Title: Your Republic is Calling You
Author: Kim Young-ha
Review Summary: The sparse prose, surreal feel, and intimate details you learn about characters’ lives reminded me of Murakami but the book was far darker and the unresolved ending knocked a star off my rating.
Gi-yeong is a typical South Korean family man or so even his wife believes. He’s almost come to believe it himself until one day he gets a mysterious e-mail, recalling him to the home office and his duties as a North Korean spy. The book covers the 24 hours Gi-yeong has been given to report in. As he debates what to do and what to tell his family, he learns that his wife has some secrets of her own.
Like all of the translated fiction I’ve read so far, the writing style of Your Republic is Calling You was unlike any other book I’ve read. In some ways, it did remind me Murakami’s 1Q84. The sparse prose and the surreal feel of the events transpiring was very similar. Both books also have in common their inclusion of characters’ dreams, hopes, fears, sex lives, and most secret thoughts. This can be uncomfortable and would earn these books an R rating, but they’re also an amazing device for making characters seem like real people you know very well.
Despite these similarities, the content and tone of the book differentiated it completely from 1Q84. Murakami writes about mysterious hopes and desires, while Kim Young-ha writes about mysterious fear and dread. The magical realism of Murakami makes you see the magic in the most mundane of events, while Kim Young-ha’s thriller makes you see the mundane details influencing even the most extraordinary events. This book made me feel extremely uncomfortable throughout and is much darker than most books I enjoy. Other than the ending though, I really liked it anyway. The writing was beautiful and I loved the raw reality of the author’s descriptions. Sadly, the ending wasn’t even dark or tragic, it was just unresolved. That took a lot of the emotional punch out of the book and left me feeling as though the author just got tired of writing. However, even with the slightly disappointing ending, I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes Murakami or dark, psychological thrillers.