A Review of: How high we go in the dark, by Sequoia Nagamatsu

I read an excerpt from this book, in an article online. It was enough to get me interested and curious. Such a bizarro subject. A Euthanasia Theme Park, because there’s a plague. Author admits, the timing is ‘bad’, what with Covid-19 pandemic well into 2+ years and going currently. I can understand, when you write such a topic, before an Actual pandemic starts, and now, well here we are in a pandemic… what to do?

You forge ahead! And hope people can find some solace, or entertainment, or I don’t know,… solidarity?

So, I’ll start with saying: the writing level of detail regarding the plague in question in the book, symptoms coming on, the spread of it, and the mass death… all this made my skin crawl. Tightness in the chest, anxiety rising. Expert job of bringing on very real stress and anxiety. I many times nearly stopped reading the book because of lurking feelings of panic attacks. And, I do not get panic attacks, or suffer much anxiety in general. [That said, I haven’t been impacted much by Covid-19. Yes, it is here , in my area. People getting it. We have health mandates and vaccines, and all the idiot people screaming about choice and their bodies and being so stupid as to NOT want a life saving vaccine… because some told them they Need to get it…. But, my personal experience is not traumatic. No one I personally know has died, and putting a mask on is really not a big deal. Yes, thank you, I will protect myself from life threatening disease! Wash hands, stay home, sanitize everything, get a fucking vaccine. Sign. Me. Up.] But, the writing made me stressed. I did not enjoy this feeling. Had I read it not during a global pandemic, it likely would not have bothered me to this extreme. Not enough to linger, in any case. But yeah, that’s a testament to the author digging in, and really getting gritty with the details, enough to inflame horror on your brain, long after a suitable time frame has come and gone.

So, the book. Honestly. I was not a fan. And not because of the content, but because of the format. Every chapter was essentially a new short story. The book was a collection of short stories, tied together by the main theme, and threaded together as such. Each story was a glimpse in to some aspect or event, or feeling of the plague. Extremely occasionally, the stories might slightly tie together, with a shared character – or more likely a mention of a previous characters employer, or husband, of event, etc.

I’m not a short story collection fan. So this left a bad taste in my mouth. I was expecting A Novel. I kept waiting and hoping for some semblance of everything coming together. Maybe we have 4 different plots, a chapter setting each up, and now they’re all coming together! But, no. it never did. Very exhausting, and tiring. Trying to keep track of so many unconnected stories. [Was is advertised as book, or a collection? I do not know, but I believed it was a book.]

Rating: 1 out of 5.

So here’s my review:
Initial Chapter: set’s up a scene, a direction, and a lot of plot threads, character arcs, etc. All quite enough to pull you in and want more. I was intrigued, and wanted to know where it would go.

Final Chapter: returned to the character from initial chapter. Well, a couple anyway. It answers a lot of loos ends, ties some plots up, and ended a very interesting story. Or what Would have been quite an intriguing book to read!

Every bit in between those two chapters: 99.8% unrelated and not worth reading. So toss it away, and wish for the book that should have filled all those middle chapters. All they do is detract from the actual story. The real gem of a story. By wandering off down a bunch of unmarked paths, lost, and wandering. Like ADD. Oh wait, what was the story I was telling? Ok, Let me go back… wait, nope I lost it again… wait, what? where am I?

Ughhhhhhh. I really did want to like this book. But it fell flat on it’s face and way off mark. Please go back and tell the story that was actually between the first chapter and the last chapter. K, thanks.

Thoughts:

1. Story pacing?
None. 0/10

2. Story character arcs?
Minuscule, as noted from first chapter and last. 1/10

4. Story arc?
Minuscule, as noted from first chapter and last. 1/10

5. Story writing quality?
Based on the depth of anxiety and discomfort the writing caused, 8/10

6. Story wokeness? ( tolerable / gag me)
Tolerable, within the story fragments. 5/10

7. Grates against my annoyances?
Disconnected mess of a waste of paper. 0/10

8. Grates against my annoyances? (fictional words)
None that come to mind, but I’m sure they were there. They must have made sense, fit the themes. 8/10

9. Story romance level?
Fragments of connection. The thing that sticks out to me was a lot of regret, and missed opportunity. Like – you liked them, but you didn’t say so, now they’re dead. Whoops… but nothing barfy, so, pass. 8/10

10. Story readability?
Nope. As noted above. 0/10

11. Story Completeness (did it end on a cliff hanger, or a see my next book!)?
Fail. As noted above. 0/10

12. Did the story cover familiar ground, or go new places?
Definitely was a new idea to me. Industry – mass industry built on top of death, dying, euthanizing people. Trying to find cured, etc. Very creative, and weird. Not a stretch to imagine it happening though. 8/10

13. Was there anything I wanted to know that was left unanswered?
Everything. 0/10

14. Things I really liked / or didn’t like?
Think we’ve covered that…..

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