26 Nov / The Plotters by Un-su Kim, translated by Sora Kim-Russell [in Booklist]
Reseng, 32, has been a professional assassin for 15 years, minus a short factory-worker stint at 22, while playing house with the love of his life. That he’s survived this long – never mind his risky career, he’s also a two-pack-a-day smoker with a beer-for-breakfast diet – is remarkable.
Pulled from a garbage can as an infant, nunnery-raised until he turned 4, Reseng then grew up fostered by a killer called Old Racoon, living in his “gloomy, labyrinthine library” named the Doghouse. Discovering literacy at 9 (he never went to school), Reseng now avoids boredom and loneliness by reading books, from Sophocles to Calvino, in between his murderous assignments by “the plotters” – the elite, beyond-the-law puppet masters who control their putative democracy in post-military-dictatorship style.
Reseng’s life continues smoothly enough until he finds a bomb in his toilet. Fortunately, he was Beer Week-upchucking; other-end purging would have been fatally explosive. His search for the bombmaker leads him to two orphaned sisters and a cross-eyed librarian from his past and onward to an ultimate plot that might save the world – or might not.
The winner of prestigious prizes in Korea, Un-su Kim makes his anglophone debut, thanks to Sora Kim-Russell, who captures his dark, dark wit and searing sarcasm in an irresistible sociopolitical parable designed to delight and dismay.