Tower by Bae Myung-hoon

I’ve secured a satellite image and am looking for his crashed jet. While he lies abandoned in the desert alone, I wander that desert on my own to find him. He could be seriously injured or dead. After tonight, the latter will become more likely.

Synopsis

Bae Myung-hoon’s Tower is a novel consisting of six interconnected stories set in the fictional universe of Beanstalk Tower, a 674-story skyscraper that functions as a sovereign state. It has its own military and currency, a powerful economy, and a population of 500,000—effectively an entire civilization inside a building. A lot goes on in this space, from war and terrorism to corruption and class struggles.

In “Three Wise Recruits,” researchers investigate the power structure of Beanstalk and discover that one of its most powerful figures is a dog; in “Ode to Nature,” a novelist must choose between speaking out against the government and saving his career; in “Taklamakan Misdelivery,” a pilot crashes in a desert and millions of anonymous people come to his aid; in “Elevator Field Exercise,” tensions escalate between two dominant ideologies in Beanstalk; in “Amitābha in the Square,” police start deploying an elephant to suppress mass protests; in “True to Sharia,” fifteen terrorists live in Beanstalk undercover for decades planning to set off bombs on a fixed day, but when that day arrives, none explode. “Taklamakan Misdelivery” has been published in Asymptote Journal.

This intriguingly imaginative world is a biting satire of the politicized world we live in. The book is a page-turner, armed with a fast-paced plot and an unfailing sense of humor. Tower will appeal to science fiction fans, politically conscious readers, and Korean literature lovers alike. It can be compared to David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten or Cloud Atlas, J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise, or stylistically, to Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake trilogy.

About the Author

Bae Myung-hoon (b. 1978) is one of the most popular science fiction writers in South Korea. A political science graduate of Seoul National University, his works are known for their inventive premises, clarity of language, and quirky sense of humor. Much of his work can be seen as political satire, and he has received both science fiction and traditional literary awards. Since his literary debut in 2005, he has written ten novels and over fifty short stories and novellas. His short story collections include Hello, Artificial Being (2010) and Art and the Acceleration of Gravity (2016). His novels include Tower (2009), Divine Orbit (2011), Decoy (2012), and First Breath (2015). An English translation of his short story “Art and the Acceleration of Gravity” has appeared in the journal Azalea.

Reception

“Perhaps a century from now, Korean literature will have to belatedly thank the fact that this country had a writer like Bae Myung-hoon.”
—Park Min-gyu, author of Pavane for a Dead Princess

“Tower shatters our preconceptions about science fiction. There are no complicated technologies, galactic adventures, or aliens in the book. Instead it captivates readers with irreverent and razor-sharp social satire.”
Kyunghyang Daily News

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Us, or the Literary Translation Institute of Korea.

tower cover