Reviews for Flux : a novel

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Not yet 30, Chong bursts forth, Athena-like, with an impossible-to-simply-label masterpiece that melds various genres—from Bildungsroman to speculative fiction, coming-of-age drama to epic tragedy, crime documentary to noirish thriller—into an intricate literary mosaic. Iterative repetition provides the novel’s structure in both its characters’ identities and Chong’s actual writing. The days just before Christmas become a transformative portal in 20-year increments: at eight, Bo’s life is upended by the sudden death of his mother; at 28, Brandon’s abrupt loss of one job leads to an unprecedented opportunity; at 48, a mute Blue is temporarily gifted with the power of speech in preparation for testifying against a fallen business mogul. All are versions of the same (anti-)hero, mired in Groundhog Day-like revisitings of pivotal moments, albeit with each new repeat revealing a little more of what happened and what will happen. Meanwhile, from youth to middle age, the hero is continuously haunted by the violent episodes of a two-season 1980s detective series starring a torn-leather-jacket-wearing Asian American protagonist. The fate of the actor and the actor’s estranged son will continue to disturb, antagonize, and haunt the hero for decades. Chong stuns readers with a multipronged, multilayered, multivoiced, magnificent enigma.

Publishers Weekly
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Three timelines converge in Chong’s mind-bending debut, a subtle and moving exploration of grief and pop culture. After eight-year-old Bo’s mother dies in a traffic accident, his mind keeps flashing to scenes from his favorite TV show for comfort. Brandon, 28, loses his job, falls down an elevator shaft, and emerges with a mysterious new employment opportunity. And Blue, 48, temporarily recovers the ability to speak after almost two decades of being mute to give a tour of the abandoned corporate building where he blew the whistle on the deaths of three employees. Woven throughout are detailed essays on fictional ’80s show Raider from the analytical but relentlessly forgiving point of view that only a superfan could have. How do these disparate pieces fall into place? Time travel, partly. The author slowly and cleverly illuminates the connections between the show and the characters, highlighting the regret and loss all three have experienced. Chong writes with such subtlety and skill that readers won’t realize the true nature of the speculative mystery at play until they’re already waist-deep in these interlocking narratives. The result is a gorgeous speculative gem for fans of Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s This Is How You Lose the Time War. Agent: Danielle Bukowski, Sterling Lord Literistic (Mar.)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A marketing exec unknowingly makes a devil’s bargain when he’s offered a job that’s too good to be true. More literary alchemy than timey-wimey SF, Chong’s debut novel falls right on the emotional bubble between the cult film Donnie Darko and Charles Yu’s noodle-bender Interior Chinatown (2020). The narrative throughline pivots on one very strange day for 28-year-old Brandon, who's half Korean, queer, and confused most of the time. Working for one of America’s last magazines, he’s not really surprised when he’s fired a few days before Christmas. After he uncharacteristically buys an expensive handbag and makes a pass at the salesclerk, he falls down an elevator shaft. Then he’s offered a job by Lev, a fast-talking raconteur who works for Flux, a Silicon Valley–flavored startup founded by enigmatic Io Emsworth, a doppelgänger for convicted charlatan Elizabeth Holmes promising an equally nebulous breakthrough. By the time these machinations start revolving, Chong has already broken the timeline. When 8-year-old Bo loses his mother in a car accident, he becomes obsessed with the 1980s detective show Raider. The show’s legacy is both groundbreaking for star Antonin Haubert’s portrayal of an Asian police detective and “the most racist fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” according to Lev, compounded by its star’s spectacular fall from grace. Meanwhile, Blue, 48, is navigating life after two months spent in a coma and a tenuous relationship with his ex and their daughter. Every day, Brandon comes to work, eats his breakfast, and then…he doesn’t know what happens, but he’s losing days and weeks at a time. In a story about identity, our hero isn’t always the most sympathetic cast member even in a story flush with fakers. The fantastical elements lend intrigue, but Chong seems more interested in grief and the ways it shapes us than rewarming old chestnuts about art and the nature of blame. A paranoid and inventive cautionary tale about buying into someone else’s glitchy utopia. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.