When a freak accident leads to the death of a Trump-like Ecuadorian politician, a reporter assigned to investigate the incident uncovers shocking and sinister truths about the politician and his cohorts.
Opening with a scene of unforgettable absurdism, a campaigning politician has to urinate so badly while giving a speech in a seedy part of Ecuador that he pees his pants, which causes his electrocution. In the wake of his death, Gonzalo Varas, an impoverished journalist living with a failed poet as a roommate, is assigned by his editor to investigate the incident. As Gonzalo receives more and more pressure from his editor to produce a story, he finally, by a stroke of luck, happens upon a strange woman in an underground tunnel who has escaped captivity and is nearly dead, an encounter which soon leads him to uncover a pattern of missing women, a group of eerie blind men, and a conspiracy involving land and mining rights, all of which center around the novel’s titular community, a slum sitting atop a network of interconnected tunnels. One part Thomas Pynchon, one part Gabriel García Marquez, and one part Raymond Chandler, Alemán’s novel contains mystery, horror, humor, absurdity, and political commentary. Her characters are cartoonishly lovable or hateable, and the world they inhabit is overblown and stylized. Though the novel contains flashes of brilliance (a woman's voice sounds like “crystal clear water falling slowly through yards of blue velvet”), her writing sometimes lapses into cliché and lacks specificity, though it is unclear whether this is her doing or the fault of Cluster’s translation. In the end, though the novel never quite finds its footing, Alemán is a good enough storyteller and has a good enough sense of pacing that the story never drags.
A concoction of political thriller and absurdist literary mystery that never fails to entertain.