City of Ash and Red
Pyun Hye-young, Sora Kim-Russell
- 256 Pages
- November 6, 2018
- ISBN: 9781628727814
- Trim Size: 5.500in x 8.250in
From the 2017 Shirley Jackson Award winner, a slow-burning psychological thriller and Kafkaesque parable—called “an airtight masterpiece” by Korea's Wall Street Journal.
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.
Sora Kim-Russell is a literary translator based in Seoul. Her translations include Hwang Sok-yong’s Princess Bari, Suah Bae’s Nowhere to be Found, and Kyung-sook Shin’s I’ll Be Right There. She teaches at Ewha Womans University and the Literary Translation Institute of Korea. She lives in Seoul. Sora Kim-Russell is a literary translator based in Seoul. Her translations include Hwang Sok-yong’s Princess Bari, Suah Bae’s Nowhere to be Found, and Kyung-sook Shin’s I’ll Be Right There. She teaches at Ewha Womans University and the Literary Translation Institute of Korea. She lives in Seoul.
"Kafkaesque . . . Those with a taste for creepy suspense will be rewarded."—Publishers Weekly
“Kim-Russell’s ability to replicate Pyun’s stifling terror repeats here . . . Stripped of identity, language, and ethics, the cost of survival for Pyun’s protagonist proves to be his very humanity. A slap-in-the-face parable of the perils of society failures. Pyun’s suffocating tale reveals a future all too possible and real.”—Booklist
"Another gruesome masterpiece."—Crime Reads, "Daily Thrill"
“A novel that could easily have been written by Kafka himself. . . . And for those unfamiliar with the Kafkaesque, know that if you feel a familiar tug at your heart when you read of a man lost and frightened, even as an adult, wondering how his life became what it is, and why he cannot find help where he expects it to be, know that you will find company in this story and with its readers.”—Books and Bao>
“A daring post-apocalyptic novel from a powerful rising literary voice. . . . A highly hypnotic tale that will draw you in and hit you where it hurts. Pyun's novel The HoleI was a masterclass and this one is no different.”—Signal Horizon
“A story that strikes fear and uneasiness into the reader.”—Evilcyclist’s Blog
“A wonderfully malevolent, Kafkaesque tale of a man who is completely and utterly lost . . . Hye Young-Pyun’s skill is to make you think that, just when it could not get worse for him, it does.”—The Modern Novel
“Chilling . . . The hits keep coming.”—A Bookish Type
“In this tautly knit novel by a brilliant stylist, a world of darkness you’d never want to encounter in real life unfolds mysteriously before your eyes. Soon you’ll find yourself gripped by the fear that what the protagonist experiences could happen to you. Yet, captivated by the enthralling writing and brutal imaginings, you won’t be able to put the book down until you’ve experienced its darkness to the very end."—Kyung-sook Shin, Man Asian Prize–winning author of Please Look After Mom and The Court Dancer
"In the tradition of Kafka, Camus, and Murakami, Pyun takes us on an unflinching, intensely visceral journey through the dark and nightmarish underbelly of our mundane world.”—Heinz Insu Fenkl, author of the PEN/Hemingway Award finalist Memories of My Ghost Brother
“As a story of one man's struggle to maintain sanity against the odds, it's. . . consistently gripping.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A story of loss so affecting that it borders on existential vertigo.”—Sunyoung Park, associate professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Gender Studies, USC
“I loved this book. I connected with it so much. I felt like I could tangibly experience each descriptive moment. . . . Alongside this main character, we got to experience the horror of a world gone wrong. . . . I compare it to The Handmaid’s Tale.”— Matthew Sciarappa, YouTube review
“City of Ash and Red is a tale of survival and ruin that leaves no room for even a single drop of comfort to seep in. Pyun builds an airtight masterpiece of agony and mystery with her masterfully crafted sentences, and she colors it with the ash-gray of ruin and the fiery red of life.”—Korea Economic Daily
“A story of modern humanity’s survival and downfall as told through the tale of a man who finds his life ruined for reasons he doesn’t understand, in a city rife with disease, soiled by trash, and teeming with rats. . . . [with narrative] tension like a discordant note that jangles the nerves to keep the reader hooked all the way to the last page.”—Munhwa Ilbo
“Hye-young Pyun has made a name for herself in literature with her exquisite depictions of a world of strange and grotesque imagination. . . . In City of Ash and Red, the central motifs are contagion and rats. . . . Though the world she describes is a fictional one, the story of the extinction and denial of a weak man who must persevere within that world feels all too real. Perhaps this unpleasant sense of reality comes from the realization that our own world is stranger than the monstrous one that Pyun invents, that we ourselves are no stronger than rats. But what can we do? Just as the powerless protagonist must somehow survive in the unknown space of Country C, we too have no choice but to persevere no matter what life throws at us.”—Kukmin Ilbo
Praise for The Hole, Winner of the 2017 Shirley Jackson Award:
"A Korean take on Misery," Time magazine, "Top 10 Thrillers to Read This Summer"
"Hye-young Pyun's The Hole is a masterwork of suspense, and a profound meditation on grief, solitude, and secrecy. At once unsettling and richly moving, The Hole is vital novel, a gift from a wildly inventive writer." —Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me
"Like Hitchcock or Abe, Pyun peers head on into the unnerving depths of human grief with the most methodical of eye, logically narrating our descent into such a clear, uncanny terror we hope to remind ourselves its only just a book, one wound from end to end with an exquisite magic that refuses to let go." —Blake Butler, author of 300,000,000
“While reading The Hole, you’ll find yourself suddenly doubting everything. Pyun is asking us a tough and terrifying question that none can dodge: Is your life safe?” —Kyung-sook Shin, New York Times bestselling author of Please Look After Mom
"By the time Hye-young Pyun's taut psychological thriller The Hole has tightened its grip on the unsuspecting mind, it's too late to escape. The shadows lurking in the novel become manifest, and dark poetic justice reigns. . . . The Hole is an unshakable novel about the unfathomable depths of human need." —Shelf Awareness
"Winner of many of Korea's top literary prizes and accolades, Pyun proves to be an effectively chilling storyteller whose expert narrative manipulations should earn new followers." —Booklist
“Fissures in life offer a glimpse of the truth that starts not from others but from us and that we are all oblivious to.” —Maeil Business News Korea
“Reminiscent of Stephen King’s Misery, Hye-young Pyun’s The Hole shows off her unique style of steadily rising terror with this dark tale of a man utterly cut off from his life.” —Munhwa Ilbo (Korea)
"[A] disconcerting and often sinister story." —Korea Herald