NAMED AN NPR GREAT READ OF 2018
From the Shirley Jackson Award–winning author of The Hole, a Kafkaesque tale of crime and punishment hailed by Korea’s Wall Street Journal as “an airtight masterpiece.”
Distinguished for his talents as a rat killer, the nameless protagonist of Hye-young Pyun's City of Ash and Red is sent by the extermination company he works for on an extended assignment in C, a country descending into chaos and paranoia, swept by a contagious disease, and flooded with trash. No sooner does he disembark than he is whisked away by quarantine officials and detained overnight. Isolated and forgotten, he realizes that he is stranded with no means of contacting the outside world. Still worse, when he finally manages to reach an old friend, he is told that his ex-wife's body was found in his apartment and he is the prime suspect. Barely managing to escape arrest, he must struggle to survive in the streets of this foreign city gripped with fear of contamination and reestablish contact with his company and friends in order to clear his reputation.
But as the man's former life slips further and further from his grasp, and he looks back on his time with his wife, it becomes clear that he may not quite be who he seems. From the bestselling author of The Hole, City of Ash and Red is an apocalyptic account of the destructive impact of fear and paranoia on people's lives as well as a haunting novel about a man’s loss of himself and his humanity.
This disturbing, Kafkaesque tale from Pyun (The Hole) charts the career of an unnamed man from an unnamed country, who has been "a product developer at a pest control firm" that specializes in rats a Sisyphean task, given that many rodents survive any efforts at eradication. For an obscure reason, the man is transferred to Country C, where he's detained by health inspectors concerned about a new virus that has been spreading like wildfire globally. When he's finally released, he finds that his new lodgings are in District 4, an island built on a landfill, whose streets are filled with trash. The man's luggage, which included most of his possessions, is stolen, and his boss tells him not to report to work, pending an internal company review that will take over a week. The parallels between the man's new life and the lives of rats are a bit heavy-handed, and once Pyun reveals that the man has committed marital rape, some readers will lose interest in his fate. Still, those with a taste for creepy suspense will be rewarded.
City of ash and red
I loved the book but hated the ending. It totally left me hanging!
City of Ash and Read
This prescient novel is as scary as they come, eerily accurate in predicting the Covid pandemic, elegant and completely immersive. If Kafka and Dostoevsky had a child, this would be it!