Korean mini book reviews #2

It’s been ages since I posted Korean book reviews, but I really like the idea to write two or three paragraphs about the Korean books I read, so I will continue this series. Here are four

재능의 불시착 by 박소연

I really think that it is impossible to not love this collection of short stories. All the stories in this book felt very relatable, and I was feeling all along that the author is someone who understands people’s daily struggles at work, with their family, and mostly, with themselves.

The stories cover a wide variety of work-related topics like paternity leave, harassment, or dealing with stubborn colleagues. Some stories made me feel really mad against a character, some felt extremely satisfying, and some were more emotional, especially those about the ”unsung heroes” of the last chapter.

This was a great, addictive read, once I started a story, I could not put the book down. I highly recommend it!

The level was on the easy side, but I found that some stories were more difficult than others. For example, stories that were mainly focused on work at a company (like the one on colleague Andrew) were more difficult to read than the ones that were more about daily life (like the one about paternity leave).

초급 한국어 by 문지혁

There are some aspects of the book that I absolutely loved, and some that bothered me a little. This book is described as an autobiographical novel, and we follow the author’s daily life at New York as he was teaching Korean at a beginner level in an institute.

I found the parts on Korean language extremely entertaining, funny and relatable. There are also reflexions on names, and how they can or cannot be translated, all of this illustrated by memorable anecdotes. I also loved how Korean and teaching Korean summoned thoughts of the past, of the family, and more precisely, of the author’s mother.

Unfortunately, there were parts that I did not like as much, especially everything related to writing and becoming a writer. To me, these parts felt a bit narcissistic and too self-centred, and it did not bring much to the novel. And speaking of novel, the book actually did not feel like one. It felt more like reading a collection of short essays about the author’s experience. If something is sold to me as fiction, as opposed to a collection of essays, I expect more in terms of structure, plot and characters.

As for the Korean level, this book was very easy to read, and I recommend it to Korean learners. The parts on teaching Korean will feel relatable and easy to read, and the essay-like form of the novel makes it also easier to read as the book is divided into small sections. It is also very short (less than 200 pages).

복수를 합시다 by 배상민

I did not really “read” this book, I listened to the audio version on Welaaa. It is a very short book (the audio version is only 5 hours and a half long), but extremely engrossing. It’s funny, suspenseful and exciting, especially if you like stories of vengeance as much as I do. It is rather on the lighter side though, no violence or scary murder in it.

The story is really inventive and well written. I must say that I did not really like the end, and overall, the last third was less interesting than the rest, but overall, the book was still a very entertaining experience. I listened to it over the course of 2 days because I could not put it down.

I found the audio very easy to listen to, so I am assuming that the book must be easy to read as well. The audiobook was excellent, the voice actors are really good and the overall quality is top-notch.

행성어 서점 by 김초엽

This author is very popular in Korea and all her books are bestsellers. However, 행성어 서점 was not for me, and despite my efforts, I really cannot understand why her books are so beloved. The author is specialised in SF short stories, but while her stories incorporate typical SF elements like time travel or extraterrestrial life, they don’t really belong to speculative fiction, a genre that would speculate on what would happen if we had access to this advanced science and technology.

Rather than speculative, I find that her stories are more contemplative, but the message that is at the core of each story felt naive and immature to me. I am always waiting for more, but the story simply ends, and I don’t feel like reading it brought me anything.

The author has ideas, but instead of building a story around it, she just explains her idea through a character. Sometimes we have an intriguing beginning and I wonder what will happen. But nothing happens because the idea behind the story will be explained by a character or the narrator instead of being used for a plot.

There are other things that bothered me, but overall, I just think that Kim Choyeop’s books are not for me. Her collections of short stories all receive extremely positive reviews overall, so don’t hesitate to pick one of them if you are interesting in reading contemporary Korean SF.

The book is not easy to read because of the SF elements and the fact that the author does not really describe the setting at the beginning of each story. You have to continue reading to understand what the setting is, which I find could be confusing and added to the difficulty of reading in a foreign language.