17 Oct / City of Ash and Red by Hye-Young Pyun, translated by Sora Kim-Russell [in Booklist]
The first collaboration between Hye-Young Pyun and translator Sora Kim-Russell, The Hole (2017), introduced one of Korea’s most lauded writers to Anglophone readers. Kim-Russell’s ability to replicate Pyun’s stifling terror repeats here as he presents a nameless anti-hero, known only as “the man.”
Leaving behind envious fellow employees, he’s transferred to Country C to work at “the main office” of a pest-extermination company. Detained overnight at the airport for being a potential health risk in a nation already plagued by a deadly virus, the man finally arrives at his prearranged apartment in a district built over a reclaimed landfill, which is oozing with filthy waste. His suitcase is stolen, including his phone, which severs any connections to his previous life. His attempt to find someone to release the dog he abandoned at home sets in motion a fugitive’s odyssey marked by murder, park-bench wars, sewer hideaways, and rats.
Stripped of identity, language, and ethics, the cost of survival for Pyun’s protagonist proves to be his very humanity. A slap-in-the-face parable of the perils of society’s failures, Pyun’s suffocating tale reveals a future all too possible and real.