Book Review: How High We Go in the Dark

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu


She would have declared that the postapocalypse doesn’t mean we stop dancing

In the 2030s, an ancient plague is released from the Siberian Ice. The Arctic Plague first comes for the children. Then it comes for the old. Then it comes for everyone else, mutating and strange and devastating. In its wake, humanity survives. And humanity, too, changes.

In retrospect, all of us—you, Clara, and now me and Yumi—ran toward possibility because we saw no other choice. It’s a wonder that we ever found each other, with all the running around we did.

Whew. This was heavy.

How do I even begin to sum up this book?

First, simply, because I wasn’t quite expecting it to be what it was. This is a story of plague and pandemic, death and grief side by side with hope and humanity, all wrapped into a story that was both 75 and 6,000 and 4.5 billion years in the telling, filled with a set of interconnected stories picking up here and there to develop the narrative.

It’s definitely not for everyone. There is some real weird and disturbing shit that I never would have ever thought would work and yet…it does. The surreality of coping and survival, and then going from just coping to actually living among the dead, was just so emotional.

I don’t want to tell too much of the story—although I fear I already have given a bit too much away by telling the times—because I think that this is one best explored fresh, with no expectations, no underlying understanding of the narrative aside from the knowledge that this is not just a story about people coping through an incredibly devastating, long-term event that threatens the survival of humanity while also coping with the devastating, long-term event that is climate change (this is a clif-fi novel at heart), but it’s a story about us.

How we will survive these devastating events, and how it will impact our future, and our children’s-children’s-children’s futures. How our trauma and pain will ripple down through the timeline, as our parents and their parents and their parents before have rippled into ours. Yup, this book heavily explores generational trauama.

I was in tears most of the time from how fucking desolate everything was. Would I have had the same reaction if the entire world was not going through what it was? I don’t know. Would this book even exist without covid? I don’t know.

What I do know, however, is that this is a book for now, to be read now, not just for being a touchpoint of coping in the current pandemic, but also a touchpoint in the ongoing climate crisis.

Because, despite all of the desolation and grief and death, but overall message is hope through community. We can survive together. Only together. But that survival will look a lot different than life now, or even life before. And that change is not only okay, but necessary.

I can easily see this one sweeping up awards left and right. It’s got the same mix of a little something for everyone that Station Eleven had—the literary prowess of the writing, the sweeping narrative, the plague dystopian, the characters who worm their way into your heart despite your wanting to keep everyone at bay, the science in the science fiction. The emotional beats that hit and don’t stop hitting. And that fucking—nope, will not spoil that bit for you.

Although, now I want to know what really existed in Area 51.

Oops, I’ve said too much.

Or have I?

You’ll just have to find out for yourself.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

How High We Go in the Dark releases January 18, 2022, from William Morrow

Trigger Warnings: ableism, graphic death, pandemic, euthanasia

4 thoughts on “Book Review: How High We Go in the Dark

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