City of Ash and Red by Hye-Young Pyun
Hardcover – Arcade – Nov 2018 – 245 pages
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. 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.