is a citizen of Japan. His work in Japanese literature ranges from classical to contemporary. His translations include Mandarins, a selection of short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (Archipelago Books) and collections of folktales from Konjaku Monogatari-shu, including Tales of Days Gone By (Arts & Literature International Service). He has written extensively about The Tale of Genji; and is currently working on his own translation of the work.

ME included in Book Riot’s New Books newsletter for June 2017.

ME featured on SF in Translation‘s list of new releases for June 2017.

Included in the International Examiner’s Fall Arts Guide 2017.

Read an excerpt of ME on The Scofield.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Published: 6/6/17
  • IBSN: 9781617754487
  • e-IBSN: 9781617755569


TOMOYUKI HOSHINO was born in 1965 in Los Angeles, but moved to Japan when he was two. He made his debut as a writer in 1997 with the novella The Last Gasp, which won the Bungei Prize. His novel The Mermaid Sings Wake Up won the Mishima Yukio Prize, and Fantasista was awarded the Noma Literary New Face Prize. His other novels include Lonely Hearts Killer and The Tale of Rainbow and Chloe. ME is his latest novel.

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