The Dead Do Not Improve

Jay Caspian Kang. Hogarth (Random, dist.), $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-95388-9
In this satirical debut novel, Philip Kim, a misanthrope with an M.F.A. in creative writing, becomes embroiled in an off-the-wall crime plot when his elderly neighbor is mysteriously killed. Like Kim, Siddhartha “Sid” Finch, the privileged “trustafarian” turned surfer cop assigned to investigate the case, heaps scorn on the motley denizens of Internet-obsessed San Francisco, zealously lampooning tech nerds, advanced creative writing students, a cabal of vegan Buddhist ex-hackers, and warring surfer gangs. Kang’s voice is at once glib and vitriolic, his diatribes taking up the narrative space that a different novel might fill with finely wrought observation and detail; as a result, stabs at legitimate pathos, such as Kim falling in love or breaking down, are shallow and contrived. Kang has a gift for snide zingers, and his un-PC digressions on race and “Koreanness” are among the book’s freshest and most absorbing aspects. But too often chapters end in clunky cliffhangers that lead to little resolution or catharsis. Readers looking for a riveting crime novel where the pieces all add up in an illuminating way risk disappointment, and the rushed ending, which jumps several years into the future, supplies no clear answers. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2012
Release date: 08/07/2012
Show other formats
Paperback - 262 pages - 978-0-307-95389-6
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-07994-6
Book - 150 pages - 978-0-307-95390-2
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.