The Plotters (2010)
Reseng is a 32-year old South Korean assassin who was abandoned in a garbage can outside a nunnery. Raised initially by the nuns, he was "adopted" at the age of 4 by Old Raccoon, the resident caretaker of The Doghouse library and himself a master assassin (or a master of assassins?). Reseng taught himself to read and became a voracious consumer of the Doghouse's numerous volumes, despite Old Raccoon's admonishment that books would only make him miserable.
The assassinations that Reseng and Old Raccoon conduct are paid for and planned by The Plotters of the title. They are shadowy businessmen who use private killing as a means of conducting their affairs. This is depicted as the capitalist substitute for the official violence that the previously military government had been able to utilize. In addition to this rather implausible politico-economic critique, the author makes some effort to introduce existential ideas and some meaning of life mumbo-jumbo, but mostly unsuccessfully. The result is a novel that reads best as a fantasy, with characters, atmosphere and world-building that succeed to exactly the extent that they are divorced from reality.
As the story opens Reseng has been tasked with the murder of a retired general. Despite having the intended victim in his crosshairs, he decides not to act immediately and justifies this to himself:
He wasn’t sure why it wasn’t the right time. Only that there was a right time for everything. A right time for eating ice cream. A right time for going in for a kiss. And maybe it sounded stupid, but there was also a right time for pulling a trigger and a right time for a bullet to the heart.
But it seems that he is instead losing his appetite for blindly following orders. The general ends up being the first of several targets he meets and talks to before "pulling a trigger." Other assassins have likewise started rebelling against The Plotters and their netherworld is descending into an internecine chaos that sees Reseng join forces with a couple "friends"--one of whom disposes of bodies and one who obtains information--and with three odd women who are determined to take on The Plotters for reason of their own.
The violence that follows is staged with cinematic elan, but this is not really an action-packed thriller. Since it is also not a literary nor deeply philosophical novel, one is entitled to wonder what it is and the reviews posted on line do express some confusion and downright dissatisfaction. As stated previously, you're more likely to enjoy it if you approach it as a fantasy in which a mildly cardboard hero is surrounded with more interesting sidekicks in an adventure of survival immersed in a compelling fictional world
-WIKIPEDIA: Kim Un-Su
-BOOK SITE: The Plotters (Penguin Random House)
-PROFILE: ‘The Plotters’ by Un-su Kim and the rising profile of Korean literature (Brian Bethune, Feb 25, 2019, Macleans)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters by Un-su Kim (Jake Arnott, The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Jedidiah Ayres, LA Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Kirkus)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Silvia Moreno-Garcia, NPR)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Publuishers Weekly)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Jean-Noël Juttet, Korean Literature Now)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Alison Flood, The Observer)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Hannah Clark, Quietus)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Olivia Ho, The Straits Times)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Complete Review)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Paul Di Filippo, Locus)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (John Decker, The Michigan Daily)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Larry Clow, Criminal Element)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Judy Clemens, NY Journal of Books)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (paul Burke, NB)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (G. Sampath, The Hindu)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Mika Cook, The Skinny)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (rebecca watson, The TLS)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Jake Cole, Spectrum Culture)
-REVIEW: of The Plotters (Tracy Mumford, MPR)
Book-related and General Links:
Copyright 1998-2015 Orrin Judd