First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.

Synopsis:

For fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven, a spellbinding and profoundly prescient debut that follows a cast of intricately linked characters over hundreds of years as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a climate plague – a daring and deeply heartfelt work of mind-bending imagination from a singular new voice.

In 2030, a grieving archaeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work of his recently deceased daughter at the Batagaika Crater, where researchers are studying long-buried secrets now revealed in melting permafrost, including the perfectly preserved remains of a girl who appears to have died of an ancient virus.

Once unleashed, the Arctic plague will reshape life on Earth for generations to come, quickly traversing the globe, forcing humanity to devise a myriad of moving and inventive ways to embrace possibility in the face of tragedy. In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, a cynical employee falls in love with a mother desperate to hold on to her infected son. A heartbroken scientist searching for a cure finds a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects – a pig – develops the capacity for human speech. A widowed painter and her teenage granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet.

From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to the interstellar starships, Sequoia Nagamatsu takes readers on a wildly original and compassionate journey, spanning continents, centuries, and even celestial bodies to tell a story about the resilience of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe.


Happy Friday everyone! It is the weekend again although it seems it is going to be a damp one here in the Philippines. In the Philippines, September also means the start of the four-month-long Christmas season. Yes, once the -ber months start, we also start our Christmas season. Jose Mari Chan’s pictures have been filling my timeline. His Christmas songs – he can be called the Philippine version of Mariah Carey (ala All I Want for Chrismas is You) as his Christmas songs have become synonymous with the season – are now being played in radio stations and malls. JMC has become synonymous with the Christmas season. Today is also the second day of September and the first Friday of the ninth month of the year. NINTH month. Wow. Time does fly fast. We are already approaching the final stretch of the year. Yes, four months does seem long but it will pass us by in a rush. Anyway, I hope that the rest of the year will be kind and gentle to everyone. I hope that your prayers have been answered and that all you worked hard for in the past months will get repaid. I hope you are doing well, in your body, mind, and spirit. Anyway, since it is the weekend, it’s time to ditch those work clothes and don more comfortable clothes. I hope you all enjoy the weekend and that you are able to rest well.

Before I can dive into the weekends, let me close this week with my first First Impression Friday update for September. I realized I have quite a lot of reading goals this year that I still have to hit. Unfortunately, I have been making very little progress in most of them. I must reorganize myself lest I won’t be hitting any of my goals this year. After immersing myself in the works of Asian literature in August, September and the coming months will be dedicated to completing all my ongoing reading challenges. One of my ongoing reading challenges is my 2022 Books I Look Forward To List, basically a list of my ten most anticipated 2022 releases. So far, I have completed six books from the list and now Anyway, I am picking up where I left off with my seventh book from the list, Sequoia How High We Go in the Dark.

With Nagamatsu having Japanese and American heritages, his debut novel seems like the perfect book to transition from Asian to American literature. Yes, my first stop on my four-month journey is the very familiar territory of American literature. Many of the books on my reading challenges were written by American writers. Well, not entirely for some have mixed heritages, like Nagamatsu and Jeffrey Eugenides. Anyway, I have never heard of Nagamatsu previously until his debut novel repeatedly came up on lists for most anticipated 2022 releases. It was a no-brainer for me to include the book on my own. Besides, I did like the book’s cover. Its premise also piqued my interest.

In a way, How High We go in the Dark is a timely read. At the crux of the story is a plague, reminiscent of the pandemic that caught us off guard. The provenance of Nagamatsu’s plaque is almost the same as that of COVID19. Our curiosity for things beyond our realms does get us in trouble. The novel is set in the near future, a future that has been redefined and reset by a plague and it all started when Dr. Cliff Miyashiro traveled to the Arctic Circle to pursue what his recently deceased daughter has started. Instead, what he uncovered was a virus that, like the COVID19 virus, would reshape the world as we know it. The premise did remind me of Hanya Yanagihara’s recent work, To Paradise. The last part of the said book explored extensively a state under total authoritarian control because of the recurring pandemics.

The unleashing of the virus was then followed by alternating narratives from different characters, including an aimless young man who works at a euthanasia theme park for terminally ill kids; a father who repairs plastic pet dogs as they have become the alternatives for man’s best friend; and a forensic pathologist who studies dead bodies in order to help prevent further death. So yes, the single most pervasive element of the novel is death. Children die from the plague. Parents die from maladies. Even plastic toys expire at a certain point. Death was contrasted with how capitalism took advantage of the rising mortality rates. While ordinary citizens cope with death, commerce continues to thrive. In one instance, a father opted to buy flowers from street vendors rather than from a train station dedicated to selling flowers for those who are visiting their departed. I can recall one of my marketing teachers telling us how death is a big business and the novel does underline what he said.

I am more than midway through the book. The novel, it seems, carries a deep message. The ones most impacted by such an event are the children. Children do populate the story. From what I can sift from the story, Nagamatsu is giving us a caveat should we refuse to change our ways. While the novel is a bleak and seemingly realistic diagnosis of the future, it does give glimpses of hope. There are redemption arcs that made up for a heartwarming reading experience. A father tries to save pet (plastic) dogs because they contain memories. The forensic pathologist does her best to learn from the dead. However, from what I have read so far, there is going to be no end to what has already been unleashed and the only way out is to learn how to cope with its presence. I hope I am wrong.

The book has been, so far, an interesting experience. I like Nagamatsu’s storytelling that, despite the bleak subjects, I derive pleasure from what I am reading. How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. For now, happy weekend! And as always, happy reading and take care!