Book Review: How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu.

Date Read: February 12, 2023

About the Book

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.

Beginning in 2030, a grieving archeologist 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 teenaged granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet.

From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to 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 resiliency of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe.

My Thoughts

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to review this book without giving away too much, because everyone needs to experience this book – okay, maybe everyone is too broad but I do think more people need to read it!

It was phenomenal and it is definitely on my list of top books of 2023! Before I get into my semi-coherent review, I do want give trigger warnings for pandemics, death, grief, suicide, euthanasia and the effects of climate change.

I guess I should say that when I first heard of this book I kind of didn’t give it a second thought. I should also mention that that was a t a time when a lot of my views were starting to change on issues such as climate change, and maybe reading How High We Go in the Dark would have helped. But at the same time it might not have had the same impact on my reading life.

Fast forward to the end of 2022 when several BookTubers had it on their favorites list. The more I heard about it, the more I was intrigued. I finally picked it up on a trip back from L.A. and I was hooked! If I hadn’t had to work the next day, I would have stayed up late to finish it. It has been a long time since a book has made me feel that way. Each time I put it down – and when I finished it – I could not stop thinking about it. It is thought-provoking and definitely packs a punch.

How High We Go in the Dark is told through a series of interconnected stories, with the common thread of this Arctic virus ravaging the world and the continual effects of climate change. While the novel deals with death and grief in a multitude of ways, there is an underlying thread of hope in each story.

I’ll admit that some of the stories were a little out there, but in the grand scheme of the novel they made sense. The last story brings everything full-circle and oh my gosh it is so freaking good!!! This book made me feel things in the best possible way and had me sobbing at some points.

I don’t know what else to say without spoiling the book, but if you can handle it, please read this book! Also, if you have any suggestions of books that are similar, please let me know. I am planning on picking up Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel soon.

I am looking forward to reading more from Sequoia Nagamatsu in the future!

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.


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