New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • A wild, sweeping novel that imagines an alternate secret history of Korea and the traces it leaves on the present—loaded with assassins and mad poets, RPGs and slasher films, pop bands and the perils of social media
“Your view of twentieth-century history will be enlarged and altered. . . . A Gravity’s Rainbow for another war, an unfinished war.” —Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude
ONE OF PUBLISHERS WEEKLY’S TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR • FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Public Library, Polygon, Kirkus Reviews
In 1919, far-flung patriots establish the Korean Provisional Government to protest the Japanese occupation of their country. This government-in-exile proves mostly symbolic, though, and after Japan’s defeat in World War II, the KPG dissolves and civil war erupts, resulting in the tragic North-South split that remains today.
But what if the KPG still existed—now working toward a unified Korea, secretly pulling levers to further its aims? Same Bed Different Dreams weaves together three distinct narrative voices with an archive of mysterious images, and twists reality like a kaleidoscope. Korean history, American pop culture, and our tech-fraught lives come together in this extraordinary and unforgettable novel.
Soon Sheen, a former writer now employed by the tech behemoth GLOAT, comes into possession of an unfinished book seemingly authored by the KPG. The manuscript is a riveting revisionist history, connecting famous names and obscure bit players to the KPG’s grand project—everyone from Syngman Rhee and architect-poet Yi Sang to Jack London and Marilyn Monroe. M*A*S*H is in here, too, as are the Moonies and a history of violence extending from the assassination of President McKinley to the Reagan-era downing of a passenger plane that puts the world on the brink of war.
From the acclaimed author of Personal Days, Same Bed Different Dreams is a raucously funny feat of imagination and a thrilling meld of history and fiction that pulls readers into another dimension—one in which utopia is possible.
Park returns 15 years after Personal Days with an ingenious postmodern epic of colonial and postcolonial Korea framed in a satire of America's publishing and tech industries. Soon Sheen, a novelist turned tech employee, works at the Google-esque Gloat, where he unplugs from intrusive work notifications to read an English translation of an "unfinished masterpiece" by obscure Korean author Echo titled Same Bed, Different Dreams. Much of Park's novel is comprised of Echo's narrative, which purports to be a "true account of the Korean Provisional Government," a nationalist group that formed in 1919 during the Japanese occupation and which Echo claims did not disband at the end of Japanese rule in 1945 but in fact continues to operate in secret. The KPG is a motley group; among the ideologically opposed "members" claimed by Echo are Parker Jotter, a Black Korean War veteran turned communist sympathizer and radical science fiction novelist; and Ronald Reagan, who decries the 1983 Soviet attack on a Korean passenger jet. Park exhibits a wizardly range of styles; he can be funny, such as when Soon's dog digs up a missing chapter of Echo's book just in time for Soon to read it; lyrical, as in a description of snow as Jotter prepares for a mission ("white pinpricks on my jacket like a universe being born"); or poignant, as with revelations about who was on the doomed flight. By the end, it miraculously hangs together, driven by Park's deep passion for Korean history. This tribute to the fractured peninsula's citizens, diaspora, and allies is one for the ages.