Seoul Survivors is a full-on, non-stop near-future apocalyptic fertility-dystopian scare of a novel. Seriously, it does not let up for a moment. There are three main storylines, that connect and converge at points throughout the novel but are also fundamentally enmeshed together. Sydney has come to South Korea to persue her dreams of modelling. Damien hopes his trip will earn him enough money to escape the end of the world. Mee Hee just wants to live somewhere where she can be safe from constant fear and famine. All three of their lives are touched, for good or ill, by Dr Kim Da Mi, genius and possible saviour of the human race.
Sydney’s blonde, Canadian good looks make her a hot property in South Korea. Her rapport with photographer Jin Sok helps her establish a career and a life, neither of which she really had at home. She’s in South Korea with her boyfriend Johnny Sandman, a vicious thug who is even more repellent than he seems. Sydney adores being in front of the camera; the buzz, the attention, the energy of it all makes her soar. Freedom beckons and even the Sandman can’t keep her caged.
Damien’s life was not looking exactly peachy; in fact he’d got to the point where smuggling drugs seemed the best option. He’s not exactly a master crim though – his longer term plan is to teach English to young Koreans until he has enough money to get to Canada. He’s researched the coming apocalypse and figures he has the safest place picked out. It baffles him that no one else, apart form a few loonies, is taking Lucifer’s Hammer seriously. Damien is convinced the meteor is on a collision course with Earth, and he wants to be prepared.
Lee Mee Hee has had the toughest ride of all, literally. The death of her baby son has left her bereft and hopeless until a doctor takes an interest in her and arranges for her to be smuggled out of North Korea. She travels underneath the truck in a tiny enclosed space, the description of which left me feeling claustrophobic and needing air. There’s a new life awaiting her, if she chooses it, one with peace and harmony and babies. Dr Kim has a plan to breed a new type of human, one full of compassion and understanding for their fellow man.
Dr Kim has this whole rent-a-womb clone scheme going on, that sometimes seems like the greatest experiment yet but more often just screams LUNATIC. She is so reasonable, calm, beautiful and sage and also completely demented. She’s a terrifying character because she so easily sucks you into her plans. She makes sociopathic Johnny look like a Yorkshire Terrier yapping at your heels. Actually, he is a complete narcissistic menace who thinks about himself in the third person. Avoid at all costs is practically stamped across his forehead. They are both brilliant characters though, worming their way through the story, manipulating people and situations. Sydney and Damien are like Hansel and Gretel being led to the house of the wicked witch. Although with Dr Kim it is never entirely clear if she is doing something Very Good or Very Bad.
There are two very different atmospheres in the book. The urban scenes are loud, frenetic, full of people and colour. In Dr Kim’s environment it is tranquil, serene, shimmering. I loved the contrast between the two. I also loved how it is set in a future that seems very near; there’s some new technology stuff that I think is on the cusp of being real. The issues raised are ones that we’re bothered about right now – meteors, cloning, disasters natural and manmade. There are some shocking bits, and towards the end there’s something that was very uncomfortable to read. There’s also plenty of drinking, clubbing, and shagging too. Like I said, the book is full-on. As I was reading it there was something buzzing around my mind, that it put me in mind of something else I’d read. It wasn’t until I read this that it fell into place – William Gibson. It’s years since I read Neuromancer, but it’s the same excitement and energy I felt. Seoul Survivors manages to talk about lots of serious things within a plot full of tension and drive. Naomi Foyle can really write.
Jo Fletcher Books very kindly sent me a copy of this book for review – thanks guys. It’s available right now.