Novels and Other Books Featuring Go

The three classic Go novels are "The Master of Go" ("Meijin") by Yasunari Kawabata, "The Girl who Played Go" by Shan Sa and "First Kyu" by Dr Sung-Hwa Hong.

Cover of The Master of Go (1973 Edition)

"The Master of Go" was written by Kawabata and first appeared in book form in 1954 in Japanese and called "Meijin". It was translated into English in 1972 at about the time of his death. The story is based on the 1938 Meijin title game, for which he was a reporter. It records the change from the old order to the new, with it being the old master's last match. Kawabata received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968.

Cover of The Girl Who Played Go (2003 Edition)

"The Girl who Played Go" was first published in French in 2001 under the title "La Joueuse de Go". The Author, Shan Sa, comes originally from Beijing, but she moved to Paris when a student. The story is set in war-torn Manchuria of the late 1930s and tells of the forbidden love between a Chinese Go champion and a Japanese army officer. The narrative alternates between the perspectives of the two main characters.

Cover of First Kyu

"First Kyu" by Dr Sung-Hwa Hong was first published in English in 1999, translated from Korean by American Go professional Janice Kim. The story tells of a young man struggling to become a Korean Go (Baduk) professional and how it affects his life and relationships.

Here is a list of mainstream novels and some other books that feature Go.

Cover of Shibumi

"Shibumi" is a thriller where the main character, the assassin Nicholai Hel, learnt Go by himself when a child in Shanghai and then studied in Japan under a pro during WW2. All the sections of the book are given Go terms such as Fuseki, Sabaki and Seki. A recent edition (illustrated) has Go on the cover. The author is named "Trevanian", which is a pen-name of American author and professor Rodney Whitaker (1931-2005).

Satori

American author Don Winslow has written the novel "Satori" (2011) as a prequel to "Shibumi". It features the formative years of Nicholai Hel, the Japanese-trained assassin. Winslow learnt Go through being a fan of "Shibumi" and included many Go metaphors and references in the new book.

Ring of Water

The fifth book by Chris Bradford "The Ring of Water" in the "Young Samurai" series (March 2011) features the young hero, Jack Fletcher, playing Go in Nara to save his life and those of his friends. Here is a review from BGJ 155 and more about the book.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

David Mitchell (1969-) is an English novelist who lived more than 8 years in Japan. His 2010 book "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" is about a Dutchman, who went to live in Dejima, Nagasaki, in 1799, and features some Go references, including games between Japanese officials. Here is a review from BGJ 155. An alternative cover and another alternative cover.

The cover of Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell also mentions Go in one of the linked short stories in "Cloud Atlas"; in the futuristic Korean setting of "An Orison of Sonmi ~ 451" the title character is mentioned as playing Go on her computer and against a friend.

Cover of Stone Monkey

Jeffery Deaver's crime novel "The Stone Monkey" is about illegal Chinese immigrants and features Go several times in the story as the detective is taught to play by a Chinese colleague. The section header pages all quote from "The Game of Wei-Chi" by Pecorini and Shu.

Cover of Edge

Jeffery Deaver's 2010 thriller "Edge" is about an agent who is in witness protection and is a games fan. He plans his protection by various games strategies. He collects games (67 in one house and 121 in another) and likes to visit his local games club in DC where one can play "chess, bridge, Go, Wei-Chi, Risk or dozens of other games."

Cover of PopCo

Scarlett Thomas (from Canterbury) has written a mystery novel "PopCo" (2004), where the employees of the PopCo toy company all play Go and the main character's cat is called Atari (see page 11).

Cover of Boop's book

David Boop is a Go player and his 2008 novel "She Murdered Me with Science" features Go. The main character visits a Go parlour in America (see page 41) and plays with a Japanese friend. An old lady uses the game position to predict his fortune.

Chinese Lake Murders

Robert van Gulik (1910-1967) was a Dutchman who lived in Japan and China and produced a series of Judge Dee mysteries set in ancient China. "The Chinese Lake Murders" contains Go within its plot. Here is a review from BGJ 156. An alternative cover.

Cover of Windy City Blues

Sara Paretsky's collection of detective stories "Windy City Blues" has a story called "The Takamoku Joseki". In it, Mr Takamoku runs a Go club in his flat in the same block as that of the detective, V.I. Warshawski. He has a problem when someone scratches a Go ban and then one of the players dies during a club meeting.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

A successful French novel, now available in English, is "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery (2006). The plot involves philosophy and the relationships between a girl of 12 and her concierge, who is a secret intellectual, and also a Japanese businessman who moves into their building. The chapter "Profound Thought No. 7" features a whole page argument about the basics of Go, between the girl and a film producer who is making a movie of Shan Sa's "The Girl Who Played Go". An alternative cover.

Walking on Glass

"Walking on Glass" by Iain Banks features three stories of converging lives. In one, a couple are trapped in a futuristic tower playing various seemingly impossible and uncompletable games in order earn freedom. One of these games is Open-Plan Go, played on an infinite board and only completable by using stones that are infinite in one direction from a point.

Queenmagic, Kingmagic

"Queenmagic, Kingmagic" by Ian Watson (1986). This fantasy novel features two countries at war with magic, initially by the rules of Chess. When a game is won the world changes and the game rules change. In subsequent worlds the games are Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly and in then Go. In the Go world camps appear on an empty plain, alternately white played by General Shiro and black by General Kuro. Go rules apply with groups of camps needing the double-eye formation to avoid obliteration. The side with the most surrounded cross-points after rearrangement wins. English writer Ian Watson spent three years in Japan in the 1960s, so no doubt he became familiar with Go there. An alternative cover

Starborne

"Starborne" is a Sci-Fi novel by Robert Silverberg (1996), reworked from a science fiction short story named "Ship-Sister, Star-Sister". Quite a big part of both the short story and the novel mention Go. As the crew of the starship Wotan set out to explore the universe, a craze starts to play Go to pass the time. The book's second sentence is "Three games of Go are in progress in the Wotan's lounge." Initially 18-20 of the 50 crew play, but almost all do later on, including the blind telepath Noelle who is taught by the captain and plays by giving coordinates. There are three main sections, pages 18-20, 40-44 and 76-78, which explain how the game is played and who is beating who. Some games between characters are described at some length (see page 262). Noelle becomes the champion and plays two players at once (page 203). Go is mentioned at regular intervals thought the book.

Split Infinity

"Split Infinity" by Piers Anthony (1980) is the first of the Apprentice Adept series of novels by this England-born American fantasy writer. It features two parallel worlds - Phaze, a world full of unicorns, werewolves and magic, and Proton a land of technology, robots and a multi-sport competition called the Game. The serf Stile is a jockey and Game player in Proton who travels between the two worlds. In chapter 15 "Games" he tries to get higher up the Game ladder so he can enter the annual Tourney. To get to Rung 7 he has to beat a player skilled at the mental competitions. After drawing at tic-tac-toe and Go-bang, they have to play Go. The description of the game and how to play takes more than two pages. They play with a real board and stones, and fight over eyes, seki and playing efficiently. An alternative cover

Cryptonomicon

"Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson (1999) is a fantasy history featuring cryptography at Bletchley Park, Second World War battles and more modern scenarios. Go is featured in the section "Sultan" (on page 318 of 918 in one edition, some editions have over 1100 pages). The Sultan of Kinakuta, in the modern era, shows an "ornate and expensive-looking Go board covered with a complex pattern of black and white stones" to his guests. He compares the simple but complex reasons for placing stones to the policies of his government. He then clears the board with his arm, the stones clattering to the floor, and says it is time to start over. An alternative cover.

He also mentions Go in a single sentence in his book "The Diamond Age" (1995).

Chung Kuo

English author David Wingrove features Go in "The Middle Kingdom", the first volume of his epic future history work "Chung Kuo" (and in other volumes in the series too). In chapter 3 the villain plays against a computer while waiting for a victim, the game record he leaves showing him to be one of the strongest players. Later on the rising hero takes 7 stones on a real board against the villain, but slowly watches "his position crumble on all sides", until he resigns. The author's note says it is "not merely the world's best game but its most elegant". He quotes Pecorini and Shu's book "The Game of Wei Chi" (1929) as his source on Go. An alternative cover.

Limbo System

"Limbo System" is a Sci-Fi novel by Rick Cook (1989) in which all the chapters are named after Go terms. An starship comes into to contact with demonic aliens who want to steal their technology. Sukihara Takiuji is the best Go player in the crew and plays every day against other crew members and even against the aliens. Go principles are used to analyse the aliens' actions.

Jian

"Jian" by Eric Van Lustbader (1985) is the first of his two thrillers that feature Go. The main characters play and analyse politics and their actions against Go strategies, in a background of battles for control of Hong Kong.

Shan

"Shan" by Eric Van Lustbader (1986) is the second Jake Maroc story and the follow up to Jian. It features battles between opium gangs.

Silk Road

"Silk Road" by American poet Jeanne Larsen (1989) is a fantasy set in 8th century China (part of a trilogy). It features a girl's quest to find her mother guarded by celestial beings. Two of these, the Jade Emperor and an under-secretary play Go with black and coloured pearls, and they also hold conversations around the board.

Isle of Women

"Isle of Woman" by Piers Anthony (1993) is a collection of short stories about men and women through history. Chapter 16 "T'ang" features Go, but any game of skill could have replaced it.

The Left Hand of Darkness

"The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula Le Guin (1969) is a feminist science fiction novel, the first in the Hainish Cycle. It mentions Go in chapter 16. The authoress is well known for being a some time Go player.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

"The Narrow Road to the Deep North" is by Australian author Richard Flanagan (2013) and was the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize. It is largely set among the POWs building the Burma Railway and Go is mentioned several times.

No Shadow in the City

"No Shadow in the City" by John Callaghan (2012) is a mystery story about crime in Glasgow. However the main character, Stevie McCabe, is away in London at the start of the book and one of the things he is doing there is playing Go.

Intuition

"Intuition" by Allegra Goodman (2006) is set in a cancer research lab. On page 164 two characters are playing Go: "Jacob and Aaron sat playing go on towels in the sand".

Caryatids

"The Caryatids" by Bruce Sterling (2009) is a science fiction book that states: "Mr. Zeng was not a small-scale, face-to-face killer in the bold way of the warriors that she knew and loved best. Mr. Zeng was the kind of killer who deployed a nuclear warhead the way he might set a black go-stone on a game board."

The Wise Man's Fear

"The Wise Man's Fear" by US author Patrick Rothfuss is the second part (2011) of the Kingkiller Chronicle. It features a game that is reminiscent of Go, which suggests familarity of the author with Go.

Go Oder Doppelspeil Im Untergrund

Other European books featuring Go include German Günter Karau's war thriller "Go Oder Doppelspeil Im Untergrund", which features Go on the cover, and French Georges Perec's "La Vie mode d`emploi" (Life a User's Manual) and "La Disparition".

Infinity and the Mind

Non-fiction works that mention Go include:

"Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas Hofstadter
"Infinity and the Mind" by Rudy Von B Rucker.
"Fearful Symmetry" by Anthony Zee

There are many books with passing references to Go. For instance, Arthur Golden mentions Go twice in the novel "Memoirs of a Geisha". Sensei's Library has a list of minor references.

An online Sci-Fi story by Ken Liu, "Mono no Aware", mentions Go.

In addition there are various manga that feature Go. The most famous is of course "Hikaru no Go", available in Japanese, English and other languages, and more recently "Hoshizora no Karasu" and the web-published Aji's Quest.



Last updated Mon Nov 24 2014. If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.