Where Do We Go When All We Were Is Gone by Sequoia Nagamatsu [in Booklist]
Wacky and weird, writing and literature professor Sequoia Nagamatsu’s fiction debut is a 12-piece collection that defies easy categorization as an amalgam of sci-fi/fantasy, horror, and black comedy overlaid with ancient-to-contemporary Japanese myth and culture.
Nagamatsu’s atypical characters include the “Margaret Mead of the Kaiju [strange creatures] world” who gets eaten by Godzilla, a husband with an infinitely stretchable neck who tracks his cheating wife, a couple who use yokai (supernatural monsters) to re-create their dead daughter, the Peach Boy’s wife and Urashima Taro (a fisherman who rescued a turtle’s sons), and a dance-to-the-death-athon participant who headlines the title tale.
In spite of glimmers of ingenuity, originality, even whimsy, the ultimately uneven tales are more suggestive sketches than satisfying narratives. Readers, too, may prove self-selecting as the stories assume a strong familiarity with Japanese pop culture; uninitiated newbies seeking deeper understanding may tire of Googling names, terms, and references throughout.