Saturday, October 26, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 42 review

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Q.E.D., vol. 42, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Kurozumi says "If I say "white", you better find a white vase".)

Essha- Hoteru (Escher Hotel, Monthly Magajin Plus, no year given). 20 years ago, hotel owner Ryousaburou Kurozumi was a brutal, sadistic man driven to install a series of hotels around Japan. When one of the workers tries to put in a non-approved vase in the lobby of the hotel (the specified vase can't be found quickly), Kurozumi smashes it and whips the worker in the face with his cane. At the moment, though, the chief impediment to getting the hotel on the hill finished in time is that the artist living higher up the hill won't sell his property to him. Kurozumi visits the artist, and is attacked with a pallet knife. The artist goes to jail and the hotel is successful for a few years. In the present, Kana has been hired as a part-time reporter to write up the opening of a new hotel where the artist's house had been. Kurozumi's old hotel is now in ruins, but Kurozumi himself has been elected as a cabinet member to the Diet.

(Ely welcomes the reporters to her new hotel.)

The new hotel is fashioned with an Escher motif, with various art pieces based on Escher's designs. The main display is an optical illusion entitled "the Infinite Staircase". The owner is Ely Silver, a young woman that married into European old money and used that to build the hotel. At the opening are: reporter Shuuji Aohara, former friend Moss Green, Moss' current boyfriend Wright Purple, Banker Umihiko Akaji, Kurozumi and his enforcer/bodyguard, Kana and Touma. After the reception, Ely changes clothes to pose for photos for Aohara, but he's disappeared. The guests search for him, and eventually his body, with a rope around his neck, turns up on the Infinite Staircase. The next day, the hotel goes up in flames and Kurozumi's Diet member pin is found in the ashes under the Infinite Staircase. Kurozumi, who had threatened Ely in public, is arrested for the arson.

(Seeing the Infinite Staircase from more than one angle.)

-------------------- Spoilers --------------------

Sometimes, it's impossible to even talk about a mystery without giving away something important. This is one of those times. Back 20 years ago, the reason Kurozumi wanted the artist's house was that it was the source of a spring that Kurozumi intended to use to feed the swimming pool of his hotel. In investigating the earlier crime, Touma is told by one of the detectives that they just "happened" to get a photo showing the artist approaching Kurozumi with the pallet knife. However, the photo was a trick created by placing the camera at exactly the right angle to make it look like two rooms at opposite ends of a long, L-shaped building were connected, just like with the Escher art. The photographer at the time was Aohara, the current murder victim. The artist was convicted, spent 3 years in prison, lost interest in his work and eventually committed suicide. He'd had a child, and of course, that child is now a very angry young adult bent on revenge. Touma unravels the tricks and reveals Aohara's killer, then wishes the perpetrator luck in fighting the charges in court.

(Talking about the man.)

No science, but there is a nice tribute to Escher, plus examples of optical illusions people have used to recreate his pictures in real life. Note that all the character names include the names of colors (Aohara - Blue Field; Kurozumi - Black Dwelling). Also, Motohiro occasionally has fun with the names of coffee shops. One shop in an earlier volume was called "Usui Coffee" ("Watery Coffee"). This time, it's Todouru, with a walrus mascot (Todo = "sea lion"). It's a respelling of Doutoru, which is one of the chains competing against Starbucks).

(Say "hi" to Hulk.)

Ronri no Tou (The Tower of Logic, Created for this book, no year given). Mia Field and Berry Goodman are the two engineers working for Rob Carth on Rindel Corp.'s newest CPU. Berry is trying to get Rob to push the deadline back, but the manager refuses to budge. Overworked, the logic designer, Mia does succeed in finishing in time, but she ends up hospitalized for stress and exhaustion for several weeks. Rob makes a big news announcement in front of reporters, taking all the credit for the CPU intended for use in game machines. When Mia gets out of the hospital, Ravis Logan, her cheating boyfriend, comes home to find her packing up and moving out. He tries to talk her into staying, but Mia comments that he never once came to visit her. However, she'll give him the $500 dollars he's begging for, plus a shot at a huge treasure, if he really listens to her carefully. She designed a new logic core for a new CPU, which is worth millions to whoever owns it, and she's hidden the printout somewhere. All Ravis needs to do is find it and he's set for life. Mia then leaves.

(Trying to get to the darkened room from outside the hotel.)

In the next scene, Ravis tells Touma, Kana and Loki that Mia's work is somewhere in an abandoned Las Vegas hotel scheduled to be blown up the next day, and that as Mia's boss at Rindel, he wants their help at getting it back. (Ravis had swiped Mia's cell phone and written down the numbers of the people she called recently.) A few minutes later, Rob and Berry also show up, and an argument ensues over who owns Mia's work. Suddenly, there's a shotgun blast, and a Hulk Hogan-like biker rolls up to take control of the situation. Turns out that Mia had given clues to the three main characters - Ravis, Rob and the biker - which all seem to be contradictory. Things like "the treasure is not on an odd-numbered floor", the "treasure is not on an even-numbered floor" and "the treasure is in a dark, dangerous room". Touma comments that they've entered the realm of the "all liars/all truthtellers". It's a series of logic puzzles where the base is that you have two villages, one of people that only lie, and one of people that only tell the truth. By asking only "yes" and "no" questions, how can you tell which is which (if you ask persons A and B "are you a liar", they'll both answer "no"). The first set of clues point to a room that is boarded over, on the 29th floor. But, the elevators have been deactivated and the doors from the stairwell are bolted shut. The group goes to the roof, and finds a rope and harness. Rob refuses to rappel down, and is eventually forced to tell the truth - Mia designed this new logic core by herself on her own time. He drives away from the hotel empty-handed. Ravis rappels down to the room, rips the plastic from the windows, and finds a suitcase containing only $500 dollars. Crushed, he too just drives away. Berry only wanted to meet Mia one more time, and he doesn't care about the CPU design. Fortunately, Touma talks him into seeing Mia's puzzle to the end.

-------------------- Spoilers ----------------

Touma then asks the biker "can you answer my question with "no"?" Hulk says "yes", proving that he's the "villager that always lies". On the roof is a  tarp covering a switch. Turning the switch on activates a light in a different room. In the room is a box with the printout. The biker relays Mia's instructions, "if you don't want it, burn it. I have no use for it anymore." He then introduces himself as a university professor teaching logic, and Mia's father. The next day, a crowd arrives to watch the building blow up, and the biker gives Berry the address of a small IC design house that Mia has started working at, and they need a system engineer.

The entire chapter revolves around logic puzzles, and does touch lightly on electronics circuits, primarily the CPU and NOT gates. I'm a little annoyed that there's no mention of Raymond Smullyan. Raymond started out as a stage magician, then got his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1959. He basically created the entire "liar-truthteller" genre of logic puzzles (called "knights and knaves"), publishing complete volumes of variations on the theme. I bought the first volume back in the '80s, and I loved it. He's also a concert pianist, and has at least one record out. Given that Motohiro is usually good at mentioning people like Gauss, Leibnitz and Escher in his science-based stories, he really should have credited Raymond, too.

Comments: While I like the artwork in the Escher story, the choice of killers is kind of unsatisfying. The logic story is great, though, although having someone shooting a shotgun in a building packed with explosives prior to being demolished does have its downside (fortunately, this fact is not lost on the other characters in the story). Recommended, if you like Escher or Smullyan. (Final note: To me, "ronri" (logic) sounds like "lonely", making the chapter "Lonely Tower", which I thinks works as well).

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