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  • Writer's pictureCheyanne Lepka

City of Ash and Red by Hye-Young Pyun

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

Rating: 4/5 stars

Pages: 256

Genre: thriller, speculative fiction, dystopian

Publisher: Arcade Publishing

Translated by: Sora Kim-Russell

Pub. Date: November 6, 2018

After the man shows an aptitude for killing rats, he’s sent by the extermination company he works for on an extended assignment in country C. But one after another things go awry; from having all his things stolen, to being quarantined and a job that doesn’t seem to quite exist, nothing is lining up or making sense for the man. And when he finally makes contact with someone from his old life, he finds out that his ex-wife’s body has been found in his apartment and that he’s the prime suspect. Barely escaping arrest, he ends up living on the streets of country C. As he struggles to regain his footing and find his way back to his former life, he’s forced to face that the fact that he might not even be the person he thought he was. This book examines the nature of fear, isolation and most of all a sense of self, or lack thereof.

**Note: i received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**


This is the type of book that left me sitting there going, what the hell did I just read? And don't get me wrong, that's my favourite kind of book. Even days after finishing, I’m thinking about the book and seriously considering rereading it. It’s an interesting combination of dystopian and horror with a very kafkaesque coating. It works brilliantly, because of how well the tone of the book works with the content.

The unnamed protagonist is in an impossible situation, and it just keeps getting worse. The tension brought on by his dire situation made it hard to put the book down. Even when the darker aspects of the man’s life are revealed, I found myself completely invested in his story, though I’ll admit I was sort of cheering when shit just kept raining on him (not literally, though… in this book… you never know.) The one thing that made this book so hard to put down was the grotesque interest I had in the world, and the lack of certainty I had about anything I had read. I didn’t trust anything and I’m still sitting here wondering what the fuck actually happened.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who has read and enjoys Kafka, or anyone who is looking for something uncomfortably bizarre and wants to read about killing rats and drowning in garbage. Overall, it’s definitely a book that will leave you thinking and mildly uncomfortable. Bravo.

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