Cover Image: How High We Go in the Dark

How High We Go in the Dark

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Member Reviews

One of the most ambitious books I've read in a while. It's about as bleak as pandemic lit gets, but if you love interconnected short stories that punch you in the gut, this book's for you!
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In the not so distant future, humanity’s disregard of the planet we call home has created not only a climatological disaster but also a biological one. Climate change has caused Polar ice caps to melt, releasing a long buried virus that rips through the world, leaving many dead. At this point, you might be thinking, no thanks, sounds too much like our own reality, not fiction. Yes, there are some similarities in this book to current events, but the interwoven stories of the people affected by these tragedies are transcendent. This book, instead of instilling fear and despair, lifts readers up in a way it’s almost impossible to put into words. Nagamatsu has created a book that will be a balm to all who despair about our future as a species and I believe this will be hailed as one of the greatest books of this generation. without a doubt, the most remarkable book I have ever read
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Sequoia Nagamatsu’s “How High We Go in the Dark” is a novel made of inter-locking short pieces set in a distant dystopian future where both a climate and a viral epidemic have altered life on earth in strange and disturbing ways. And yet for all that, there are layers of hope and humanity threaded through the narrative that bring you closer to the people inhabiting the planet, as their lives intersect in unexpected ways.  I found I could only read 1-2 chapters a night, because there was so much to process in each story, and the images keep me thinking long into the night.   

If you’re a reader who has been ravaged by the current pandemic, this might not be the book for you.  But if you’re fascinated by what the present situation may foreshadow about how our society will move forward, about what it means to be human, about how families and friendships and work may morph into different permutations in the future, this heart-wrenching and compassionate work of art will move you in expected ways and linger long after you turn the last page.
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The interweaving of plotlines and characters was masterfully done here. I felt like this book was really for me because the span of time in the book was just something I really dug. I loved the prose and the atmosphere and how speculative it is to the truest sense of the word.

Full review closer to pub date! (to be posted on Goodreads and my blog). Rating may change!
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A synopsis that includes the words "climate plague" might not be my first choice when I'm looking for a new book to pick up these days. The past 17 months of the pandemic and of growing climatological events (and activism) kind of fill my capacity to engage with that literature to the brim. And yet this book called to me.

Sequoia Nagamatsu's How High We Go in the Dark is a series of interrelated short stories that explore human experiences after a deadly virus is released from the melting Arctic Circle. From the outbreak itself, Nagamatsu takes the reader through the following years of indescribable death, pain, and loss. This speculative sci-fi continues with crucial stories that examine how humanity copes over centuries and millennia. It is honestly one of the most intricate, haunting, and heart-wrenching stories about how people cope, die, and survive the devastating effects of climate disaster and disease. 

I felt this book in my bones, felt the hope coincide with hopelessness, the mundane clash with devastation. It left me breathless and on the brink of tears on more than one occasion. I bristled under moments of discomfort about how death and love coexist and I rallied under an overarching need to provide future generations with space to discover themselves amidst an apocalypse of sorts.

All in all, this forthcoming collection provided me with space to contemplate not only our shared future, but also how we as individuals and communities have coped with our current circumstances. I think it’s important to say that this collection was started long before COVID-19 so it’s not exactly “pandemic literature” and, honestly, it is worth a read even if you’re on the fence. It is a difficult read at times, but there’s an underlying determination that provides comfort, contemplation, and imagination for different futures.
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How High We Go in the Dark is a speculative fiction science fiction story by Sequoia Nagamatsu. It features stories spanning hundreds of years that tell the story of a plague that decimates humanity and how it affects human culture over many years.

This book features different characters adn stories that intertwine, so while they may have been published individually, the work is meant to be read as a whole in order. Watching the way Nagamatsu weaved the narrative strains in these different chapters was brilliant. Because it features everything from euthanasia rollercoasters to talking pigs, it is a little difficult to discuss in a narrative fashion, but the flow between stories did not at all feel stilted or like a souped-up short story collection. 

I can tell a lot of research was put into the science of this book, including the colors and plants of alien planets being scientifically probable based on the length and telemetry of the sun, the thickness of the atmosphere and the compounds of the air. Despite sounding technical, the language is very approachable and even folks who just want a read will enjoy this. While there is not specifically g violence or sex, this does discuss themes of death in graphic detail, grief, love, and unrequired emotion that may be stronger for younger viewers.

I thought how the story tied together, the narrative elements and all of the different weaving tales was gorgeous, and this is the kind of book I would like to reread and feel you would discover new things to love, new connections to make after each read. I knew this was going to be a 5 star read a fourth of the way in, and I am happy to say that that fact remains so. If you love hard sci fi, complex world building, Japanese and East Asian inspired sci fi, dystopian books or books that pack a punch from start to finish I cannot recommend you pick up this book enough.
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This book is a wildly creative take on a climate crisis. Each chapter is a new thread weaving together a massive tale of love and loss, and certainly puts the current Covid crisis into perspective. It did get very sad at moments, but I like a good cry so...
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