cover image City of Ash and Red

City of Ash and Red

Hye-Young Pyun, trans. from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell. Arcade, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-62872-781-4

This disturbing, Kafkaesque tale from Pyun (The Hole) charts the career of an unnamed man from an unnamed country, who has been “a product developer at a pest control firm” that specializes in rats—a Sisyphean task, given that many rodents survive any efforts at eradication. For an obscure reason, the man is transferred to Country C, where he’s detained by health inspectors concerned about a new virus that has been spreading like wildfire globally. When he’s finally released, he finds that his new lodgings are in District 4, an island built on a landfill, whose streets are filled with trash. The man’s luggage, which included most of his possessions, is stolen, and his boss tells him not to report to work, pending an internal company review that will take over a week. The parallels between the man’s new life and the lives of rats are a bit heavy-handed, and once Pyun reveals that the man has committed marital rape, some readers will lose interest in his fate. Still, those with a taste for creepy suspense will be rewarded. (Nov.)