How High We Go in the Dark (Hardcover, 2022, William Morrow) 4 stars

Beginning in 2030, a grieving archeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work …

A hard but beautiful read

5 stars

If I had known ahead of time what the structure and focus of this book was, I probably wouldn't have read it. That would have been my loss.

"How High We Go In the Dark" is a series of interconnected short stories set in the same world. This is not my favorite structural style: I prefer to follow a set of characters from beginning to end. Nagamatsu, though, has a rare talent for sketching out characters you can quickly attach to. I felt sorrowful every time I reached the end of a chapter and had to say goodbye.

In this way, the structure was a good fit for the world itself, and the story the author wanted to tell: one focused on death, loss, and how it transforms us. With some frequency, leaving a character at the end of their chapter meant watching them die.

This is one the most depressing novels I've ever read, but it also deeply creative, empathetic, hopeful, and beautiful. It was satisfying seeing the strands from earlier chapters weave their way through the later ones. In a lesser writer's hands, this novel would be unbearable, but in Nagamatsu's, it becomes something hard to bear, yet worth bearing.