If you like gritty, dark, and violent sci-fi, futuristic thrillers, Seoul Survivors by Naomi Foyle is just the book for you. Foyle works cloning, meteoric disaster, narcotic drug usage, depraved sex, and robotic cyborg creatures into her plot and that’s just to name a few of the topics covered.
Seoul Survivors revolves around five main characters, Syndey – the model, Damien – the drug smuggler, Johnny – the assassin turned wheeler/dealer, Mee Hee – the grieving mother, and Dr. Kim – the evil brains of the operation. Their paths often touch or slam together as they are manipulated and seduced by their own personal carrots dangled at the end of their respective sticks. Syndey is mesmerized by visions of a rainbow world of peace, love, and perfect babies – the Peonies, that Dr. Kim is selling. Damien is looking for the big payoff so he can escape the effects of the impending doom of the meteor, Lucifer’s Hammer; he only needs to donate sperm for Dr. Kim’s Peonies. Johnny relishes in violence, power, and abuse as he claws his way to the top while working for Dr. Kim. Mee Hee mourning the loss of her newborn baby and threatened by her husband aches for the baby, safety, and security that Dr. Kim promises to provide her. And finally we have Dr. Kim, perhaps the most ambiguous of all Foyle’s characters. Is she really a benevolent nutty professor or is she really a Dr. Evil, bent on creating a perfect cloned society at all and any costs in order to survive the devastation of Lucifer’s Hammer? Foyle keeps Dr. Kim complex throughout the book and even by the end of the book it is still debatable and perhaps quite subjective how the reader will feel about her. Although the main characters are complex and well thought out, I would have liked to know a little more about some of them; the treatment of their backgrounds was unequal and left me wanting more.
The world these characters grind away in is rich with references to Korean places, food, mindsets, and sound. I could almost taste and smell the kimchee. I could almost feel the swish of Mee Hee’s eyelashes as she lowered them in shy modesty during a conversation. I felt the sweat from Syndey and Johnny after a hearty bout of sex. Foyle worked the futuristic, techno gadgets so seamlessly into the fabric of the story that I began to wonder if they actually already existed now.
The majority of the book is suspenseful and there is a sense of foreboding and breath holding throughout. I kept waiting for “it” to happen. The pacing may be the major issue I had with the writing in Seoul Survivors. Everything was building up, and building up, and building up, and building up – ok, you get the idea. Then crash, boom, “it” came and was over in just a few pages. There was just a bit too much “build up” for such a quick, climatic ending. (Was this a parallel to the act of sex in general?) So basically – not enough action throughout, then just a few short moments of a careening car, violent sex act, and murder. Then it’s over.
There is a short, sweet, and simple epilogue that leaves us with a pleasantly feel-good vibe, which I actually liked because it was in such stark contrast to the unsettling and disturbing events leading up to it throughout the book.
All in all, I enjoyed this fresh and exciting book – from the bleak,dark places it took us to the highest, trippiest – Peoniest – places. 8 out of 10 Liams.
Many Thanks as always to Jo Fletcher Books for providing me with this stellar review copy!