Book Review: How High We Go in the Dark - Sequoia Nagamatsu

by @edent | , | 450 words | Read ~112 times.

Book cover featuring three dots surrounded by circles.

For fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven, Sequoia Nagamatsu's debut is a wildly imaginative, genre-bending work spanning generations across the globe as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a devastating plague.
Dr. Cliff Miyashiro arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue his recently deceased daughter’s research, only to discover a virus, newly unearthed from melting permafrost. The plague unleashed reshapes life on earth for generations. Yet even while struggling to counter this destructive force, humanity stubbornly persists in myriad moving and ever inventive ways.

From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead, How High We Go in the Dark follows a cast of intricately linked characters spanning hundreds of years as humanity endeavours to restore the delicate balance of the world. This is a story of unshakable hope that crosses literary lines to give us a world rebuilding itself through an endless capacity for love, resilience and reinvention.

This book is devastatingly good. It's a grim and darkly prophetic set of interlinked short stories set during a pandemic.

*sigh* I suspect we're going to be seeing a lot of "what if Covid19 but in the future?" novels. But this one is special. The sci-fi is sublime and realistic. It draws very firmly from the art of the possible - including the terrifying euthanasia roller coaster.

And, it is terrifying. I had to put the book down between each chapter to gather my courage for the next onslaught.

Remember how Joey from Friends dealt with scary books?

Yeah, that's what I wanted to do with this.

And yet, in the middle of this awful pandemic, there's something cathartic about reading how it might go in the future. The little asides remind me of the infomercials in the Robocop movie, or the ever present advertising in Blade Runner.

I've read a lot of Black Sci Fi over the last few years, but this is the first Japanese-American focussed book that I've read. The author skilfully weaves his characters together to give us a wide variety of people through which to view the end of the world.

And a talking pig.

It slowly builds up the terror - always dwelling on the human experience of the individual, never straying to the global level. And then gently releases us from its grasp into something surprisingly beautiful.

You may find it extremely upsetting to read - but it is an outstanding experience.

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy. The book is released in January 2022 and I urge you to preorder.

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