The fiction listed here makes references to the game of Go, and may in some cases rise to the level of true literature (especially Kawabata's Master of Go).

Table of contents

Go-centric Fiction or Containing Major References to Go

  • The Knight of Chains, The Deuce of Stars by Yoon Ha Lee. Found in the [ext] August 2013 Issue of Lightspeed magazine, this is a science fiction story which has many meta elements about gaming. Go is mentioned halfway through and again at the end, along with Ko, Ten Thousand Year Ko, and Seki.
  • The Ring of Water (5th book of the [ext] Young Samurai series) by Chris Bradford. Its hero is an English boy stranded in 17th Century Japan who has learnt to be a Samurai in order to survive. In this book he (also) has to play a game of Go against a Japanese lord in order to gain freedom for him and his friends. (copied from [ext]]
  • Satori Don Winslow has written this novel as a prequel to "Shibumi". It features the formative years of Nicholas 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.
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. Part 3 is titled "The Master of Go" and a climactic scene at the end of the book involves a game of Go.
  • She Murdered Me with Science by David Boop. The main character visits his local Go parlour to play a game.
  • The Stone Monkey by Jeffery Deaver. A crime novel 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.
  • First Kyu by Dr. Sung-Hwa Hong
  • La Joueuse de Go by Shan Sa, ed. Grasset (German: "Die Go-Spielerin"; Dutch: "De Go Speelster"; English: "The Girl Who Played Go", Chatto & Windus; Russian: "Играющая в го" (Igrayushaja v go))
  • The Tattoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi, translated by Deborah Boehm, published by Soho Press, Inc. Go is significantly mentioned on pages 247 and after. The translator is not familiar with the game, calling it "Japanese checkers".
  • Starborne by Robert Silverberg, a novel 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, describing games between various characters (one of them a Blind Go player) at some length.
  • Isle of Woman (Geodyssey, Saga 1) by Piers Anthony. T'ang (chapter 16) is a story with significant Go content.
  • Limbo System by Rick Cook, science fiction; Go is key to the action.
  • Komoku by Daniel Gilbert, short science fiction story in a collection edited by Fred Saberhagen. Go has inspired a computer game. Unfavorable review.
  • PatG - This story is found in a collection of chess related shorts - Pawn to Infinity. It reflects 1980's American fears of Japanese economic power and thus seems rather racist on first reading. The message is infact far more subtle. Nice biological metaphors for the Goban.
  • Adolf Muschg's first novel, Im Sommer des Hasen ("In the Summer of Hare"): On page 144-150 a western Zen disciple, stranded in Japan, describes the game to the protagonist.
  • The Chessboard Cherry Tree (traditional folktale tr. by R. Gordon Smith); the story, unlike the title, gets the game right.
  • The Ear-Reddening Move of Shusaku by Jonathon Wood. Mystery short story.

Minor References

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, pages 348-353. The two main characters play several games of Go in the online virtual reality game Pioneers.
The Dutch novel De Mitukoshi Troostbaby Company by Auke Hulst briefly mentions go on page 126.
The Dutch novel Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda (also available in English), page 57. The main character doubts that Sudoku puzzles will become successful in the Netherlands, as the "extremely exciting game of go" did not become popular either.
A girl like you by Maureen Lindley, pages 116-117 one paragraph mentioning the game.
  • The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller chronicles, book 2) by Patrick Rothfuss. In one chapter, the main character Kvothe learns Tak, which is played with stones of two colors and renowned for being simple in rules, but complex in strategy. Also, it is played for having a beautiful game, not necessarily for winning.
  • House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds. Very minor, descibing the difficulty of developing faster-than-light travel "like trying to play Go on a chess board" (p.238 ISBN 978 0 575 08237 3).
  • Rollback by Robert J Sawyer. Don and Sarah are talking in the restaurant (chapter 7). Don wanted to have Peter De Jager over sometime, he always liked playing go.
  • The Musashi Flex by Steve Perry. Primarily about martial arts. Go is mentioned on pages 17, 73.
  • The Book of Loss by Julith Jedamus. Set in late tenth-century Japan, the book contains various minor references to go, the most interesting occuring on p. 14: "I will write Kanesuke a letter about the game of go. It was a secret language for us once. 'You are very greedy,' he would say if he say me flirting with another. 'You have a reckless disregard for strategy. All you think about is capturing territory. You must take care when you launch several campaigns at once.'"
  • The Norwegian novel Absolutt alt ("Absolutely Everything") by Simen Hagerup contains a six-page essay about games in general, and go in particular. Mostly aimed at non-players, trying to make some general points about board games.
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. In the "Orison of Sonmi~451" chapters, Hae-Joo asks what Sonmi does to relax and she answers that she plays Go on her computer:
    “To relax?” he responded, incredulous. “Who wins, you or the sony?”
    The sony, I answered, or how would I ever improve?
    So winners, Hae-Joo proposed, are the real losers because they learn nothing? What, then, are losers? Winners?
    I said, If losers can xploit what their adversaries teach them, yes, losers can become winners in the long term.
They also play Go together later in the story.
  • The Monarch of the Glen, a short novel by Neil Gaiman, first published in Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy. Short mention of go as a metaphor to explain that certain rules (of life) have changed: "Chess, not checkers. Go, not chess." (implying that life has gotten more complex?)
  • The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, a very minor reference: 'the besieger turned besieged, as in a game of go' on p. 449 of the (European?) paperback edition.
  • A Loyal Character Dancer by Qiu Xiaolong. A murder mystery featuring the same detective and setting as Death of a Red Heroine below. More extensive go references.
  • Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. Set in an imaginary country resembling ancient Japan, two of the main characters are engrossed in a game of Go in Chapter 9 (p. 203).
  • Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong. A murder mystery set in post-Mao China. The principal detective mentions go (weichi) briefly in a meaningful way.
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. There is a tiny reference to go in this cult novel about a haunted house. In chapter VIII ("SOS"), the main character Navidson and his brother Tom are waiting for news from a team sent to explore the dangerous parts of the house. "Time passes. There are long conversations, there are long silences. Sometimes Navidson and Tom play Go. Sometimes one reads aloud to Daisy while the other assists Chad with some role-playing game on the family computer." (p. 99)
  • Bloom by Wil McCarthy?. Page 97 of paperback. Uses go board in explanation of Conway's 'Life' in explanation of cellular automata.
  • Rogue Star by Michael Flynn. Pages 3,20,27,28. The US President plays go.
  • The Tattoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi, translation by Deborah Boehm of Shisei Satsujin Jiken (Japanese) by Takagi Akimitsu, published by Soho Press, Inc. Go is significantly mentioned on pages 247 and after. The translator is not familiar with the game, calling it "Japanese checkers".
  • [ext] Mr Nice by Howard Marks
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. In both Chapter 2 (p. 28) and Chapter 33 (p. 398) a game of Go is being played in the background.
  • Starplex by Robert J. Sawyer, paperback, p. 110, 126. Refers to a goban with shell and slate stones, and refers to Go as shared interest of two students.
  • Endymion by Dan Simmons. Aenea, the 12 year old messiah, is said to be "excellent at chess, good at Go and deadly at poker".
  • The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (very minor reference)
  • The Wizardry Consulted by Rick Cook (very minor reference)
  • Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks. At the end of Chapter 3 it says "Less do boat tings, he lafs. Weel go 4 a wok but weel take di portibil Go board wif us & 1/2 a game ovir a nice long lunch @ a rathir nice restoront i no. Good idear, Mr Zoliparia. Thas a fine ole complicatid game, that Go. Rite! Ahl get di Go, den wheel go! he lafs, & he jumps up & heds indoars. Drink up yoor t! he shouts."
  • Spindoc by Steve Perry. Go is mentioned on page 159. "It was like chess or go or tandimi, you moved and countermoved and played for a win with big stakes."
  • Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan: There is a game called "Stones" played by a character or two that sounds suspiciously like Go. (The author has confirmed that the game is in fact Go.)
  • Gai-Jin by James Clavell, a novel of Japan. "The august ones (Shogun Nobusada and his wife Princess Yazu) are bathing as usual, ... after which they will dine as usual, play Go as usual and so to bed."
  • Grey Area by Will Self, short stories. Two references: "Being one of the only eight people in London is like some massive game of go. No, go isn't the right analogy at all, because people - whether controlled or not - are more than mere counters."(in Between the Conceits) In the story Incubus, some food is compared to "edible go counters" IIRC, but I don't seem to find the reference just now.
  • Black Steel by Steve Perry, pg. 72, likens training and waiting to playing an intricate game of Go.
  • The Silicon Man by Charles Platt. Page 19. "Suddenly he laughed and inclined his head as if conceding the loss of a couple of stones in a game of Go."
  • Lunar Descent by Allen Steele. p218. "... But Skycorp managed to get away with it for a few years, and even though a couple of people actually died while lost close to the base ... like that writer guy, Sam Sloane, back in '16 ..." (His ghost makes a couple appearances later on.)
  • The Tokaido Road (set in Japan in 1702) by Lucia St. Clair Robson. First mentioned in chapter 37.
  • Inconstant Star by Poul Anderson, in Man-Kzin Wars III. One-liner, p 231: Tyra found Carita seated there, smoking a cigar - the air was blue and acrid - while she played "go" with the computer.
  • Demons at Rainbow Bridge by Jack Chalker. Two references: "A colonial claim is made by a rival out on a frontier that is crucial in our galactic game of Go." and "That is all it is to you people, isn't it? A game of Go. But the stones are people, not stones, and you can't see that."
  • Canal Dreams by Iain Banks. Two references: "Mr. Mandamus's appetite for interminable games of chess and gin rummy seemed undiminished, but she could only take so much. That was why she had been teaching him go. To her surprise, there wasn't a go set on any of the ships, so she'd made one, [...]" (Ch. 4, p. 78) and (in a dream) "The clouds had a grid written on them; dark lines stretching north-south and east-west. [...]. This must be going on everywhere, she thought. Like a giant game of go. Light and dark; everywhere. She wondered who would win." (Ch. 7, p. 155).
  • Not really fiction, but worthy of mention: Nicolas Bouvier mentions go in his Chronique Japonaise (chapter 15), in a description of the local police men in Araki-Cho in Tokyo. A shoddy translation of the French renders: "To kill the long afternoons, they ponder over endless games of go (a kind of halma, but much more subtle, where the pieces of one player struggle to encircle and capture those of the adversary, by means of extremely treacherous manoevres). When one of the players finds himself in such a critical situation, where the greatest circumspection is required, he calls the cops of the neighboring station, who jump in their police car and arrive to examine the board and lend him a hand. When you hear their siren, this is normally what's going on."
  • The Children's Hour by Jerry Pournelle & S. M. Stirling, in Man-Kzin Wars vol. II. One-line mention, p 144: You play go with the masters, you get good. the Belter said.
  • Farside Cannon by Roger MacBride? Allen, sf novel. Chapter One opens with the character Shiro Ishida laying out pieces of paper "with an absolute precision. Each paper touched its neighbors edge to edge. No overlapping, no gaps between the pagers - as orderly an exact as the squares on a chessboard. Or, better still, as precise as the grid for Go. Go was Japanese, after all." After this promising start, there are no further references to the game.
  • Dome by Michael Reeves and Steve Perry, sf novel, has several supporting characters who play go, a linkage important to the plot. Mentioned on pp 52, 91, 145, 184, 200, 203.
  • Queenmagic, Kingmagic by Ian Watson, a novel, has a fantasy game based on Go.
  • The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert Heinlein. A minor reference to Go in a list of standard computer games.
  • Walking on Glass by Iain Banks, science fiction novel. In it, "Open-plan Go" takes place on an infinite board.
  • Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Leguin. More fictional anthropology than SF. Page 517 of paperback edition: "I saw no game like chess or any of the checkerboard games, nor any version of go; and the Kesh had no cards."
  • Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams. Page 276 of paperback edition: "The shock had been the same as though a human, playing Go on the two-dimensional surface of a vidscreen, suddenly noticed that the screen had been invaded by two-dimensional creatures from Flatland who were shuffling the counters around for some purpose of their own."
  • Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman. The chapter "A Different Box of Tools" Begins: "At the Princeton graduate school, the physics department and the math department shared a common lounge, and every day at four o'clock we would have tea. It was a way of relaxing in the afternoon, in addition to imitating an English college. People would sit around playing Go, or discussing theorems. In those days topology was the big thing." (emphasis added).
  • The Planiverse: Computer Contact with a Two-Dimensional World by A.K. Dewdney. Go in a straight line.
  • Split Infinity by Piers Anthony: pp 270-273, 313 of paperback. Nice description and the playing of a game, but wrong account of nigiri.
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter: Go used as an example of epiphenomena. "Epiphenomena abound. In the game of 'Go', there is the feature that 'two eyes live'. It is not built into the rules, but it is a consequence of the rules." (End of Chapter X)
  • La Vie mode d`emploi by Georges Perec.
  • Even Cowgirls get the Blues by Tom Robbins: Minor reference to Go played by Japanese men interned in the USA during World War 2. (p. 181 in my fairly recent No Exit Press edition)
  • Shockwave Rider by John Brunner. After the arms race, the brain race. Brief mention on page 118 of paperback edition: "But why did fencing appeal to you rather than, say, go or even chess?" (Fencing is another board game defined in prior pages.)
  • Forever War, a famous Sci-fi masterpiece by Joe Haldeman. During one of his year-long journeys through space, the main character learns how to play.[1]
  • Runaway Horses, by Yukio Mishima (original title "Honda". Tiny reference in a metaphor on p. 179 of my Vintage International translation: "He sensed its presence like a stone that he could place on a Go board wherever he wished.")
  • The Gold at Starbow's End by Frederick Pohl, a science fiction novella, and a collection by the author.
  • The Deep Deep Freeze by Willian Garner. Begins each chapter heading with a Go proverb or a comment from an annotated game. One of the characters plays 3-D Go.
  • Stand On Zanzibar by John Brunner. An overpopulated future. Page 376 of paperback edition: "He said, "You play chess, either of you?" "No, go is my game," Norman said, and thought of the infinite pains he had taken to master it as the pastime to match his abandoned executive image.
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North and other Travel Sketches by Basho Matsuo, translated 1966 by Nobuyuki Yuasa. Page 75: "I [Basho] picked some pebbles on the beach, the so-called white stones of Irago used for the game of go."
  • The Chinese Lake Murders by Robert Van Gulik. T'ang dynasty China. A book leaf containing a legendary unsolved (and highly unrealistic) Go problem is found in the possession of a drowned courtesan.
  • Revolt! by Christopher Anvil; appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in April 1958, and in Anvil's Interstellar Patrol anthology in 2004. Military record on a character includes a note "Favorite game: Go".
  • Prima Belladonna by J.G. Ballard, short story, minor content. Speaks only of i-Go which it describes only as a decelerated chess.
  • The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer. Second World War, Pacific Theatre. An American general compares the behaviour of Japanese generals to Go. In his opinion the subtleties of the game lead to indirect and ineffective behaviour, if applied to warfare.
  • The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse ("Das Glasperlenspiel" sometimes mistitled "Magister Ludi"): faint metaphorical connection to Go.

The following entries are undated:

  • Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Edward G. Seidensticker
  • Buksanggi by Donggo Eocho, a recently discovered Korean play presumed to have been written in 1780 or 1840, includes an old man winning then losing a young woman to whom he's attracted in baduk.
  • The Terminal Experiment by Robert Sawyer also mentions Go in passing.
  • Silk Road by Jean Larsen. Fantasy novel where the protagonist was once a stone in a Go game between Gods.
  • Chung Kuo by David Wingrove, series of eight novels; uses Go as a metaphor. Set on a mildly distopian future Earth.
  • Jian and sequel Shan by Eric van Lustbader. Two thriller novels, though the knowledge of Go is flawed.
  • Four in One by Damon Knight, short story, incidental mention.
  • Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin has many incidental mentions of go as a pastime and even has characters discussing on-board situations.

Unverified, minor or unknown Go content:

  • Spring Moon: A Novel of China by Bette Bao Lord
  • Jaran by Kate Elliot and three other books in the series: An Earthly Crown, His Conquering Sword, and The Law of Becoming.
  • Falling In Place by Ann Beattie
  • Because Of The Cats by Nicholas Freeling
  • Rim by Alexander Besher
  • Shike by Robert Shea
  • The Case Of The Sliding Pool by E.V. Cunningham (Go cover of paperback)
  • To The Spring Equinox And Beyond by Natsume Sōseki
  • The Wayfarer (Kojin) by Natsume
  • Light and Darkness by Natsume
  • Sanshiro by Natsume
  • Kokoro by Natsume
  • Doctor's Orders by Diane Duane (Star Trek)
  • Moonheart by Charles De Lint
  • The Fourth House by Martin Gross
  • The Court Of The Lion by Cooney & Altieri
  • The Ship Who Searched by Mccaffrey & Lackey
  • Host by Peter James
  • Life a User's Manual by Georges Perec
  • A void by Perec
  • The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong
  • A Rage in Heaven by Yamato
  • Zanzibar Cat by Joanna Russ
  • Strategy in Asia: The Past, Present, and Future of Regional Security by Thomas Mahnken (cover pic)

Fulltext search in Books

(I hope the Googles & Amazons of this world should receive a tough damper (Germanism) tderz)

[1] Hans: I have read "Forever War" in the German translation, but cannot remember that go is mentioned. Can you give (approximately) the page number?

Literature last edited by catch22 on May 27, 2023 - 23:07
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