Monday, 12 October 2015

Review: 'Another Man's City' by Ch'oe In-Ho

Another Man's CityA while ago I read and reviewed The Republic of Užupis, another Library of Korean Literature read, which really interested me in reading more Korean literature. Another Man's City was the next one on my list and it's a fascinating read, one which takes the reader on all kinds of strange journeys, has twists where you least expect them and leaves you flabbergasted, in a good way. Thanks to Netgalley and Dalkey Archive Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 14/10/2014
Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
Another Man's City is structured as a virtual-reality narrative manipulated by an entity referred to variously as the Invisible Hand or Big Brother. The scenario is reminiscent of Peter Weir's 1998 film The Truman Show and Kazuo Ishiguro's novel The Unconsoled. The novel begins with a series of seemingly minor juxtapositions of the familiar and the strange, as a result of which the protagonist, K, gradually finds himself inside a Matrix-like reality populated with shape-shifting characters.
Before going into talking about the plot etc. it's interesting to point out how well books from the Library of Korean Literature translate into both English and into our ideas of genre and literature. One would expect that there might be a cultural hurdle and yet In-Ho's narrative fits perfectly into the strain of writing by the likes of Kafka. It's what's so brilliant about Dalkey Archive Press releasing Korean literature because it shows just how universal stories are. The thing called the 'shared ocean of stories' covers the whole world because every single human being wonders about where we came from, where we're going and what we're supposed to do in between. Just because something is written in a different language doesn't mean its story doesn't apply to readers all over. The Library of Korean Literature is a perfect example of why translation should be more common because language really is the only barrier between bringing book-lovers from all over the world closer together.

Another Man's City starts out very recognizably with an annoying alarm clock, but it gets more and more absurd in a way. As out protagonist K. finds himself waking up in a world that doesn't feel like his own. Everything from his pyjamas and his aftershave to his wife and daughter feel wrong, not like they did yesterday. And then there is that hour and a half the night before which is a blank, which surely must be the cause of why everything is so wrong. In-Ho takes the reader through what is seemingly K.'s whole life, flashing back to childhood and minutely taking apart the present. It's a wild ride which spins faster and faster as we get closer to the end. Another Man's City is close to impossible to put down as In-Ho manages to both reveal what's happening and yet tell us nothing.

Another Man's City manages to pull a number of different genres and feels together into one narrative, which is partially what gives this novel such a "weird" vibe and feel to it. On the one hand it is almost Kafka-esque, veering deeply into the abstract and strange, but there is also a strong thriller aspect to it with In-Ho marking each event by the time it happens, giving the reader the feeling the clock is definitely running out. It also has a sense of the uncanny to it while coyly playing with sci-fi ideas as well. In-Ho moves very fluently between all of these different influences and it never feels disingenuous. K. is a fascinating protagonist whose interior monologue is so convincing the reader can't help but at least consider all of his crazy theories about what's happening. In-Ho isn't afraid to push the boundaries a little bit on what we might feel should be discussed or even just mentioned, but it's what gives Another Man's City its edge. And let me tell you that you'll not see the ending coming.

I give this book...

4 Universes!

Another Man's City is an astounding read. It will keep you captured from the beginning to the end, taking you on a roller-coaster ride. Hence I'd only recommend it to those willing to go where a book takes them and not abandon it along the way, This isa  book for fans of the absurd and weird, but you'll get a lot out of it, I promise!

2 comments:

  1. This book sounds very interesting and I'm glad you enjoyed it. Awesome review, Juli!

    Sarika @ The Readdicts

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    1. It is definitely really interesting because it keeps changing! Thanks for commenting :)

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