Inter Ice Age 4 Summary
by Kobo Abe

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Inter Ice Age 4 Summary

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

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Inter Ice Age 4 is narrated by a scientist, Professor Katsumi, who is attempting to overcome bureaucratic interference so that his institute can build a supercomputer capable of predicting the future. Katsumi soon loses sight of this goal, however, as mysterious events threaten his safety. He uncovers a plan by a group of industrialists and government officials to develop mutant humans, called aquans, capable of living in undersea colonies. In this respect the novel merges several genres, including science fiction, the detective novel, and the novel of ideas.

The novel begins with a cryptic prelude describing a huge tidal wave heading for the Japanese coast. The significance of this event—a harbinger of the eventual flooding of the earth—is not clear until much later.

Professor Katsumi’s narrative, divided into two program cards, an interlude, and a blueprint, explains that he and his research staff are building a forecasting machine in response to the Soviet computer Moscow I, which can predict events in the immediate future. Suddenly, however, the Russians announce a new and more powerful computer, MII, which predicts the end of capitalism by the year 2080. The United States responds that it deplores such an application of scientific resources and refuses to use its own computer to predict political events. The Japanese government, influenced by the United States, tells Katsumi not to apply his computer to political events.

The staff at the institute, however, wishing to test the Soviet hypothesis, soon discover that practically any prediction has political overtones, and they let the computer decide how to proceed. The machine suggests choosing a private individual and predicting his future; the man must not know that he is being observed. Katsumi and his assistant, Tanomogi, decide on an anonymous man in a cafe, who seems to have been stood up by a date. They observe him wandering aimlessly and making phone calls; eventually they follow him to a woman’s apartment, where Tanomogi reports hearing a mysterious thud. The next morning Katsumi discovers that the man, an accounting superintendent, has been strangled by his mistress.

The research staff decide to proceed with the study, connecting the dead man’s body to the computer. The computer reveals that the accountant was curious about how the secretary in whose apartment he was killed could have afforded a large purchase; she told him that she had been paid to have an abortion at a special laboratory. The dead man’s memory, visualized through a computer monitor, also reveals that the woman was not in the apartment when he was killed. Katsumi is worried that suspicion will fall on himself and Tanomogi. Throughout their investigation, a strangely familiar voice on the phone warns Katsumi to stop asking questions.

Mysterious and threatening events escalate: The murder suspect commits suicide; Katsumi’s wife...

(The entire section is 714 words.)