Catfish Rolling

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Pub Date 02 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 02 Mar 2023

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A dazzling debut. Magic-realism blends with Japanese myth and legend in an original story about grief, memory, time and an earthquake that shook a nation.

There's a catfish under the islands of Japan and when it rolls the land rises and falls.

Sora hates the catfish whose rolling caused an earthquake so powerful it cracked time itself. It destroyed her home and took her mother. Now Sora and her scientist father live close to the zones – the wild and abandoned places where time runs faster or slower than normal. Sora is sensitive to the shifts, and her father recruits her help in exploring these liminal spaces.

But it's dangerous there – and as she strays further inside in search of her mother, she finds that time distorts, memories fracture and shadows, a glimmer of things not entirely human, linger. After Sora's father goes missing, she has no choice but to venture into uncharted spaces within the time zones to find him, her mother and perhaps even the catfish itself...

Stylish, accomplished and thought-provoking story-telling explores themes of identity, philosophy, science, ecology, life, loss and love. For 14+

A dazzling debut. Magic-realism blends with Japanese myth and legend in an original story about grief, memory, time and an earthquake that shook a nation.

There's a catfish under the islands of Japan...

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ISBN 9781803288024
PRICE £6.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 33 members

Featured Reviews

Emotions and loss transcend time, and this young girl only sees both as being beyond anyone's control.

Sora and her family are vacationing in Japan when the earthquake hits. While a 'normal' earthquake would have already been devastating, this one causes pockets in time. Some places move faster, while others are slower. None can be understood and all are dangerous. Sora's mother was lost during the catastrophe, leaving her father and her behind. But unlike most, they are studying time and the areas, venturing secretly in when no one is allowed. Plus, Sora has noticed shadows, which no one else seems to see. When her father goes missing, she sees no choice but to hunt him down because she suspects he's slipped into another time. But it's a dangerous that could leave her as nothing but a pile of ash.

I do love the cover on this one, and that alone made me one to pick this one up. Luckily, the surmise is interesting, too. The prologue grabs with the first scene as Sora and her father experience the earthquake, and the world turns upside down around them. Then, it fast forwards to her graduation, where she's still suffering under the loss of her mother (years later), but considering the various time pockets, which have formed, her attitude is understandable. Her determination to work with her father to uncover the secrets of these scattered time areas, makes her easy to root for...especially when she begins to see shadows and her own father seems to be slipping as if caught in his own, odd time bubble. It's an intrigue world and circumstance, which leaves many questions and offers the hope that she'll not only figure things out...but maybe find her mother again. So, get ready for a deep dive into emotions, loss, and hope because this read dances around that heart the whole way through.

The addition of the catfish adds the right touch of magic to keep dreams flying...since the time pockets are quite dangerous. And all of this sticks enough in 'reality' to keep the scenes and characters familiar and sympathetic. There's even romantic nods and friendship to make sure everything is grounded, and warmth and hope. Still, with all of this going on, it is not a fast-paced read. Sora's thoughts run deep as the reader sinks into her head. For those who tend to enjoy more action and adventure, it's on the slow side, and there are still many questions left open at the end about the fantastical aspects. Those readers, who enjoy the emotional ride and are more into the heart than the reason, are in for a treat.

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Thank you Netgalley and publishers for allowing me to read an advanced copy!

The prose fits well with the magical realism backdrop, and I love the way the themes play beautifully with the timelines. I was a bit confused more often than I’d like with the timelines, however. That being said this book was still an absolute joy to read!

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Great read, so interesting!

Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publishers for letting me read an advance copy of this book.

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The catfish in the title is the one that lives below the islands of Japan. To stop it moving and causing damage a huge rock is placed on it but every now and again the catfish moves the rock and Japan shakes.

This story begins where not just the earth moves but time also shifts. It leaves Japan's islands in a state of flux with some fast time zones and some slow. However The Shake has captured many people in the zones and they have disappeared. Sora's mother has been lost so Sora and her father stay in Japan to look for her in the zones. Its inherently dangerous but neither care.

The story is really about love, loss and learning to accept the way things are. Being Japanese the story encompasses much of the polytheistic and animistic religions. Gods and their representatives are everywhere. The love of nature permeates the whole book. The question is, can Sora stop hating the catfish long enough to help her father and herself?

I found some of the book a little confusing but on the whole it is well written and easy enough to follow. I've been a fan of Japanese fiction for a while now and anything that melds together the love of the natural world with a surreal story is fine with me.

I'd recommend it for any fans of Japanese fiction or anyone who wants a coming of age story with a difference.

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“There’s a catfish under the islands of Japan. That’s what shakes everything up: the catfish twisting and turning in the mud beneath us. It rolls and the ground trembles, water crashes, time cracks and breaks.
I hate that catfish.”

Sora was only eleven years old when the catfish rolled in a way that changed everything. Time became something that was variable. In some place, time ticked away as it always had. In others, time slowed or sped up.

Sora and her father have been left to try to make sense of their new world, one that doesn’t include her mother.

“We had been shaken. Our entire world shook.”

This book is so many things I love to read about, all meshed together in a way that felt like time had changed for me too. There was the urgency I associate with a compulsive read but this was at odds with an almost tranquil feeling, as though I was casually wandering around absorbing everything this world had to offer.

It’s magical realism, it’s mythology, it’s philosophy, it’s sciency. It’s how the tremors and earthquakes we experience in our lives unbalance us. It’s figuring out who you are in a world that no longer makes sense to you. It’s the impact of grief on individuals and families over time.

I want to say it’s wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey … stuff, acknowledging it’s very likely I’ve bungled the reference entirely. Maybe it doesn’t fit this book at all but when I think about how time works in Sora’s world, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey just sounds right.

Time runs as we expect it to. Time runs fast. Time runs slow. Some fast time runs faster than other fast time. Some slow time runs slower than other slow time. And the people in Sora’s world are only barely beginning to understand what it all means.

While I was satisfied with the answers I found, a number of my questions remain unanswered. Part of me is content to imagine exploring Sora’s world to gradually discover the answers myself. Another part of me wants bonus material in the form of newspaper articles, research papers and journal articles by the experts of this world: philosophers, scientists and historians, all sharing their theories.

‘We can get stuck in time, and time can get stuck in us’

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus, for the opportunity to read this book. I’m rounding up from 4.5 stars.

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A fascinating premise with Japanese culture. I quite liked the writing however, I found the MC both likeable and unlikeable. An engaging read that I quite liked.

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Catfish Rolling is like a coin, it has two sides. One is a dystopian story about earthquakes in Japan that, surprisingly, moved not only ground, but time itself. The land is divided into zones, each one moves slower or faster than the rest. Clocks aren't truly helpful in such world, and neither nature's way of existence. People get lost, and Sora's mother was one of them. Her dad dedicated his life to research this weird phenomena of time, and Sora's here to help.

The second side is a story about loss. Grief you can't relieve live through, but can't ignore it, either. About losing yourself, the almost impossible journey to find your place as world around tries to exclude you from everywhere. Sora is not Japanese enough to be as her classmates, but not foreign enough to be treated in different conditions. Her dad slowly floats away from his mind, forgetting little things like what day it is or when something happen. It's extremely subtle, but every action in this book is both literal and metaphorical.

Clara Kumagai manged to write a complex yet little story about time and how we exist in this strange river of it. It reads greatly, both as a fantastic adventure and emotional journey.

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As someone very interested in Japanese mythology and culture (as well as the scientific implications of time rifts and the like), I was so excited after reading the synopsis, and it certainly didn't disappoint.

Without giving too much away, the book achieves an excellent balance between connecting the audience to Japanese mythology, lore, and the like without alienating them, and it's very accessible even for those with little to no knowledge of Japanese culture and myth because the explanations bridge the gap in an engaging way. I will say, however, that if you aren't really interested in Japanese mythology or the implied settings/themes then you might find it hard to engage, but please stick with it because it's well worth it.

The prose, philosophical ponderings, etc. were also a plus! They weren't overly drawn out and although the book reads as somewhat of a slow burn it does so in a way that grips you throughout and brings you along for the ride. I never felt like my time was being wasted and it was definitely a page turner for me.

Overall an incredibly unique and interesting concept that was executed well, I hope a lot of people will give this book a shot!

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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A uniquely quirky intelligent dystopian novel where the apocalyptic occurrence is a huge earth quake which alters the way that time flows in patches of the world
I loved the concept and it’s link with ancient Japanese fairytales of a giant catfish rolling under the earth
The book has a strong Japanese feel to it but is immediately accessible to Uk audiences as well .The author has a beautifully flowing writing style which I enjoyed a lot with great chapter sizes
The characters of the father and daughter are well developed and there are a number of other smaller well described characters
The concept of time moving at different speeds was entertaining and the sections set in out of standard time areas were described in cinematic detail .I can’t help thinking that this would make a great film or tv series
I loved the book art which is truly beautiful
I read an early copy of the book on NetGalley Uk the book is published in Uk by Head of Zeus publishing 2 March 2023

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**Thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for an advance copy of this title in exchange for a fair and honest review**

We all know that Japan is vulnerable to earthquakes but in this story the latest earthquake hasn't just damaged the country's infrastructure, it's damaged time itself. There are zones that now run faster (or slower) than normal and many people have simply disappeared.

The zones are too dangerous to visit but Sora and her father are fascinated by the science behind these time shifts and are desperate to find out what has happened to her mother and grandparents who all disappeared during the quake.

Learning quickly that Sora has a sensitivity to the zones, and can detect them in a way that no one else can, they are drawn into trying to solve the mystery and maybe even reset the time shifts..

A beautiful book from front cover to last page. I particularly enjoyed the references to Japanese culture and traditions. I must read more books set outside the UK / US.

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A giant catfish under Japan; earthquakes and time quakes; love and friendship; and self discovery. I absolute loved this

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From its action-packed beginning and the terror of the Shake when the earth moves and the mythical catfish rolls, we are plunged into a fractured landscape of a post-apocalyptic Japan. Sora has lost her Japanese mother who is feared dead and she is determined to find her in the devastation of the forbidden time zones. But she is lost too. The first person narrative is full of grief, both Sora's and her Canadian scientist dad's. He is obsessed with his independent research into the time zones and she doesn't know if she has the strength to hold him as his behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and disturbing.

Sora is the bridge between her parents' two worlds: that of Vancouver and Japan, but she doesn't feel as if she belongs in either. Kumagai explores the reality of the mixed identity experience through language and social attitudes. According to Sora, in Japanese one is neither direct or sarcastic; in English one is less nuanced - 'even my body changes.'. Through Sora, Kumagai expresses the Japanese views on 'hafu', revealing how she is called a foreigner in Japan, but finds an empathic closeness to Maya, who is mixed black-Japanese. At one point in the story, Sora hides her face with a mask in order to pass for a Japanese girl; when she argues with her boyfriend, Koki, and he tells her she's not like them as she can go back to her real home, she replies: 'I am Japanese... and it's my home. Maybe it's not real but I don't have anywhere else to go.' Though her dad speaks fluent Japanese and works in Japan, he shares her sense of 'otherness' and their relationship is touching. I enjoyed the humorous dialogue and pitch-perfect exchanges with Koki and her dad: 'Everything is strange here,' Dad says, in an almost-whisper. 'We fit right in.' Also, when Koki leaves for Tokyo University, Sora's dad meets her on her level as they joke about ways to kill him. They are united in their ritualistic preparation of food and Kumagai's love of Japanese culture is at its most evocative in her descriptions of eating pickles and tofu, fish and rice. Sora's memories of her mother's love of nature and they way she spoke to her are sensitively written too: 'soak in the sunshine' and 'reach tall, reach deep, grow strong,' giving the narrative a fable-like feel. Additionally, the setting descriptions of the natural environment are richly detailed.

The book has a strong sense of philosophical enquiry around the themes of time and memory, with fantasy elements which are liminal, just visible at the corner of the eye: 'There are places so deep in the zones that nobody dares go there now. Some did, at first; self-defence forces or search and rescue parties, but they didn't return.' The sense of desolation in the book reminded me of Patrick Ness's, 'More Than This' and through the references to the ghostly shadows of those who have disappeared, Kumagai draws parallels between the traumatic events of Japan's history, in particular the aftermath of Hiroshima, though she is keen to avoid a direct correlation. However, I would have enjoyed a more in-depth exploration of the mythological, animistic landscape of the Kinimuna spirits - red-haired demon children who live in the banyan trees - and felt that a less subtle approach to plot might have diverted from the repetitive story structure, as Sora moves in and out of the zones.

Overall, the theme of renunciation and rebirth is clear. Kumagai writes in an economical style but conveys emotion deftly. A scene between Sora and Koki is particularly touching, as is the final scene in the forest where Sora learns that to live, she must let her mother go.

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What would you do if you were left behind when an earthquake broke time?

I absolutely loved this book.

It was a gorgeous mix of Japanese mythology, magic, science and philosophy. But it was also a coming-of-age story where you follow Sora learn more about her relationships with family and friends, all the while dealing with loss and the feeling of being different.

Along with gorgeous imagery, there were deep heart-wrenching discussions which balanced funny sarcastic dialogue.

P.S. we also get a nice sprinkling of LGBT rep and it made my heart warm and fuzzy.

Firmly in its genre of YA fantasy (rather magical realism) I would definitely recommend to everyone.

Trigger warnings - death, bereavement, illness, discrimination (especially mixed-race).

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CW: Loss of a loved one, mixed-race discrimination

Thank you to Netgalley for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I think this is certainly one of those books where if the first couple sentences of the description interest you, just get the book and don't read the rest of the description.

Japan is known for earthquakes, but in this book they go a step further. One particular earthquake was so strong it managed to shatter time. Japan gets split up into different "time zones", some are slow, some are fast and they're all different speeds. No one in the regular speed time zones quite knows what happened to those who where within what came to be the different speed zones.

It's a slow-burner book, but written in such a way where it doesn't feel slow. There is however a lot of time theory, philosophical talks and all that jazz all throughout the book, but it's all relatively easy to understand and, at least to me, was quite interesting. I quite liked all the characters as well, they all had good motivations.

I think the only improvement I'd make is give the conflicts during the final part more time. A lot happens all at once and with all the time shifting it's hard to get a good grasp on the feeling for the ending. I would also just love a lot more time with all the revelations and such personally, but I also just absolutely love the world and the character dynamics (especially with Sora and a certain someone at the end :3) and would love to see more from it all and understand it all better.

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Catfish Rolling was a book with a fascinating and original premise, and I enjoyed the combination of science and Japanese myth. Sora was a well-presented character; however, some of the other characters in the story didn't feel as well fleshed out. The prose was easy reading, but the story posed a number of questions and scenarios to do with the fast and slow zones that were never fully answered by the end, which I found a little disappointing after so much build up. Even so, this remained an interesting and enjoyable read and offered something a bit different in terms of plot, so I am still giving it 4 stars. Recommended to those who like YA fantasy with an original twist.

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Thank you for the digital review copy, Head of Zeus, Zephyr!

Very moving and captivating. A splendid debut for Clara Kumagai.

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I didn't know what I expected from this book before going into it, but what I got, I loved. It was well written with an incredibly poignant and thought provoking storyline and well developed characters.
It is an effortless and visceral look on love, time, pain, grief and loss. I loved it.

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Thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for the opportunity to read this eARC.

Catfish Rolling is a story about one of the most impossible concepts that we have to face - the concept of time. Defining time, understanding time, and measuring it seems easy in the current day, though the rules for doing these things have been set by people long before us and, really, their theories and beliefs are all we have to rely on. When used as a literary device, 'time' can be a super interesting plot point, and it worked really well here.

We follow Sora, the main character who is half Japanese and half Canadian, who feels incredibly inbetween; even more so when the catfish rolls beneath the great country of Japan, causing an earthquake that sends a rift through the entire country. Time is broken in the Japan of this world; worse in some places, like the quiet village north of Tokyo where Sora lives with her father. In the aftermath, people are lost - vanished, it seems, until we learn that there seem to be different time zones all around the country. Some slow, some fast, some somewhere inbetween. All of them in close vicinity, and each of them having strange effects on those who enter.

Whilst her father researches the time zones, Sora sneaks into them illegally; she shows tourists around the time zones (for a fee), and conducts her own research, always searching for the mother she lost when the catfish rolled. But all that time in the zones have begun to have a bad effect on her father, whose health appears to be deteriorating rapidly with no real conclusion as to why.

The concept is interesting and the book is really well written. Some of the characters are well developed, whereas others felt more two dimensional to me. I liked the idea, and whilst I wouldn't necessarily say that the execution fell flat for me - I did enjoy reading this, after all - I felt like there was a little too much repetition, as well as a lot of information being thrown at the reader. It was difficult at times to keep up, and to understand what had actually happened/what was happening within these time zones. So a confusing read, sometimes, but it had real heart, and I loved the focus on Japanese fables and mythology, and it was really interesting learning about the culture from someone biracial, like Sora.

Though the ending ties up some loose ends, there are no real answers for a lot of questions posed, which might be annoying to some readers! I don't think all questions need answers, but I admit to wanting to understand a little more with regards to this one. At its heart, however, the novel deals with themes of grief, loss, coming of age, and self-realisation; and I think these themes in particular were dealt with very well.

A strong 3.75 (still waiting for the day I can use half stars on Goodreads and other websites...)

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A spectacular read from start to finish. I couldn't have loved this more, from how it portrays grief and loss, experiences of being mixed race, to different kinds of love. Sora is a wonderfully written character and I especially adored her relationships with her father, Koki and Maya.

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First up, LOVE the cover.

A perfect blend of science fiction, mythology, family drama and romance. I especially admire the way the author was able to describe the out of bounds areas so well that I could easily visualise what the characters were seeing and hearing.

This book ticked a lot of boxes for me. The family drama drew me in, the dystopian element had me intrigued and the sci fi/fantasy was captivating. The romance thread felt natural and didn't overpower the rest of the narrative. And the ending left a few options for the reader rather than tying everything up perfectly.

Not aimed at middle grade as I thought but an excellent sci fi choice for young adult and adult audiences.

I received this arc from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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