Flux was a very confusing book. I consider myself a pretty smart and intuitive person but this book was just confusing. So much so that I really cant give it a fair rating. Maybe if I knew what was going on I’d have liked it better, but as it stands I wasnt a fan.
Loved this book. Such a good time traveler story. The characters were believable and I have successfully sold this book!
I want to thank NetGalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about “Flux”. On one hand, it combines a modern science fiction with mystery and suspense to great success and keeps up with the three different points of view quite well. On the other hand, there are plot points that are played so close to the chest that they almost don’t make it into the plot at all unless you squint hard and pay attention.
The reader follows three points of view throughout the course of the book: young Bo, young adult Brandon, and middle-aged Blue, all of whom are working through their own traumas (Bo: the death of his mother; Brandon: the loss of his job, his sudden foray into a must be too good to be true gig at an up and coming tech company, and his internal struggle over his Korean heritage; Blue: a look at his past and the accident that caused his muteness and the regular visits he makes to an old acquaintance.)
It doesn’t take too long to figure out how these three characters are connected (a refreshing change), rather it’s the journey from how each of them get to where they are that Jinwoo Chong chronicles in this story.
Overall I did enjoy the book: the concept was very interesting, the POVs were individual enough to keep track of who was who, the problems facing each character were each individually interesting, and it was easy enough to keep track of other characters as they appeared. For some plot points (see: the cereal, Brandon’s clothing), Chong left enough crumbs in place that the reader could work out that something was wrong and what that something might be. Chong also had a few instances where he beautifully rewarded the reader’s trust and connected two dots in a very satisfying way (see: Bo’s love for the TV cop Raider who adopts and cares for a young Asian boy and his own rescue further in the book).
When it got to the details of the story that things began to strain under pressure: Flux, the tech company that Brandon is serendipitously asked to work for, is up to something and although we know it’s something, it never truly becomes clear what that something is. There’s an instance where Brandon approaches other staff members, all of whom shy away from him after they interacted at a club a few weeks before for Brandon’s birthday. They shrink back in fear and even by the end of the book the reader isn’t entirely certain WHY that’s the case. Although it becomes clear that Flux has committed awful acts that leave the founder, Io Emsworth (an Elizabeth Holmes stand-in), in jail for years, it’s not entirely clear if Flux is actually responsible for them (specifically the deaths of three people, which are talked about as “murder” throughout the story). The reader is given no insight as to Flux’s large picture, why those people had to be killed, etc. Which, for me, watered down the severity of the accusations.
The one instance where Chong uses vagueness beautifully is in the final scene with Blue. It’s open enough to allow the reader a variety of endings possible without leaving it so wide open as to feel cheap or lazy.
Overall, the book was enjoyable, but there were just enough niggling bits to leave me still feeling slightly underwhelmed and dissatisfied. If you’re a fan of time travel, multiple POVs, sci-fi intrigue, and mysteries, I would still recommend for the way Chong handles the POVs and the interesting concept he presents in the idea of Flux as a company.
I loved this book! I will definitely recommend it. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
Flux is sci-fi neo-noir wrapped into a culturally contemplative glass of milk. TIME MILK!
Bo, Brandon and Blue are tortured by questions grief, trauma, sexuality and whiteishness as their lives spin out of control.
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?
In full disclosure, I don’t like time travel stories generally. As with many in that genre, I found the narrative of this book confusing. I understand that some of the confusion is purposeful, to mimic the confusion of the viewpoint character – but even beyond that, I had a hard time keeping track of events at times. That said, I liked the imagery of this book a lot and found the writing style gripping. I also really liked the ending.
I am a fan of Jinwoo Chong's short stories, so I was looking forward to his debut novel. Now that I've read it, I remain a fan. As can be expected from a book called Flux, the main character Bo/Brandon/Blue changes throughout the novel -click- often scene-switching and time-traveling more than once a page. It was not -click- an easy story -click- to track. The clicks are the reader's warning that -click- stuff's about to change. Get ready to be disoriented.
[Thanks to Melville House for an opportunity to read an advanced reader copy and share my opinion of this book.]
Bo, Brandon, Blue--they're all the same person at different times of their life, all dealing with the excruciating pain of their mother's death. In all stages this character believes that her death was their fault and reason for the downfall of their family, so the themes of guilt and grief are continual. Also continual, but less successful, is Bo/Brandon/Blue's obsession with Jacket Guy, a character on a tv series that they watched with their father throughout childhood. Between that character and the tv actors involved, I found these sections unnecessary and annoying, making the circuitous route of the story even more confusing. The impact of an irresponsible tech start-up company and AI on the characters was certainly timely, and the main character mattered to me.
this is a novel of promises. a promise of neo-noir and speculative fiction, of elements from a 80s detective show, of the cyclical nature of grief and the pervasive nature of whiteness. these promises are wrapped in a gift of technology: cybernetic implants, tactile solutions for the blackouts that send towns into electrical droughts, time travel. the past and present and future.
brandon spends his narration speaking to you. not you in the sense that he is the speaker and we are the reader, and he is talking to us as a collective. no. he speaks to the fictionalized lead of an equally fictionalized '80s detective show called raider. he speaks to this character like an old friend, with the fondness that childhood affection can give. if you still have enough of it within your heart as an adult, that is.
where bo and blue function within the confines of third person, we are caught between brandon’s first person pov and the intimacy to which he addresses you, you, you. he is not seeking our approval, far from it. there is no distance between you or me or second person. brandon is clinging to the pieces of himself that he hid within raider and his mother.
he only lets himself be perceived by the fictionalized and the dead. that just leaves us with… brandon. this is wholly him. his shortcomings, his failures, his disgust. his obsession, his grief. and it is every bit interesting—mundane in a way that makes me feel bad for him. as if i've written him off as a sad guy who does sad things and give him nothing but a frown in exchange. he's in debt, but i'm indebted to his sadness so look, now we're the same.
nobody explains anything to brandon, and in turn, nothing is ever explained to us. there’s not even context clues to gauge whether your inferences or guesses are going in the right direction. we’re just one more person falling down an elevator shaft without a hint of what’s going on.
i don't think the science (fiction) matters much. there's more disorientation in what you don't know compared to what you don't understand. i didn’t care for the technological rhyme or reason. the scifi aspects were, in fact, the weakest part of the plot. i was far more engaged by chong’s discussion of family and identity.
The book tells of three characters whose lives eventually intersect. It's a compelling read and while there are elements of sci-fi to it, they almost feel peripheral at times. Chong focuses on loss, grief, and identity while bringing in a broader cultural context. The narrative's form is a bit kinetic, and for one stretch goes through vary quick jumps, almost at the speed of channel surfing, but the disorientation plays a role.
There's probably an article waiting to be written on how the characters' love of a particular (fictional) police show interacts not only with their own stories, but also with how we use media/art to process the events of our lives.
It's a strong debut novel, and I get why there's buzz around Chong right now.
This isn’t the right fit for our libraries. That said, it’s conceptually really cool.
Thank you to NetGalley and Melville House Publishing for the ARC.
DNF at 34%. It was good but not great. Very confusing. Not what my brain needed at the time.
What I was enjoying: the weaving of 80s crime television into the story! Loved. The casual Asian representation. The fact that someone falls down a damn elevator shaft?!
Honestly I just couldn’t follow it. From what I’m gathering from other reviews, this is a common experience. I do not read a lot of science fiction (thought this hadn’t even gotten too science fiction-y), so take my review with a grain of salt!
Flux is being promoted as a noir futuristic cyberpunk novel in the vein of "Neuromancer" but be prepared; it's quite hard to keep track of what's going on. There's a spoiler that I could share that would make it far more logical - so perhaps a second read is required to see how it all fits together - but don't worry, this is spoiler free. However, I'll start by saying that Flux is a frustrating read for just this reason: The key ideas that start to weave the narrative into a coherent whole come pretty darn late in the story, so late that I almost bailed more than once along the way. Instead, what you get is an inexplicably redundant tale that's about time travel. Maybe.
The story intertwines four characters: 8yo Bo whose mother dies in a tragic accident, 28you Brandon who gets fired from his magazine just to get a strange job offer from a mysterious and unpleasant man, 48yo "Blue" who speaks in "// //" pairs for no obvious reason and is being interviewed for a TV series about a failed biotech startup (the same place that Brandon worked), and the mysterious, misunderstood noir TV detective from a show "Raider" that all three obsessed about when it was on the air.
This was like many modern cyberpunk novels I've read, simultaneously quite interesting (when I could figure out what was going on) and quite frustrating and off-putting (when I had no idea what was going on and the relationship of the events to the overall narrative). Is this a characteristic of the genre now? You decide. Once you do get to the end, it's a good resolution (albeit rather predictable in the time-travel genre) but the journey might just be a bit more frustrating than most readers will enjoy.
Great story & awesome, timely idea. A little slow to start, but engaging and interesting. I'd love to see this as a movie or series!
I was really excited to dive into this book! I buckled in because I was preparing for it to a mind-bending read, and it was. I was able to keep up with the characters and what was going on for the first 60% of the book. For the last 40% I was left waiting for the connections to happen but it just didn't for me and left me confused.
Flux is incredibly creative, and at times mind-boggling. It's a strong investigation of trauma and grief told through multiple timelines and inventive sci-fi devices. Fascinating read.
<i>I would like to thank Melville House Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.</i>
What an ambitious debut Flux is! It is no wonder why this kept appearing on several <i>most anticipated releases</i> lists.
It took me awhile to warm up to this story, and even after I did, I still felt a bit detached of its main character and events.
I disliked the way the story started as I just couldn’t care less about the actor and tv show he was obsessed with.
I believe the spoiler in the blurb does not help captivating the interest in the book, as it prematurely answers questions that should appear while reading , reducing the curiosity that keeps us going and wanting for more.
I loved how the storyline addresses and explores identity, family, love and grief but I’ve found the overall story too slow paced. I just wished I had loved everything more!
Flux is original and well written, but requires a level of focus to read it and enjoy it that my currently sleep deprived postpartum brain lacks, so take this review with a grain of salt.
Flux could have been a script for a Black Mirror episode. If you loved the show and love sci-fi, pick up this book and you won’t be disappointed.
This is a book that I think warrants discussion and/or rereads to fully appreciate what’s being done here. Jinwoo Chong’s prose is beautiful and I loved the incorporation of the 2nd person and the way the narrator was obsessed with this 80s noir detective show. The way Chong was able to use that through line to comment on Asian American representation and celebrity culture was very impressive.
At its core, Flux follows three POVs: 8 year old Bo, 28 year old Brandon and 48 year old Blue, and as the narrative unravels the connection between these three men becomes apparent. It does take quite some time, but I enjoyed the ride along the way. I think upon reread and with full understanding of how the book will come together, I’ll find the narrative more satisfying but as it stands, I think this was an incredibly ambitious debut and I am excited to see what Jinwoo Chong tackles next!
I should have known better than to start a book that opens with media layoffs right after being the victim of a media layoff lol. Anyway, I think it's really hard to impress me with a believable tech dystopia adventure story. They all just feel so contrived. I'm not sure if its because their target audience is already so cynical, but... I'm so cynical.
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.