Tag: Asian American Writers
K: A Novel, by Ted O’Connell (Santa Fe Writers Project, 2020)
Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 2011)
Like Water and Other Stories, by Olga Zilberbourg (WTAW Press, 2019)
Your Nostalgia is Killing Me, by John Weir (Red Hen Press, 2022)
The Accomplice, by Joseph Kanon (Atria Books, 2019)
How High We Go In the Dark, by Sequoia Nagamatsu (William Morrow, 2022)
A ship, a kind of ark, leaves Earth carrying a small band of humans looking for an alternative home. Among the passengers, the wife of the grieving father who followed his dead daughter’s footsteps to a scientific station in Siberia. The father, working on a 30,000-year-old mummy found buried in the ice, unwittingly unleashed a plague virus on the world. Now his wife and their 17-year-old granddaughter volunteer to be among the first humans put into cryogenic sleep.
The adolescents and children remain asleep the whole voyage, but the adults who have necessary skills are awakened to get to work:
When we arrived at the Centauri system, we received a decades-old message from Earth, informing us that a cure for the plague had been discovered — the comatose woke up and people began to rebuild their lives. Funerary corporations expanded to focus on climate projects, building seawalls around coastal cities, sponsoring the solar shade project until the end of the century. The message bid us good luck and farewell. You always have a home here, it said. On this world or on your new home, we’ll find each other again one day. Personal letters arrived, along with general messages to the crew, and for more than a week the ship was abuzz with news and condolences and statistics from revived sports teams, a snapshot of life on Earth for the past fifty years. The ship’s doctor organized daily sharing circles for those who wanted to celebrate or needed support or couldn’t quite articulate how they were supposed to feel.— How High We Go In the Dark, p. 196
We all agreed it was a breakthrough, the singularity.— how high we go in the dark, p. 175
Last year, I read Eddie’s Boy and marveled at how fleet it was. I learned it was the sequel to Butcher’s Boy, published thirty years earlier. So of course I had to read Butcher’s Boy. Wowee! Perry’s laconic main character is a one-man killing machine — there is nothing like him out there.
Here’s an excerpt from Michael Connelly’s Introduction to Butcher’s Boy:
- Over the years and the million of words, I have come to learn that it is all about character and velocity. A book is like a car. It pulls up to the curb and the passenger door swings open to the reader. The engine revs. Do you want a ride?
I am thinking about this Introduction right now because of my current read: How High We Go in the Dark, by Sequoia Nagamatsu. This book is certainly a ride. It’s supposedly a novel: it isn’t. It’s a collection of stories, each showing the effects of a deadly virus that was released from the ice by scientists in Siberia. It begins at the beginning: in Siberia. Then skips to the future, when the virus has spread. The stories are absolutely heartbreaking. But she is along for this ride, holy cow. She most definitely is.
SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
A grieving father volunteers to take his daughter’s place in a research station in Siberia. He’s shown the crater the scientists were exploring when his daughter had the accident that killed her. Then, of all the crappy things to happen, the 30,000-year-old corpse that his daughter stumbled across on her last day alive turns out to be infected with a virus. And it’s the grieving father who’s been dissecting it for study. (Why did you — oh my God — WHAAAAAT?)
This is what self will refer to as the Don’t Look Now moment, after the short story by Daphne du Maurier: in the story, a grieving father chases the memories of his dead daughter, which lead him straight to . . . a serial killer!
In How High We Go In the Dark, the father knows what’s going to happen:
- I put on my daughter’s snow gear, taking the dogu figurine with me, and walk out onto the tundra, picture Clara there beside me beneath the aurora. I don’t take the ATV. I walk the mile to the crater’s edge. I imagine the virus and anything else the ice has kept hidden from us being sucked into the figurine, its stone belly filled with all that can harm us. I tell my daughter I love her and throw the dogu into the crater, waiting for all that has been unburied to be retaken into the earth. I walk back to the outpost. I can barely breathe.
It’s strange to think I’ve started to build a life in the same place I saw as your escape from home.— how high we go in the dark, by sequoia nagamatsu, p26
In the opening pages of How High We Go In the Dark, a father goes to the remote scientific station in Siberia where his daughter met her end, vowing to complete his daughter’s work. Going through her things, he finds her journal and writes, on the interior cover, in big, bold letters: YOU WERE RIGHT.
Heart breaks into a million little pieces.
It’s in the latest issue of The Citron Review.
Notes from Hedwicka Cox, Fiction Editor, on the issue’s Fiction Selections:
- What is magic? Magic is dreaming. Magic is fantasy. Magic is speculative. When we think of magic, we think of the unreal, the ethereal.
So, yes, her story is about magic.
Self has another kind of tale, somewhat different in tone, which came out in Menacing Hedge earlier this year. It’s called Down.
She has another story coming out spring 2023, in J Journal. That one’s about a ship that discovers, completely by accident, a city at the bottom of the ocean.
Much love to all the editors of these hardworking little magazines, for giving her stories space to be shared. These stories are in a collection she’s been entering into contests. But they haven’t made it to the longlist, anywhere. Maybe they are just too different.
As usual: SPOILER ALERT!
This novel is incredibly dense with incident, and also incredibly circumlocutious: it shows you something, then the thread breaks off, it’s suddenly ten years later. After a bit (a chapter or two, or three) you’re back to where you left off before the narrative jumped forward ten years. There are so many characters introduced and then disappearing, self has to keep re-reading to keep them straight: Peter, Kay, Jim, Ellen, Michael, Roland, Angel, Charles, Yi Gong, Leon, Deming/Daniel, Haifeng, Mrs. Haifeng, Didi, Cindy, Rocky, Vivian. It’s not that long a novel (300 or so pages) but, damn, it is complicated. And the worst part, for self at least, is that the mother in this story abandons her son not once, but twice — and the reason for the second abandonment is not explained. Self is on p. 219 and it’s a very, very slow and excruciating build to that central mystery (which takes place in Chapter One)
- Why, if Leon is so hot (and he really is, which is a welcome detail), did Polly abandon him? (It’s been a while since self read a novel with a hot Chinese man — damn, why does Leon end up chucked over like warmed-over cereal? Polly sure is a complicated woman!)
- What happened to Polly after she said she was going to Florida but decided not to go to Florida? Did she meet another man? Self thought at first that she was murdered, but it turns out she just ended up back in China.
- What happened to Polly’s best friend, Didi? Where’d she disappear to? Were she and Polly just “two ships that pass in the night”?Why was Leon clenching the phone so hard when Polly called him (In Chapter One or Chapter Two?)
- What is going to happen to Deming/Daniel? Since everything sucks, is he going to DIE?
SPOILER ALERT, naturally!
He was frightened by how much he was about to fuck up, by his lack of desire to stop himself, the rising anticipation at the prospect of falling down, failing harder, and going straight to tilt; he’d known from the moment he left the bar exactly where he would end up.The Leavers, p. 159
Self will attempt to pick up the pace on reading The Leavers, which she began four days ago. It’s incredible how much the MC manages to mess up, and she’s only halfway (Lisa Ko is an endlessly inventive writer; there’s always a new disaster waiting, just around the corner, right now the novel has the feel of a massive pile-up on I-5, where more cars just keep piling on)
By p. 159, the MC has managed to alienate: his former childhood best friend; the former childhood best friend’s mother; the white couple who adopted him as an 11-year-old; his high school best friend and another high school best friend AND the other high school best friend’s boyfriend; an acquaintance who loaned him $2000; various loan sharks. That’s probably why in part III (She cheated and read goodreads reviews), the MC has fled to China to find his birth mother, who’s another ace at running away — she left him all alone in an apartment in the Bronx when her American dreams didn’t work out. But she loves her son, she truly truly loves him. Don’t let her total abandonment fool you, that was all due to her poverty, her inability to speak English, fate etc (Screech!)
When self woke up this morning, she was determined — determined — to be done with this book today. But, the best-laid plans and all that.