“Availing himself to as romantic a backdrop as one could ever hope—not only the island itself, rich with ruin and religion and, well, riches, but also the twin eddies of the Greek economic crash and the Mediterranean refugee crisis—Bollen’s writing echoes both Patmos and the famous words brought up from its core. Sun-blasted prose is pocked with marvelous turns of phrase, and his pawns twist, flay and leak acid like lemons. Every painful and sexy and mysterious moment proves alluringly repulsive, like the heat—from behind designer sunglasses—of the vacation sun…or the end of the world.”
… stars on charts, inside of us, outside of the skylights holding in their embrace laughable specks of rock and coagulated gas we named for our deities, which we in turn hold in our hands in the form of globes, globes and models and computers and books, an embrace more intimate and perhaps more important than the stars, for it is a studied one, the mind rapidly expanding, human intelligence and endeavor and hope red shifting in a desperate attempt to keep apace with the galaxy’s bleeding, fleeting edge …
“Even if some of the story beats sound familiar, their placement in Wuertz’s Seoul, where hair gleams “like the belly of a giant tuna” and drinks arrive “one after the other like the next turn on the disco ball” even as American GIs tear families apart and agitators are whisked away in black cars, renders them new.
The novel reveals an exciting place and time, in the catalytic sense, and all the more-so for us as visitors who are surrounded by its echoes—class, sex, race—even now.”
“Reputations is not quite a repudiation of the media’s power to suck the marrow from others. But by bringing Mallarino to a savage collision with the moment that afforded the cartoonist his prominence, Vásquez warns of the fragility inherent in such power. He’s calling into question whether the powers given to us—both by others and, perhaps more importantly, by ourselves—can ever come from a place of true honesty.”
“The sociopathic Gerard, a fearsome boy who is introduced setting a kitten ablaze, torments both siblings. A genuinely disturbing and well-written villain, he is far more monstrous than the creature from the ocean; the terror he causes bleeds off the page, and the reader’s only response to his arrival is a despondence even the most famously savage of characters cannot hope to inspire. There are more disturbing constructs—the internecine consciousness of American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman springs to mind—but few paralyze with their capacity for violence and blank-eyed brutality as Gerard does.”
Read the rest of my review of Carl-Johan Vallgren’s The Merman in Paste Magazine