The Plotters by Un-su Kim, Review: Dark humour & contradiction

The Plotters Review: Un-su Kim’s absurdly humorous, evocative novel keeps readers on their toes, captivated by its kaleidoscopic contradictions. A rising star of Korean literature.

The Plotters Synopsis

Un-su Kim The PlottersTranslated by Sora Kim-Russell

The important thing is not who pulls the trigger but who’s behind the person who pulls the trigger—the plotters, the masterminds working in the shadows. Raised by Old Raccoon in The Library of Dogs, Reseng has always been surrounded by plots to kill—and by books that no one ever reads. In Seoul’s corrupt underworld, he was destined to be an assassin.

Until he breaks the rules. That’s when he meets a trio of young women—a convenience store worker, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed obsessive knitter—with an extraordinary plot of their own.

Will the women save the day? Or will Reseng be next on the kill list? Who will look after his cats, Reading Lamp and Book Stand? Who planted the bomb in his toilet? How much beer can he drink before he forgets it all?

The Plotters is a cracking noir thriller combined with the soul, wit and lyricism of a highly original literary voice.

(Text Publishing, July 2018)

Genre: Literature, Thriller, Mystery, Action, Drama, Translation

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If ever there was a novel to keep readers on their toes it is this one. I was captivated by The Plotters‘ kaleidoscopic contradictions.

From the sensitive, bookish souled Reseng who ‘grew up in a library crawling with assassins, hired guns and bounty hunters’ and taught himself to read despite his guardian Old Racoon warning him ‘reading books will doom you to a life of fear and shame’, to the trackers, plotters and myriad other puzzling characters that inhabit the meat market.

Dirty, rank, wretched and revolting. That was the meat market. Pointless compassion and sorrow, endlessly spawning apathy, and aimless pent-up anger swept around like dead leaves in autumn until ultimately self-combusting. The final stop for fallen lives.

Can a description of filth and scum be more evocative, more poetic and lyrical? I think not.

Character development

Can readers feel empathy for characters who choose to fund their lifestyles from the misery of others? One would think not, but yes you can… if the characters (and context) are as well developed and multifaceted as Un-su Kim’s. It takes great skill and nuance to pull something like that off.

And remember, this is a novel in translation. Bravo Sora Kim-Russell.

Murder was quiet and simple in the plotting world. There were no huge explosions like in the movies, and rarely any messy car accidents or hails of bullets. It was as silent as snowfall in the night, as secretive as a cat’s footsteps.

Before long, the absurdist, dark humoured story threads become indistinguishable to the eye and ear. The reader is simply entertained, held hostage by, yet barracking for The Plotters.

It comes as no surprise to me this novel was the subject of a bidding war. If you have a strong stomach and are in the mood for something just that little bit different, then I highly recommend Un-su Kim’s The Plotters.

I look forward to reading more from this talented Korean author and this highly skilled translator.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5

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About the Author, Un-su Kim

Un-su Kim was born in 1972 in Busan and is the author of several highly praised novels. He won the Munhakdongne Novel Prize, Korea’s most prestigious literary prize, and was nominated for the 2016 Grand Prix de la Littéraire Policière. He lives in Jinhae-gu, South Korea.

About the Translator, Sora Kim-Russell

Sora Kim-Russell is a Korean-American living in Seoul, where she teaches translation. She has translated works by Hwang Sok-yong, Jeon Sungtae, Pyun Hye-young and Shin Kyung-sook, among others.

* My receiving a copy of The Plotters from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.

This review counts towards my participation in the New Release Challenge 2018.