Cover Image: Flux


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I love stories about time travel. In fact, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is one of my all time favorite books.

If a book includes aspects of time travel I’m automatically intrigued before I even read the first page. Which is why I’m so disappointed that “flux” is so…well… not good.

The story and writing style is very noir, with a bit of Blade Runner thrown in.

There are 3 main story lines:
- 8 year old Bo who’s mother just died
- 28 year old Brandon who just left his job
- 48 year old Blue who is doing a documentary on the company “flux”, who apparently invented time travel.

It will come as no surprise and this is no big spoiler alert that the relationship between the characters in each of the stories is more than that their names begin with the letter ‘B’.

Stylistically, this book jumps around - not just from story to story, but from thought to thought within a story. It sometimes felt as if the author had assumed the reader knew what the heck he was thinking, so he didn’t bother to fill in any blanks between scenes. One moment you think you’re reading about an office and then all of the sudden you’re in an apartment.

You know those people that are never happy with the music playing so they can never get through a song without changing it to something else? That’s what this book feels like.

The beginning of each story line is pretty interesting. But there are no real differences between the characters beyond age, so all the changes get tedious. By the time I got 40% through with this book I realized I didn’t care.

I finished it because I wanted to see if there was any grand surprise ending. I have to say, the ending was good. But was it worth the effort to get there? In my humble opinion, no.


#netgalley #flux

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Certainly a slow burn, and one that requires a good bit of focus to keep up with. The culmination of the different arcs is certainly satisfying, though the journey to get there was at times a bit of a chore. I'm not typically much of a sci-fi reader but really appreciated how this ambitiously tackled so many complex issues while still having an interesting premise and execution. It is certainly mind-bending and admittedly hard to follow at points, but by the conclusion you realize seeds were planted very intentionally (though perhaps over my head).

As a debut, this certainly shows a lot of promise and a clever brain behind the strong writing. My main critique is the exquisite attention to detail and deliberate writing is a bit muddled when it comes to the characters themselves. I felt sympathetic towards the character's situations but didn't necessarily feel the attachment I'd hope for in a novel of this length. While some later scenes are certainly moving and engrossing, I didn't necessarily have that emotional reaction I was hoping for.

Overall - great read and not as intimidating as I feared! Thanks to NetGalley and Melville House for the electronic copy of the novel in exchange for a review.

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This is an ambitious and well written novel, but despite that it seemed to be an awfully thin reed upon which to lay such heavy expectations - nefarious tech, white privilege, the nature of grief and trauma, the Asian-American experience, and so on, That said, there are some lovely passages and set pieces, and the project as a whole is rewarding and intriguing.

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Time travel has deep roots in speculative fiction on both the screen and the page: but from the 1989 movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure to the more recent novel This Is How You Lose the Time War, popular media has increasingly used the time travel trope as a way for our protagonists to fix their mistakes by going back into the past. In the previous examples, where time travel is framed as a solution to our protagonists’ problems (Bill and Ted) or simply part of the job (Time War). In Flux by Jinwoo Chong, however, time travel is both our protagonist Brandon’s job and a solution for his fixation on the past; but it also has the unfortunate side effect of causing him a great deal of pain. And in a twist more akin to the universe-jumping in Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022), which similarly features an Asian American protagonist and intra-family tension, where Time War’s protagonists delight in hopping between different time periods and settings, Brandon in Flux cannot wait to escape the cycle of suffering from mental and physical pain brought on by time travel. (The rest of my review is at

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Flux follows the stories of Bo, a little boy whose mother has just died, Brandon, a young man who’s just gotten a new job at a mysterious and powerful tech startup, and Blue, a man who is getting ready to testify in a trial against a dying company. Their stories intertwine when Brandon discovers that his new employers are manipulating his personal life behind is back and hiding an earth shattering secret.

This book is difficult to describe without spoiling the plot, and personally, I think the summary provided by the publisher includes a massive spoiler. I think my reading experience would’ve been a little more fulfilling if I didn’t know about one particular detail in advance, so I didn’t include it in the summary I’ve given you.

I haven’t read a sci-fi book in two years, so I didn’t know how difficult it would be for me to understand this book. I was hesitant but I chose to read it because the summary made it sound like the sci-fi elements wouldn’t be difficult to understand. I also kept seeing it on “most anticipated 2023 releases” lists, so eventually I gave in to the pressure. 😂 I’m happy to report that I loved Flux. As I predicted the sci-fi aspect was never too complicated for me to understand. The story is primarily told through Brandon’s point of view (like I said he’s the one who discovers the big secret). Brandon was a very unlikable character in my opinion, but I was always rooting for him.

My favorite thing about Flux is that at its core it’s a relationship about familial relationships. Bo, Brandon, and Blue are all experiencing chaotic events that are affecting their families. And although all of them have other issues that they could be focusing on their entire personalities and approaches to life have been altered because of the events that are affecting their families.

My main piece of criticism is that Flux started to feel like it was dragging after chapter 14. It could’ve ended a little sooner. I also didn’t like that Brandon’s relationship with the significant other he has at the end of the book felt like it was haphazardly thrown into the story. Lastly I wish there had been just a little bit more time spent on Blue’s perspective. I understand why there wasn’t. But I wish there had been more time spent on him.

If you struggle with the impracticality of sci-fi and suspension of disbelief you will probably have a hard time with this book. I imagine that it will be confusing for some readers. It takes a very long time for Brandon to learn the big secret, and a whole lot of the story doesn’t make sense until Brandon learns the secret. Like I said the secret is revealed in the publisher’s summary, so all of the weird things that happened made sense to me and didn’t bother me.

I love this book! I recommend it!

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This was an interesting speculative fiction read. I think I really need the marketing blurb to understand what was happening, as our protagonist doesn't really start noticing that something is off until well over halfway into the book. The time travel/sci-fi aspect is fairly peripheral to the story- we spend the first half of the book jumping between 3 distinct character perspectives, and an additional description of nostalgic television episodes. As the story progresses, we figure out how all these perspectives are connected. I think without the prompt of time travel context from the book summary I would have been more bored, but with that prompt I was curious about what information was real, past or future, or possibly manipulated. Its an interesting story structure, and allows for some nuanced exploration around Asian-American identity and representation, the ethics of big-tech startups, and how the nostalgic experiences of our childhoods can clash with real-world context as we grow up. We also love to see a bisexual male protagonist in a story that doesn't exclusively focus on that one facet of their identity.

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FLUX is about Bo, a biracial boy who loses his mother in a tragic accident; Brandon, recently laid off and is offered a (mysterious) new job opportunity and Blue, a disabled person who is witness of a criminal trial.

Reminiscent of 'Black Mirror-meets-Inception' vibes, this novel combines stylish experimental elements, time-travel and the biggest invention. Throughout the narrative, there are so many questions to be answered and one will be in a state of bewilderment until the last 70 pages, when pieces are connected in the most unexpected way.

The plot is written with a smart balance of tenderness and perpetual energy. Despite not being wholly devoted to the characters, there's an intriguing atmosphere in which Chong periodically releases baits, ready to catch the fish (aka reader). Not devoid of its emotional depth, it's a meticulous study of identity, family and power. Chong dives into the business of violence with steady unfolds. The skilled writing and overall development impressed me in a way that I didn't even mind the eventual loose ends by the end of the story (and I usually prefer a proper closure).

Is there such a thing as re-reading a book as soon as one finishes it? This book might not work for everyone. For me, FLUX was an exercise of pure imagination. This is a highly inventive and confident speculative fiction that I can't believe it's a debut. I am looking forward to reading more from Chong.

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Flux is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I was enthralled, a little confused at points (but in a good way where you’re trying to piece things together), and touched. Jinwoo Chong’s debut novel solidifies him as a mind-bending storyteller. The novel doesn’t get lost in science or plot. It’s told through snippets that ultimately weave into a story that rings true. If you like stories about mysterious tech companies, children who lose their parents, people who lose their jobs, or 1980s detective shows, give Flux a try.

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FLUX follows three characters–eight-year-old Bo, who was lost his mother; 28-year-old Brandon, who was recently laid off; and 40-something Blue, who is taking part in a documentary of a violent corporate tragedy astonished society and threw his earlier life into havoc. The novel intercuts between the three characters’ stories, moving from the recent past (with the boy Bo) to sometime in the present or presumed future (with the two men).

The first third of FLUX is slow. The three stories advance very incrementally–with a lot of mystery (and lack of clarity) about relationships and past events. I had a lot of questions about what was going on. The main thing drawing me forward was the knowledge that these plotlines and characters would come together and some kind of time travel would be involved.

It was hard for me to get invested in the characters or their stories because though the characters have relatively complex emotional backstories, they feel emotionally hardened and distant. Others, however, might appreciate this portrayal of the emotional fallout (and distance) that comes from past trauma.

The novel becomes emotionally richer as it progresses and the connections between the storylines appear. There are some powerful scenes where the main character wrestles with the emotional legacy of his past. The ending was resonant–and felt right–but by that point the novel was over.

This is not an ideal novel for people looking for a fast-paced time travel story, suspenseful story of corporate wrongdoing, clear novel of ideas, or emotional story of healing past trauma. It is a good novel for people who appreciate genre mashups and technical experimentation, as well as people who appreciate a cerebral approach to emotions and story.

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This one did not do a lot for me. It's pretty confusing and feels like it lags on for forever. If you have the stomach for a slow burn, this could work.

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FLUX is an exhilarating experience! It's a mind-bending, creative, and entertaining ride that will sweep you up. Although I want to compare it to other Blake's work due to its imaginative premise, the style is distinct and provides a unique sense of excitement.

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I love a good time travel novel, unfortunately this is not it. I so wanted to like this and admire the author’s attempt, but I found it confusing and inelegant. The TV show conceit grew tiresome. The NetGalley ebook ARC did not help my enjoyment any as the formatting was awful with the letters of the author’s name and book title scattered amidst the text plus all sorts of other weird formatting—off putting and tedious. Perhaps a better read in a true ebook.

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Thank you to Netgalley and Melville House for the e-ARC! Pretty nutty debut novel! Immediately I was pulled in by the formatting of a fan letter to an actor. When the storylines start to split from each other, everything becomes super disjointed and while it does all come together at the end, it leaves this void right in the center of it. Enjoyed but definitely a bit on the long winded side. Recommended for fans of time travel type science fiction.

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This book was inventive and compelling. I loved how the disparate parts of the story wove together into something meaningful. Although the stories were heartbreaking, there is also growth and healing. I would read this again.

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All I can say is, wow! The debut of Jinwoo Chong is mindblowing science fiction. Although I figured out the connection between the three protagonists about halfway through the book, it did not detract from the novel one bit. I would have liked to have known more about how time travel worked, some things are not meant to be known. The ending was satisfying and paid off.

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I was told by bookish colleague of mine, that this was a must-read coming up in new releases. WOW were they right! The narration of the main character gripped me right away, and made this story so easy to fall right inside of. For a debut author especially, the voice was so distinct and assured and the way each timeline and storyline was brought together as the book progressed was beautiful written.

When dealing with bending time and space certain questions and plot devices crop up frequently. Where this book does largely follows classic theory lines instead of creating something wild or new, I still found myself thoroughly engaged to the story. The intrigue of the book went so far beyond solving the mystery of Flux. Shadows of grief and cultural assimilation are present in every aspect, woven seamlessly into the narrative. I genuinely felt pulled through by the prose all the way to the end. Jinwoo Chong is definitely an author I’ll be watching for in the future!

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A very interesting and original debut! I'm not sure I can really explain it, but I know I enjoyed reading it. So I'm going to let the publisher's summary do it for me.

"Combining elements of neo-noir, speculative fiction, and '80s detective shows, FLUX is a haunting and sometimes shocking exploration of the cyclical nature of grief, of moving past trauma, and of the pervasive nature of whiteness within the development of Asian identity in America.

In FLUX, a brilliant debut in the vein of William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Ling Ma’s Severance, Jinwoo Chong introduces us to three characters —Bo, Brandon and Blue— who are tortured by these questions as their lives spin out of control.

* After 8-year-old Bo loses his mother in a tragic accident, his white father, attempting to hold their lives together, begins to gradually retreat from the family.

* 28-year-old Brandon loses his job at a legacy magazine publisher and is offered a new position. Confused to find himself in an apartment he does not recognize, and an office he sometimes cannot remember leaving, he comes to suspect that something far more sinister is happening behind the walls.

* 48-year-old Blue participates in a television exposé of Flux, a failed bioelectric tech startup whose fraudulent activity eventually claimed the lives of three people and nearly killed him. Blue, who can only speak with the aid of cybernetic implants, stalks his old manager while holding his estranged family at arms-length.

Intertwined with the saga of a once-iconic '80s detective show, Raider, whose star has fallen after decades of concealed abuse, the lives of Bo, Brandon and Blue intersect with each other, to the extent that it becomes clear that their lives are more interconnected and interdependent than the reader could have ever imagined.

Can we ever really change the past, or the future? What truth do we owe our families? What truth do we owe ourselves?"

Thanks to NetGalley and Melville House Publishing for the free ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

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The author needs to put a disclaimer at the front of this book that just says TRUST ME, IT WILL MAKE SENSE. Although the emotional payout of this twisting tale of identity and unchecked capitalism is well-worth the cognitive load of puzzling through the plot, it requires a high tolerance for being confused at the start. The basic premise follows an ex-magazine editor with a painful family history and a deep-rooted obsession with a 1980's police procedural who is hired by a strange, Theranos-esque company to serve in an ill-defined role. Time and reality begin to blur with the past and fiction as the story jigsaws itself into shape between our narrator's present at the company, an unnamed whistleblower from the near future filming a documentary, a child's Christmas fractured by tragedy, and a day in the life of the grizzled fictional detective around which the narrator's attention continuously returns.

Needless to say, there were several parts of the story where I found myself completely lost at sea. It takes a while for the core insidiousness at the center of the faux-Theranos company to take shape, but once it does it provides context for a lot of the strange transitions and narrative framing that has occurred up until that point. By the end of the story, I was amazed by how intentionally the author had pulled things together, taking four seemingly disparate plot lines and knitting them into the course of a single life. However, this payoff is a long time coming and requires a HUGE amount of trust in the author and a reluctant acceptance that often things aren't going to be made especially clear. It doesn't help that the technical aspects of how the main twist functions are never truly explained, leading to broad clarity that still feels unsatisfying on a personal level. I will say that the author has a truly exceptional attention to detail, and routinely called back to or gave context to small details or moments that would otherwise been lost - such as the connection between the movie star's son and the politician. The most meaningful details of the story were the relationships between the main character and his family at different stages of his life, and the heartfelt exploration of traumatic grief that is felt by Bo, his brother, and his father in different ways. There is also some interesting commentary about the parasocial relationships we form with celebrities, and the inevitable dissonance between idealized fiction and disappointing reality.

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4.5/5, rounded down to 4..

This is a very strong debut novel by Jinwoo Chong.

The novel has a particularly engaging premise, and the three viewpoints are nicely balanced. The author does a good job of giving just enough guidance and structure to make the plot clear, without over-explaining or talking down to the reader. It does take a while to get going and to connect with the main character and his arc, but once that happens the story picks up pace nicely.

Although the characterisation is generally okay, I found some of the main character's behaviour hard to understand. It also felt like a key motivator for him - guilt - was dropped in bluntly in the middle of the story. This motivator helped explain things, but it could have been weaved through better, including the effect of his realisations on his subsequent actions.

The writing is fluid and evocative without being overwrought, making the story easy to visualise. For this reason I think <i>Flux</i> would make an excellent movie.

There's some (mostly) deftly-explored themes about cults of personality, the effects of trauma and cultural assimilation. There were one or two instances where the writing became a little bit too blunt/direct about the 'message' for my tastes. It's likely that aspects of the themes would have resonated more with me if I was of a similar background to the author and the main character, but that's hardly their fault.

I'd recommend this one - particularly for sci-fi readers who like a contemplative story.

Thanks to Melville House, Netgalley and Jinwoo Chong for this ARC (provided in exchange for an honest review).

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OMG OMG OMG Get this book. Not just because it's been heralded as one to read, and Jinwoo Chung as an author to watch. Not just because of the glowing review in the NYT Books, and not just because it's a complex and nuanced look at our current world through the eyes of individuals that don't always have a voice. I love this book because I know Jinwoo Chong! He was my student at my high school - a gifted and kind tutor. What an amazing feeling to know the person behind this book that will make top ten lists all year!

ANYWAY, Flux is aptly named as nothing stand still for long as we learn more and more about three males - 8 year old Bo, 28 year old Brandon and 48 year old Blue. The three are related in some way, revealed at the end and as we learn about their lives, Chong adds speculative fiction elements in time traveling and a noirish component via an 80's detective show.

Admiss their travails there is corporate espionage, tech startup culture, gay life, and the every day indignaties of contemporary life in America. The structure, plotting and pacing is perfect and I cannot wait to see what this 27 year old writes next! if you love contemporary fiction, the novels of David Mitchell or Charles Yu, or are just read to see what the new young guns are writing about, Flux is for you!
#Melville #flux #JinwooChung #PHS #PrincetonHigh #IdeasCenter #Netgalley #Edelweiss

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