City of Ash and Red
For fans of J. G. Ballard and early Ian McEwan, a tense psychological thriller and Kafkaesque parable by the author of The Hole―called “an airtight masterpiece” by the Korean Economic Daily. 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.

City of Ash and Red Details

TitleCity of Ash and Red
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseNov 6th, 2018
PublisherArcade Publishing
ISBN-139781628727814
Rating
GenreFiction, Horror, Science Fiction

City of Ash and Red Review

  • Faith
    January 1, 1970
    This was a very strange book, but I don’t mean that as a criticism. In a way I think that the blurb gives away too much and it might be better to read it after you have read the book. The unnamed protagonist, referred to only as “the man”, is sent for management training to the home office of his extermination company, based in his skill at killing rats. The home office is in another country, called C, that is in the grips of a contagious and sometimes fatal disease and a general breakdown of so This was a very strange book, but I don’t mean that as a criticism. In a way I think that the blurb gives away too much and it might be better to read it after you have read the book. The unnamed protagonist, referred to only as “the man”, is sent for management training to the home office of his extermination company, based in his skill at killing rats. The home office is in another country, called C, that is in the grips of a contagious and sometimes fatal disease and a general breakdown of society. The man knows no one, has limited language skills, does not seem to have been expected by his home office and soon finds himself homeless. The air is filled with fumigant and the ashes of burning garbage and corpses. “And he grew unhappy at the thought that he might never again run his fingers along the fine grain of ordinary everyday life.” However, as we experience this post apocalyptic world through the point of view of the man, there are hints that perhaps he was always isolated and that the outward manifestations of chaos and coldness in C were just a reflection of the man’s inner state. This book is very well written and comparing its vibe to Kafka is not far fetched. The rat killing was pretty gross, but I suppose it was necessary. I would like to read more by this author. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    City of Ash and Red is a Korean story that strikes fear and uneasiness into the reader. The unnamed lead character and narrator works for an extermination company. He's not the best employee but gets to work at the big office in Country C. Countries and cities are represented by single letters which are not shorthand but signify places unknown to the reader. The reader will not think that country C is North Korea, Poland, or Canada; it is someplace the reader has never been. There is a sense of City of Ash and Red is a Korean story that strikes fear and uneasiness into the reader. The unnamed lead character and narrator works for an extermination company. He's not the best employee but gets to work at the big office in Country C. Countries and cities are represented by single letters which are not shorthand but signify places unknown to the reader. The reader will not think that country C is North Korea, Poland, or Canada; it is someplace the reader has never been. There is a sense of being lost and to compound that feeling the character also feels lost and disoriented. He loses all contact with his home country. He also learns he is suspected in the murder of his ex-wife. The book takes the reader on a dark, twisting course. In a city where trash piles high, rats thrive, and swirling mists of sprays that are supposed to control the spread of an epidemic cover everything a foreigner must find his way out or in.Translator Sora Kim-Russell does an outstanding job in translating the story to English while keeping the original feel and intent of the story. Horror seems to have different flavors in different cultures. Part of the stories appeal is that is outside of the Western or American norm.
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  • OutlawPoet
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes you read and love a book, but when you have to explain it to someone, you fumble for words.This is one of those books. In City of Ash and Red, we have a pandemic. It's a quiet one, but a deadly one. Our main character, who remains nameless, is promoted, but that promotion takes into a country beset by disease - a country where he knows no one and can barely speak the language. Once there, he discovers that his ex-wife (back home) has been murdered...and he is the prime suspect.But what Sometimes you read and love a book, but when you have to explain it to someone, you fumble for words.This is one of those books. In City of Ash and Red, we have a pandemic. It's a quiet one, but a deadly one. Our main character, who remains nameless, is promoted, but that promotion takes into a country beset by disease - a country where he knows no one and can barely speak the language. Once there, he discovers that his ex-wife (back home) has been murdered...and he is the prime suspect.But what we have here isn't a murder mystery. Instead, as our nameless character escapes into the city, we have a bleak and horrifying apocalypse - and the story of a lost stranger for whom nothing is familiar dealing with horrors beyond belief.The writing is sparse and surreal. The reader is as much a stranger here as is our narrator.Readers should note that the end isn't quite as concrete as one might like. But it works well for the book and the reader ends up feeling like they've experienced some horrific yet amorphous journey.Well worth the read.*ARC Provided via Net Galley
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  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia
    January 1, 1970
    I've taken to calling it High-Rise if J.G. Ballard took on a whole neighborhood instead of just one luxury apartment building. See my full review at NPR: https://www.npr.org/2018/11/10/665751...
  • Marjorie
    January 1, 1970
    The unnamed narrator is known for his talents as a rat killer. The extermination company he works for has given him what many consider to be a promotion and is sent to Country C. However, when the man gets to Country C, he finds its streets are overrun with rats and piled high with rotting garbage with horrible odors. There’s also a deadly rampant virus going around and men walk around in hazmat suits. When he finds out that his new job has been postponed, he thinks things can’t get any worse. B The unnamed narrator is known for his talents as a rat killer. The extermination company he works for has given him what many consider to be a promotion and is sent to Country C. However, when the man gets to Country C, he finds its streets are overrun with rats and piled high with rotting garbage with horrible odors. There’s also a deadly rampant virus going around and men walk around in hazmat suits. When he finds out that his new job has been postponed, he thinks things can’t get any worse. But his world completely caves in when he contacts someone from home and finds out that his ex-wife has been murdered and he’s the prime suspect.Wow, this author surely knows how to write a gruesome story and keep her readers on edge! Her imagination knows no limits and the world she has created in this book in a bleak, horrendous one. I was very impressed with her book, “The Hole”, but I think this one is even better with a more involved plot. The book has many layers and I think different people will read different meanings into it. I see that “The Hole” has won the 2017 Shirley Jackson Award and I can see why. Her work does remind me of Shirley Jackson’s plus it has that unique Korean touch that I’ve grown to admire.Recommended.This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
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  • Kendra
    January 1, 1970
    I can't tell if this was supposed to be dismal or absurdist or both. A nameless male protagonist whose work centers around killing pests is sent to work in a similarly unnamed city far from home, where society has crumbled and the city is filled with trash and pestilence. The protagonist should get no sympathy, however, as he's an admitted rapist and abuser, and as his life and the meaning in it spiral away, well, I cared less and less. I think on the surface this is a metaphor for inhumanity, a I can't tell if this was supposed to be dismal or absurdist or both. A nameless male protagonist whose work centers around killing pests is sent to work in a similarly unnamed city far from home, where society has crumbled and the city is filled with trash and pestilence. The protagonist should get no sympathy, however, as he's an admitted rapist and abuser, and as his life and the meaning in it spiral away, well, I cared less and less. I think on the surface this is a metaphor for inhumanity, and on a deeper level suggests that everyone is capable of violence. Content warning for rape and other violence.
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  • Annie
    January 1, 1970
    The beginning of Hye-young Pyun’s novel, City of Ash and Red, (translated by Sora Kim-Russell), terrified me because it presents one of my worst fears. An unnamed man arrives in a foreign city to take up a job, only to end up without his phone, documents, most of his possessions, and eventually the apartment his new employer set up. He doesn’t speak the language well. All the phone numbers he might call were stored in his phone. He’s on his own. Meanwhile, an epidemic and a garbage strike are ma The beginning of Hye-young Pyun’s novel, City of Ash and Red, (translated by Sora Kim-Russell), terrified me because it presents one of my worst fears. An unnamed man arrives in a foreign city to take up a job, only to end up without his phone, documents, most of his possessions, and eventually the apartment his new employer set up. He doesn’t speak the language well. All the phone numbers he might call were stored in his phone. He’s on his own. Meanwhile, an epidemic and a garbage strike are making conditions in the city district he’s fetched up in downright hellish...Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.
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  • Kathie
    January 1, 1970
    Rounded up from 3.5. City of Ash & Red is the first translated book I’ve read this year and had me all over the spectrum emotionally, mostly in the anxious and disturbed realm. There are certainly nods to Kafka, but the tale itself is a unique blend of dystopian surrealism that is both relatable and deeply unsettling. The unnamed protagonist, who is stranded in a foreign country, barely able to communicate, and missing almost all of his possessions, starts off vaguely sympathetic, but as mor Rounded up from 3.5. City of Ash & Red is the first translated book I’ve read this year and had me all over the spectrum emotionally, mostly in the anxious and disturbed realm. There are certainly nods to Kafka, but the tale itself is a unique blend of dystopian surrealism that is both relatable and deeply unsettling. The unnamed protagonist, who is stranded in a foreign country, barely able to communicate, and missing almost all of his possessions, starts off vaguely sympathetic, but as more is revealed and his circumstances collapse further in a scenario where a plague-like epidemic and post-apocalyptic living conditions flourish, you’ll find yourself repulsed and angry yet compelled to keep reading. The book seems well translated, tightly paced, and very weird. I think the blurb has too many spoilers, but I suppose it was necessary to draw the reader in. If your reading tastes lean towards the uncomfortable and disturbing this would be a good one to pick up. If you’re at all sensitive to certain content you might want to find something lighter.
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  • Katrina
    January 1, 1970
    Major kudos to both the author and translator for crafting such a compelling tale full of unease and disorientation. City of Ash and Red is one of the far superior modern novels with a dystopian theme I've read in a long time. Perhaps that is due to the fact that the setting is not the true focus of the book, but compliments the main story with nightmarish and nauseating imagery throughout. A brilliantly unsettling and subtle horror story with a unforgettable protagonist. With thanks to Netgalle Major kudos to both the author and translator for crafting such a compelling tale full of unease and disorientation. City of Ash and Red is one of the far superior modern novels with a dystopian theme I've read in a long time. Perhaps that is due to the fact that the setting is not the true focus of the book, but compliments the main story with nightmarish and nauseating imagery throughout. A brilliantly unsettling and subtle horror story with a unforgettable protagonist. With thanks to Netgalley and Skyhorse for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Taina
    January 1, 1970
    Dystopiaa ja kauhua yhdistelevä romaani nimettömästä miehestä, joka päätyy tuntemattomaan maahan töihin. Pian häntä ympäröivät sairaudet, roskavuoret ja rotat sekä tieto siitä, että hän on pääepäilty ex-vaimonsa murhasta kotimaassaan. Parasta olivat synkän maailman kuvaus palavine roskakasoineen ja mustine viemäreineen sekä kafkamainen kuristava ahdistus. Toisaalta kyllästyin loputtomaan toivottomuuteen ja siihen, että tipahtelin kärryiltä liian usein. 3,5 tähteä.
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  • MGF
    January 1, 1970
    I understand the possibility for seeing a larger message in this story, but I found it too simply written and not compelling. The man is effectively an inept psychopath. If it was any longer than 245 pages, I may have put it down halfway through. There are so many better books to read.
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  • Trang Nguyen
    January 1, 1970
    Totally Kafkaesque!
  • Pile By the Bed
    January 1, 1970
    There are so many interesting novels coming out of Korea at the moment – challenging established tropes across a range of genres. Just this year there has been the psychothriller The Good Son, the anti-hero crime drama The Plotters and Toward Dusk, another masterpiece of introspection and history from Hwang Sok Yong. Into this mix comes what could be described as dystopian existentialist horror -The City of Ash and Red by Hwe-Young Pyun. A kafkaesque descent into a nightmare world that, in some There are so many interesting novels coming out of Korea at the moment – challenging established tropes across a range of genres. Just this year there has been the psychothriller The Good Son, the anti-hero crime drama The Plotters and Toward Dusk, another masterpiece of introspection and history from Hwang Sok Yong. Into this mix comes what could be described as dystopian existentialist horror -The City of Ash and Red by Hwe-Young Pyun. A kafkaesque descent into a nightmare world that, in some strange way, has echoes of all of the books and authors previously mentioned. As with many of those books, also, this has been translated by Sora Kim Russell.An unnamed man is taken out of the immigration queue at the airport. He is sick and may well be infected with a virus that is potentially a pandemic. The man has come to Country Y to work, transferred by his company. But when he is taken to his apartment, on an island groaning under the weight of uncollected garbage, it turns out that perhaps there may not be a job for him after all. Before he can do much about that his whole apartment block is put under quarantine. From there things go from bad to worse.Pyun creates a nightmare-scape in an almost post-apocalyptic landscape. But the apocalypse, if there ever was one, never quite arrives. Instead this is one man’s descent from office worker, to vagrant living in a garbage dump, to a literal and figurative descent even lower. As in Kafka, the rules are never quite clear and just as the man works them out he finds he is on the wrong side of them. And there may be a story of redemption here except that when things look like they might be turning around they take an even darker turn.City of Ash and Red is not an easy read. The protagonist, despite his plight is not particularly likeable, in fact in some respects he is completely unlikeable. And the rat-infested world in which he finds himself is nasty and brutish. As noted, these aspects have emerged in other recent Korean fiction. The Good Son was also hinged around an extremely unlikeable main character. Hwang Sok-Yong’s Familiar Things, while much more optimistic and heart-felt, was set in and around a garbage dump where a young boy grows up as a “picker”. Buy Pyun, with deadpan language and a nightmarish atmosphere, heightens these aspects.City of Ash and Red is not for everyone. Parts of it recall the bleakness of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. But while Pyun toys with an apocalyptic scenario she never quite gets there, managing to twist the narrative into something else entirely by the book’s shocking, but in some ways inevitable, conclusion.
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  • J.D. DeHart
    January 1, 1970
    All at once like The Road, this book takes the reader by storm. There are notes of Kafka and Saramago here, while also unique in its own right.Recommended reading for those who enjoy literary dystopian fiction (and I do).
  • Cheyanne Lepka
    January 1, 1970
    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 w 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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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    Did not finish
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