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How High We Go in the Dark: A Novel by…
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How High We Go in the Dark: A Novel (edition 2022)

by Sequoia Nagamatsu (Author)

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1,1035018,239 (3.72)59
"For fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven, a spellbinding and profoundly prescient debut that follows a cast of intricately linked characters over hundreds of years as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a climate plague-a daring and deeply heartfelt work of mind-bending imagination from a singular new voice. Beginning in 2030, a grieving archeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work of his recently deceased daughter at the Batagaika crater, where researchers are studying long-buried secrets now revealed in melting permafrost, including the perfectly preserved remains of a girl who appears to have died of an ancient virus. Once unleashed, the Arctic Plague will reshape life on earth for generations to come, quickly traversing the globe, forcing humanity to devise a myriad of moving and inventive ways to embrace possibility in the face of tragedy. In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, a cynical employee falls in love with a mother desperate to hold on to her infected son. A heartbroken scientist searching for a cure finds a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects-a pig-develops the capacity for human speech. A widowed painter and her teenaged granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet. From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to interstellar starships, Sequoia Nagamatsu takes readers on a wildly original and compassionate journey, spanning continents, centuries, and even celestial bodies to tell a story about the resiliency of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe"--… (more)
Member:Nanos29
Title:How High We Go in the Dark: A Novel
Authors:Sequoia Nagamatsu (Author)
Info:William Morrow (2022), 304 pages
Collections:Your library, Currently reading
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How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

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» See also 59 mentions

English (48)  Dutch (1)  All languages (49)
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
I'm a bit torn by this book.
It wasn't what I was expecting, a series of individual vignette versus a straight narrative. Some of the stories are much stronger than others, to the point where I was wishing these few stories were fleshed out to be the entire narrative. In addition, there were times when I felt like I needed a character map because someone that appeared in a very early story, either appears, is made reference to or one of their off-spring appears in a much later story. Where did this person come from again?
Then a few of the vignettes were serious, hardcore, exoplanet type sci-fi, which was a bit jarring to suddenly leap to while in the middle of a mildly dystopian modern day plague story. These stories weren't bad, but it just pulls you out of the narrative; spending the first page or two wondering what the hell is going on.
That being said, the writing on some of these stories is wonderful. The expressions of sadness and loneliness were just overpowering. Again, some of these stories, combined and expanded into a single large narrative would have made an incredible book. This is definitely worth the read for those stories, but overall I find myself in the position of being a bit underwhelmed by this book as it is. ( )
  hhornblower | Apr 4, 2024 |
A collection of what seemed to me to be short stories that are inter-connected about a plague killing most children and some adults- apocalyptic and post apocalyptic. Most of these stories are sad but humane. The author injects what seems like his own personal background as an Asian American into several of the main characters, and this gives the book a very personal and moving portrait. ( )
  keithostertag | Apr 2, 2024 |
-1 star because I want—no, *need*—more of this. ( )
  strunz94 | Mar 29, 2024 |
I was really looking forward to reading this book as it seemed really ambitious. It started off strongly with the story about a scientist visiting a site in Siberia where a mysterious virus originated. It felt like a science fiction novel with a human touch. I was hoping it would go in the direction of [b:Bewilderment|56404444|Bewilderment|Richard Powers|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1632843882l/56404444._SY75_.jpg|87106649] because there was a decent attempt to explore familial relationships and big topics at the same time.

However, already in the second chapter/story, I felt a slight disappointment. Writing "a novel" from multiple perspectives, sort of weaving it with stories that are related by characters or topic can be refreshing. But, in this particular case, I feel it didn't really work. The centre couldn't hold.

Early on in the second story, I found the characterization lacking and things got worse as this book progressed. It was harder and harder to stay focused. There is so much death in this book, it is the center of the whole narrative. However, I couldn't help to feel that it was dealt with in so many different and original ways, but very superficially.

I literally didn't care for any of the characters, and I engaged more with the ideas depicted in this book in an abstract way (many of them are truly interesting, hologrammatic urns, euthanasia rollercoasters...) than with the actual characters and their destinies.

I guess my expectations of this were too high. I wanted something atmospheric and engaging. Unfortunately, this just wasn't it. ( )
  ZeljanaMaricFerli | Mar 4, 2024 |
So, I’d like to give Sequoia Nagamatsu a hug. “How High We Go in the Dark” starts out in the Siberian tundra, where melting permafrost has resurrected an ancient virus. Part H.P. Lovecraft, part Michael Crichton, the novel quickly seems to pivot to become about something else - an exploration of loss and grief, as the virus spreads throughout the world. By the end, I realized that about every one of these linked short stories, and especially the best ones, are about the human longing for connection - and that longing often going unmet. So, I’d like to give Nagamatsu a hug.

The second story here, “City of Laughter”, provocatively takes place at a euthanasia amusement park for sick children. The main protagonist, a staff member, has a strained relationship with his family, and his loneliness is not really changed by things like a random hookup with a co-worker: “We spent the night together and when I draped my arms over her body the next morning, she immediately got up and got dressed, reminding me this wasn’t the real world.” He does however form a bit of a real relationship with a woman on a longer stay at the park for a medical trial with her infected son. He finds a sort of family, until, that is, it’s the boy’s turn to ride that final roller coaster: “I moved as if the stone path had turned to quicksand. Each step had the potential to stop me in my tracks, my selfish thoughts racing, wanting to keep Fitch here with us somehow, the three of us together.”

“Speak, Fetch, Say I Love You” is about a widower and his son. The man’s wife has died from the virus and the story is certainly about his grief for her loss. But just as, if not even more, touching for me is the portrait it paints of his inability to connect with his son:
“I miss her so much,” I say. I’m surprised that I let the words leave my mouth. I’ve broken the ritual my son and I created together. Aki’s bow hand is still. He looks to the floor. I can see his tears falling to the tatami, forming dark spots on the straw. I move closer. He backs away and puts the shamisen in its case. I’ve never been a hugger. It’s just not something men in my family have ever done, but I want to hug my son. I want to feel his heartbeat against my own, his tears on my shoulder. I want to connect to the only real part of my wife that is left.


“Songs of Your Decay” is about two relationships of a forensic medical researcher. That with her husband, which is falling apart, and that with a young man and patient who will be donating his body to her lab after he dies. Who she falls in love with as they have long talks and listen to all the best Gen-X bands together:

“I’m going to miss you,” I say. I lean over the table and kiss him gently on the lips—too long to be friendly, too soft and quiet to be anything more than a little sad. “I’m sorry we couldn’t have met another way.”


In “Melancholy Nights In A Tokyo Virtual Cafe”, Akira is adrift and isolated in the pandemic aftermath. He reaches out and forges a connection with Yoshiko in a virtual reality world, but when he tries to find her in Tokyo, he discovers she’s just committed suicide. In “Before You Melt Into The Sea” a mortuary artist forges a connection with a sick young woman as they plan her memorial service via remote video, but when he reaches out to invite more of a human bond, she decides against it. He later holds her liquified frozen remains in the water with him as she literally melts away.

But as sad as all this is, as heartbreaking as all these desperate attempts at loving each other are, there remains hope. In “The Used-To-Be Party” a man writes to his surviving neighbors, after he has recovered from the virus and a cure has been found. A hopeful future, he thinks, is not just to be found in medicine, but in human connection:

“I was never one to connect. I’ve been that way my entire life. I went to work, kept my head down, and came home. I let old friendships fizzle. I orbited my family and all of you like a distant planet—there and yet nearly impossible to reach. I know I can’t survive alone. Maybe this will be lost in a stack of your unopened mail; maybe you’ll read it and throw it away, saying it’s too late. Or maybe you’ll peek out your window and wonder about coming over and saying, Hey, me too. I’m hollowed and cracked and imploding.”


In “Melancholy Nights…” Akira comes to a similar conclusion: “He sees the responsibility we must take for the planet, our home, ensuring a future for the next generation. He imagines people on the street looking up from their phones and into each other’s eyes— Hello, how are you? Why are you so sad? How can we do better?”

Thanks for reading this review. I’m sending out a virtual hug to you. ( )
  lelandleslie | Feb 24, 2024 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sequoia Nagamatsuprimary authorall editionscalculated
Andrews, MacLeodNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bridges, MatthewNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Culp, JasonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoashi, KeisukeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ishibashi, BriannaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kanazawa, KurtNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knezevich, JoeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Komure. StephanieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nishii, BrianNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sakata, JeanneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shiloah, MickyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watanabe, GregNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watanabe, KotaroNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whelan, JuliaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"For fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven, a spellbinding and profoundly prescient debut that follows a cast of intricately linked characters over hundreds of years as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a climate plague-a daring and deeply heartfelt work of mind-bending imagination from a singular new voice. Beginning in 2030, a grieving archeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work of his recently deceased daughter at the Batagaika crater, where researchers are studying long-buried secrets now revealed in melting permafrost, including the perfectly preserved remains of a girl who appears to have died of an ancient virus. Once unleashed, the Arctic Plague will reshape life on earth for generations to come, quickly traversing the globe, forcing humanity to devise a myriad of moving and inventive ways to embrace possibility in the face of tragedy. In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, a cynical employee falls in love with a mother desperate to hold on to her infected son. A heartbroken scientist searching for a cure finds a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects-a pig-develops the capacity for human speech. A widowed painter and her teenaged granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet. From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to interstellar starships, Sequoia Nagamatsu takes readers on a wildly original and compassionate journey, spanning continents, centuries, and even celestial bodies to tell a story about the resiliency of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe"--

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