Review of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah

Posted by in netgalley copy

I've figured out the Netgalley system: Get books that have been translated into English. Even better if they are by POC. Even even better if WOC. For example, Nowhere to Be Found, you don't even have to request it; it's just there ready for download. I spent thirty minutes with it, finished, and then thought about what to write for two days.

Nowhere to Be Found is a series of scenes. Each scene is like a perfect little wrapped truffle, but it's like the box of these truffles has been shaken up and that little sheet of paper that tells you what each truffle is has been lost. So we have smooth bits and then inelegant jumps. There's a bizarre shift partway through to a second-person, sadomasochistic narration, some of which repeats in first person at the very end (my kobo note when I got to that part: WTF?). There's a whole absurd traipsing through an army training field to find someone who has a name-doppelgänger, then who doesn't. There's some subtlety about class in Korean society that is touched on but likely not explored as the story was initially written for a Korean audience, who don't need their society explained to them the way I might. There's some esoteric references (The Blue Bird, but maybe smarter people than me knew what that was already). There's some cattiness and shaming:

the girl who was called the Black Hole because of her reputation for routinely going through multiple guys in one night.

Then the novella ends with:

And that is how I became an absolutely meaningless thing and survived time.

I don't really get it.

I like all the little components, but I'm not sure I like them once they're put together. It's less than the sum of all parts. That isn't to say I'm not going to steal some ideas from it to see what I can do with them instead. But this novella is a bit off. Not alien abduction off, but just not enough that I can really, unabashedly feel good about the experience.

And of course, my burning question with no real relevance to anything about this novella: why is Be capitalized in the title, but not to? The to Be is like a unit. Shouldn't they both be or not both be capitalized?

I think Nowhere to Be Found is going to be released as one of those Amazon Singles things or something. It's short - forty pages. So a quick read.

Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah goes on sale April 14, 2015.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.