How High We Go in the Dark

Source: DRC via NetGalley (William Morrow and Custom House)
Pub. Date: Jan 18, 2022
Synopsis: Goodreads

Why did I choose to read this book?

Another book placed on the TBR list because its description was too good to pass up. Climate change melts an ice shelf in which a person is discovered who was infected by an ancient virus, which infects the scientists that discovered it and suddenly there’s a plague and apocalyptic events, and we witness the aftermath of that situation. Maybe it’s a little on the nose for our current reality, but call it morbid curiosity that led me to see how someone imagined this all might turn out. Learning through fiction – one of my favorite activities.

What is notable about the story?

I’ve started and deleted a starting sentence to this section 3 times, because I do not think I can do justice to the raw emotion that this story made me feel. Fear, despair, hopelessness – if you want to experience what the aftermath of a truly deadly and uncontrollable pandemic might feel like, hoo boy this is the book for you. It’s just so unbelievably fucking BLEAK. I almost stopped reading after the “theme park masquerading as a humane children euthanasia machine” because…jesus h tapdancing christ just so fucking DARK.

Nagamatsu’s ability to make you feel these emotions as if you are there is equal parts remarkable and horrifying. You too could be standing behind a line of security guards as your terminally ill child takes their final ride on the suicide coaster. I walked away from this book bruised and emotionally damaged, and I would be mad except that was the intention so A++ I guess.

Was anything not so great?

This is a book that will speak to everyone differently depending on the type of loss and trauma they have experienced. I’ve been teaching through this pandemic in a state that refuses to keep my students or I safe. It’s an every person for themselves atmosphere, and I’ve been double masking and hand sanitizing to the point that my hands hurt because of how dry they are. In a pandemic where almost 900,000 people have died in the United States alone, I find myself in classrooms of 20-30 students, 30% of which are masked (at best), rotating out for a new group every hour as the periods change. If we go remote, we lose funding. Mask mandates are against the law. Blended learning is not an option anymore, also with a funding loss threat.

So reading this book made me feel even more hopeless than I already do. Omicron is racing through anyone is can infect – how would any of this be different if the virus was one that made your brain turn into a spleen and your spleen into a lung like the Arctic virus in this story? How fast would we respond? Could we respond? At what point would the husband and I stay home, leave our jobs, hunker down and try to escape the sickness? Could we afford to? Could we afford not to? Everything I’ve seen over the past two years tells me that we’re not ready. Not even close.

If you are someone who has been affected by this pandemic, who has lost someone, who has battled their way through – the thing that makes this book so great is also what makes it not so great. You might want to think about waiting to read this one until those feelings are less raw, until we find COVID-19 in the rearview.

What’s the verdict?

This book is traumatic content in a traumatic time. I have to give it 5 stars on Goodreads because it was beautifully written and evocative. But this shit is POTENT so tread carefully if this is one you’ve been thinking about reading. If I read this 5 years ago it wouldn’t have affected me the same way it did now. Have tissues nearby, don’t read before bed, and set an appointment with your therapist if you’re going to take this journey.

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