CITY OF ASH AND RED by Hye-young Pyun


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A man’s new job in an unfamiliar country becomes a fast descent into a psychological and literal version of hell.

An unnamed man in an unidentified time frame is sent to Country C to work a high-level extermination job. He immediately finds that his new home is barely survivable: The street is overrun with vermin and garbage, stink pervades the air, his job is suddenly postponed, and his only suitcase is stolen as soon as he hits town. He receives no explanation, and nobody there or at home is looking out for his welfare. Meanwhile, the city’s been overtaken by a deadly virus, about which nobody seems to know the exact causes or symptoms. Then things really start to go wrong. Once he manages to connect with someone back home, he learns that his ex-wife was murdered on his departure day and that he is the prime suspect. When police arrive at his lodging, he escapes through a window and must now live in the sewers with the homeless, knowing that anyone suspected of having the virus is likely to be incinerated. In flashbacks he relives his troubled marriage for clues of how he got there. Pyun leave one big hole in the plot (if there is news media, why does the man not know what awaits him in Country C?), and she robs the story of political resonance by not describing how the world got to the state it's in.

As a story of one man's struggle to maintain sanity against the odds, it's both consistently gripping and consistently bleak.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-62872-781-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2018


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