I've been ranting and raving about the Sternberg press 'Solutions' series for months now. This said, until now I've only actually read one - Finland: The Welfare Game by Martti Kalliala.
Purely on the basis of the raw brilliance of that first one I went and bought the entire series, and have now finished the second, based on the recommendation of a friend - The Book of Japans by Momus. Momus is someone I've heard about a lot but never directly encountered. His particular brand of surreal, abstract futurism has never really attracted me in the same way that more thoroughly-researched and analytical works do.
The premise is simple if uniquely Japanese in style: 12 'idiots' from Wales travel through the anus of cows to see visions of future Japan. When they begin to achieve some notice, a panel of experts is hastily assembled to test their method, place their predictions and confirm or deny their idiocy. One of the experts is our narrator, a noted Japanophile while others are futurist, social scientists, historians and so on all with a specialisation in Japan.
The experiment to see the future fails, and so the panel sit down to hear the visions and discern a time (usually with remarkable accuracy) that the idiot might have visited. The visions pay homage to various aspects of Japanese culture - video games, novels and movies while often satiring aspects of it's society, work ethic and bureaucracy. The real heart of the stories lie however in the wonder inherit in them. The idiots' exotic visions contrast sharply with the experts' logical extrapolation and the frustration at this dialectic is where Momus makes his case. For most westerners, Japan is already a place of wonder, and yet when we think about the future we bring us and Japan closer together - more screens, more shiny, more colour, tech and urbanism. Momus pushes Japan of the far future further away and restores our wonder at the strange and different.