How High We Go in the Dark: A Novel - book cover
Humor & Satire
  • Publisher : William Morrow
  • Published : 18 Jan 2022
  • Pages : 304
  • ISBN-10 : 0063072645
  • ISBN-13 : 9780063072640
  • Language : English

How High We Go in the Dark: A Novel

"Haunting and luminous, How High We Go in the Dark orchestrates its multitude of memorable voices into beautiful and lucid science fiction. An astonishing debut."  - Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta

"Epic . . . Sequoia Nagamatsu is a writer whose imagination is matched only by his compassion, the kind we need to light our way through the dark." - Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists  

Recommended by Los Angeles TimesEntertainment Weekly • Esquire Good Housekeeping Buzzfeed • Business InsiderBustle Goodreads The MillionsThe Philadelphia Inquirer • Minneapolis Star-Tribune • San Francisco Chronicle • The GuardianPopSugar •  Literary Hub • and many more!

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. 

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 resilience of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe.

"Wondrous, and not just in the feats of imagination, which are so numerous it makes me dizzy to recall them, but also in the humanity and tenderness with which Sequoia Nagamatsu helps us navigate this landscape. . . . This is a truly amazing book, one to keep close as we imagine the uncertain future."  - Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to See Here

Editorial Reviews

"Exactly the white-hot missive of hope, humanity, and compassion you need . . . Each story is a marvel of imagination . . . Rich in scope and vision, with each nested story masterfully rippling across others, this is a visionary novel about grief, resilience, and how the human spirit endures."
-- Esquire

"Done artfully. . . . A heartbreaking tribute to humanity." -- Entertainment Weekly, 5 Must Read Books

"Nagamatsu's novel isn't about hope, but about how things change in the space between possible and impossible. Of course the one thing that never changes, even or especially in tragic times, is human nature." -- Los Angeles Times

"This hauntingly beautiful story focuses on how the human spirit perseveres through it all. With everything from a cosmic search for home to a theme park for terminally ill kids and a talking pig, it's a lyrical adventure that feels fantastical yet familiar." -- Good Housekeeping, The 15 Best and Most-Anticipated Books of 2022

"[A] searing literary dystopia. . . . Each character is intimately drawn as they grapple with a future that gives very little freedom to hope or dream. . . . It feels like an archive of personal stories about what the future may bring." -- Buzzfeed News, 23 New Fantasy And Science Fiction Books We're Excited About

"Haunting and luminous, How High We Go in the Dark orchestrates its multitude of memorable voices into beautiful and lucid science fiction that resembles a fitful future memory of our present. An astonishing debut." -- Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta

"How High We Go in the Dark is wondrous not just in the feats of imagination, which are so numerous that it makes me dizzy to recall them, but also in the humanity and tenderness with which Sequoia Nagamatsu helps us navigate this landscape, to find a way to survive while holding onto the things that make us human. This is a truly amazing book, one to keep close as we imagine the uncertain future." -- Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to See Here

"Sequoia Nagamatsu's How High We Go in the Dark is a sprawling, epic debut that ventures from the Arctic to interstellar space, from life to what may come after it. With precision and harrowing prescience, Nagamatsu envisions the effects-both cultural and planetary-of a mysterious, devastating pandemic; but he explores, too, the astonishing commitment, resilience, and capacity for resilience that enables life-human and otherwise-to reach for survival. Sequoia Nagamatsu is a writer whose imagination is matched only by his compassio...

Readers Top Reviews

Look, I’m only half way through this book, so take my review with a pinch of salt. I’m sort of hoping the author doesn’t read this because it is very inventive, very charming catchy prose and nobody wants to hear from that one reader who thinks your new hit novel is a stinker. But avoid this at all costs if you have been recently bereaved or have ever lost a child. I cannot warn you emphatically enough. I heard about the premise- a plague unleashed from early humans found in the melting permafrost- and I bought it immediately. I wish I hadn’t. I didn’t realise it was going to be surrealist. Climate disaster is scary enough without bizarre mutation and aliens and all the rest of it. It does a disservice to its readers by mixing the real impending disaster with very silly ideas that don’t draw pieces of truth from the work of any scientists anywhere ever. And given the format - bleak vignette after bleak vignette - it just means you never have a chance to care about any of the characters and they blur into a mush of half remembered parts. Perhaps that was the idea and I just don’t get it. It’s harrowing, but not edifying. Please take note that this is extraordinarily grim and deals mostly with the senseless deaths of small children and with families cut up into haunted individuals. I can’t bear to continue with it. I’ll have to go and read some actual climate disaster predictions just to cheer myself up.
Kevin L. Nenstiel
Deep beneath the melting Siberian permafrost, an archeologist makes a chilling discovery: dozens of perfectly preserved Neanderthal bodies, laid out with precision. As global warming thaws what the millennia have guarded, something wakes up. Despite the scientists’ best efforts, a long-dormant microorganism escapes the site. Before long, the “Arctic plague” threatens the very foundations of human civilization. It’s slightly misleading to call Sequoia Nagamatsu’s first novel “science fiction,” though it uses time-honored genre staples to launch its story. I wouldn’t even necessarily call it “a novel,” as it’s basically a short-story sequence, the Winesburg, Ohio of mass-market fiction. Nagamatsu has crafted an experimental form, a postmodern rejection of literal through-line storytelling in favor of immersing yourself in a whirlwind of speculative experience. The Arctic plague first strikes children. Global civilization (but, in this book, mostly America) struggles to maintain its cultural suppositions about childhood innocence, even as childhood becomes the number-one indicator of mortality. Scientists perform increasingly daredevil experiments to keep children alive, to preserve the illusion that humanity has a future. Some of these experiments test the limits of what defines “humanity.” It’s exceedingly difficult to synopsize Nagamatsu’s story because, as I’ve already said, it lacks a through-line. Main characters in one chapter emerge as principal protagonists several chapters later; others disappear without explanation. Rather like life, that. The story jumps years, sometimes generations, as Nagamatsu moves onto whatever most interests him. Most stories are set in America, mostly California, though three take place in Japan. Rather than a straightforward narrative, Nagamatsu focuses on creating a mood. As you’d expect from a novel about a plague, themes of mortality and loss abound. Though one chapter focuses on disembodied souls in limbo, that’s an outlier; nearly every chapter deals primarily with survivors, those forced to watch helplessly as their loved ones slip away. These days, many readers may find these themes disconcertingly familiar. But despite these themes, Nagamatsu’s storytelling is remarkably optimistic. His protagonists find meaning in survival, in facing a world characterized by bereavement. His characters face the existentialist reality that all human endeavor ends in mortality, sooner or later; then they shoulder that burden and continue. Death, to Nagamatsu’s characters, isn’t the end, it’s their reason to persevere, though they sometimes require several chapters to accept this. Even with his cast of thousands and his international scope, Nagamatsu’s storytelling has a personal edge. Several characters are, like Nagamatsu himself, Japanese-American; more than a few are aspiring a...
Joanne Merriam
This sprawling vision of a future where we hope to survive climate change and a strange epidemic will appeal to readers of Kim Stanley Robinson and Emily St. John Mandel. This series of linked stories end up forming a novel with the outcomes of some stories showing up in others, and what might seem throwaway details shedding new light on other chapters. Each chapter is from a different person‘s point of view. I found that despite the shorter time with each viewpoint character, I was very engaged and cared what happened to them. I know Sequoia Nagamatsu’s work as a short story writer and am not surprised he is able to make every word count. This narrative structure allows him to show us centuries while still delving deeply into individual lives. A mummified Neanderthal is discovered in melting Arctic permafrost, and the virus that killed her escapes to infect the globe. Written before COVID-19, this novel describes some things that have become all too familiar: healthcare services stretched to the brink, shortages, curfews, first and second waves, and how class, race, and country affect medical outcomes. The lingering effects of the plague on the society of survivors may end up being instructive for us as well. I found this book both entertaining and deeply thought-provoking. Definitely recommended.

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