The Plotters: A Novel Hardcover – January 29, 2019
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"The Plotters tells the story of Renseng, a jaded assassin who startles himself by realizing—somewhat belatedly—that he has a moral code, a sense of honor, a soul. All of these will prove to be perilous liabilities in his world. Un-Su Kim is a tremendous writer, and he’s crafted a smart, stylish, and surprisingly moving thriller.”
Scott Smith, author of A Simple Plan and The Ruins
"It would be hard to accuse The Plotters, a raucous extravaganza of assassins and lunatics by the lauded Korean writer Un-Su Kim, of conforming to any template."
New York Times Book Review
“Intriguing and playfully fun...The Plotters walks in the traditions of the noble detective and the samurai while spinning some new chewy bits probably best not mimicked. By the end, heroism rises out of the carnage to trump the nihilistic capitalism in a rousing climax.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
“[A] powerhouse of a novel, full of melancholy and gore, philosophy and brutality, dark humor and pathos. It reads as if Haruki Murakami rewrote The Day of the Jackal, or as if David Lynch remade Alain Delon’s Le Samouraï, or as if Park Chan-wook reimagined Suddenly (Frank Sinatra as sniper)...Kim (brilliantly translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell) moves among his engaging, thickly limned characters with the ease and insight of a master psychologist and strategist.”
"The Plotters, rendered in English by Sora Kim-Russell, is an unusual book: a violent action-thriller that could also be a parable, a fable of good and evil stitched together with poignant threads.”
Wall Street Journal
“[A] gripping portrait of a killer for hire …The Plotters is no primer for a visit to Korea. What it does offer is a vivid portrait of a mesmerizing central character — the stoic Reseng. It will also keep readers delightfully off-balance. In The Plotters Kim has mixed bookishness, crackpots and commissioned murder into a rich and unsettling blend."
The Washington Post
"Pleasingly deadpan, The Plotters manages to be both humorous (Reseng’s cats are called, delightfully, Desk and Lampshade) and violent, and sometimes even wise."
“Translated by Sora Kim-Russell, The Plotters is written beautifully, thoughtfully, wandering through Reseng’s thoughts as a visitor observes a new landscape. The story is dark but inviting and feels like new territory, even in the genre of hit men. Un-su Kim takes us on a ride, but a ride with both action and contemplation. Highly recommended.”
New York Journal of Books
"Dark and clever."
New York Post
"Unpredictable, often grotesquely funny, piled with corpses and dark as a dungeon...The Plotters is also a compulsive page-turner."
"The Plotters is deeply funny and, surprisingly, full of heart. There are moments of transcendence and heartbreak mixed in with the knife fights and shootouts, and Kim balances it all beautifully."
CriminalElement (dot com)
"The winner of prestigious prizes in Korea, Kim makes his anglophone debut, thanks to Kim-Russell, who captures his dark, dark wit and searing sarcasm in an irresistible sociopolitical parable designed to delight and dismay."
Booklist (Starred review)
“Korean author Kim makes his U.S. debut with a powerful, surreal political thriller…The complex plot, in which Reseng becomes involved with a more polished, CEO-like hit man named Hanja, builds to a highly cinematic and violent denouement. Most memorable, though, is the novel’s message about the insidiousness of unaccountable institutions, from those under the military junta to those that thrive in today’s economy. The consequence of the pervasive corruption is an air of existential despair. This strange, ambitious book will appeal equally to literary fiction readers.”
Publishers Weekly (Starred review)
"The Plotters hums with menace, humor, heartbreak, and savagery. The killers and schemers haunting its pages range from dens of villainy to desperate scenes of quiet domesticity, offering a view of the world from the depths of its own shadow. The result is wild, weird, and completely engrossing."
Jedediah Berry, author of The Manual of Detection
“The Plotters by Un-su Kim is a work of literary genius; a quirky, compelling, intelligent, darkly funny, highly original and thought-provoking thriller like nothing I've read. Gorgeous prose elevates the basest of characters and answers the question: How can ours be a life well-lived if we only do as we’re told? I loved this book!”
Karen Dionne, author of The Marsh King’s Daughter
"Kill Bill meets Murakami. Twisted and surreal, The Plotters is one of those rare books that will haunt you long after you've finished it. The writing is smooth, unhurried and often profound, even as it draws you deeper into the gruesome underworld of skilled contract killers. Chillingly, the violence is almost exquisite, a bloody art form."
D. B. John, author of Star of the North
"Imagine a mash-up of Tarantino and Camus set in contemporary Seoul, and you have The Plotters. Filled with unexpected humor and exquisite fight scenes."
Louisa Luna, author of Two Girls Down
"The Plotters subverts every trope of the assassin-for-hire novel. Constantly surprising and darkly funny; surreal, intimate and emotional. I loved it."
Charles Soule, author of The Oracle Year
“Now this is a story with power and style. The one-two punches of humor are a nice bonus. You’ll be laughing out loud every five minutes. You’ll find yourself contemplating the meaning of life, death, and desire for a long, long time. Make sure you leave your evening free, because you won’t be able to put this book down once you start.”
You-jeong Jeong, author of The Good Son
"The Plotters is what would happen if you took the best South Korean crime cinema and distilled it into words. A smart but lightning fast thriller that keeps the pressure on to the very last page."
Brian Evenson, author of Last Days and A Collapse of Horses
“A book of revelations for murder both violent yet graceful, dark yet poetic. With sharp humor and sparkling prose, Un-su Kim stylishly spins the tale of the extraordinary life of an ordinary assassin.”
J.M. Lee, author of The Investigation
"In a terrifying, not unimaginable dystopian Seoul, guilds, plotters and assassins jostle for supremacy...Violent, clever and funny, I loved it!"
M. W. Craven, author of The Puppet Show
"The Plotters is a surreal story, replete with interior monologue, time shifts, and impossibilities. Part old-school spy thriller, part soul-searching journey, part history lesson, part political education. A novel that makes the reader think without leading, allows you to draw your own conclusions while helping you see all the possible angles, is subtle without being esoteric, The Plotters is well worth the read. And quite frankly, we can all benefit from books in translation, now more than ever."
TheRoarBots (dot com)
About the Author
The translator, Sora Kim-Russell, is a Korean American living in Seoul, where she teaches translation.
- Item Weight : 1.36 pounds
- Hardcover : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0385544383
- Product Dimensions : 6.38 x 1.17 x 9.51 inches
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385544382
- Publisher : Doubleday; Translation edition (January 29, 2019)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #187,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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In briefest summary, the story setting is Korea and the book’s main protagonist is a young man named Reseng. Reseng’s past is vague and unknown because as was an orphan and doesn’t know his parentage. When he was very young he was taken in by a man known as The Old Raccoon. The Old Raccoon ostensibly runs an old library which is really the headquarters of a nepharious organization known as The Library.
Reseng is a plotter -they are trained and skilled killers that commit assassinations. It’s all quite mysterious; often the plotters themselves don’t know the reasons why they kill nor do they care. There’s an almost mystical feel to this part of the book; it’s all shrouded in such mystery.
The story is told from Reseng’s point of view as we follow him around, both in the present and then back in time to some of his memories of his limited life apart from The Library. And with that, I want to end the summary because you should read the plot points as the author intended because there are some wonderful twists and surprises along the way.
This book could’ve gone wrong for so many reasons. It’s quirky to say the least. It’s a thriller, a mystery, but so, so much more.
What makes this book sing is the writing - it’s just brilliant. This is an author who really has the writing chops and it shows on almost every page. Just an example, and first understand that part of our likeability of Reseng is his having taught himself to read as a young boy practically raising himself in The Library. An example of the writing that so entranced me (and a reference to Reseng’s favorite character, Achilles):
“Reseng wept in the dark. On every page of the sea of library books that he was either itching to read or would eventually get bored enough to read, heroes and beautiful, charming women, countless people struggling to overcome hardship and frustration and achieve their goals, all died at the arrows of idiots because they failed to protect their one tiny weakness. Reseng was shocked at how treacherous life was. it didn’t matter how high you rose, how invincible your body was, or how firmly you clung to greatness, because of it it would vanish with a tiny split-second mistake.”
I loved this book. What I didn’t mention is that it is also laugh-out-loud-funny in places. It’s just the complete deal and I am definitely looking forward to reading more books by this author.
Lastly, I never give away endings but want to say I give the ending to this a big thumb’s up. And that’s always the cherry on top for me.
The writing is beautiful. The translation to English largely reads well. (And I’ve done French/English translating professionally.) I can’t say I « liked » it, but I certainly learned a lot. It’s interesting that by the end of the book the author has lead the reader to feel sympathy for The Plotters and assassins.
The book begins with a murder for money and follows the assassin, Reseng, as he lives a life balanced between the normal and abnormal with terror ever present. The author places the ultimate corruption on a plane far beyond the reach of those who order who lives and who dies.
An orphan, Reseng is raised by a strange character known as The Old Raccoon who runs a murder for hire business from his headquarters known as The Library which actually has thousands of books.
For the reader looking for a hero to root for without a lot of violence, this may not be the ticket. However, the writing is sooooo good, the characters are so intriguing and the premise so original that it's right up there with the best books of 2019.
Amazing read! Please read it!