The Plotters by Un-Su Kim

The new rising star of Korean literature pairs a unique wit with unconvincing pacing and characterisation in The Plotters

Book Review by Mika Cook | 05 Mar 2019
  • The Plotters by Un Su Kim
Book title: The Plotters
Author: Un-Su Kim (translated by Sora Kim-Russell)

Reseng is a contract killer, just another cog in the wheel of organised crime in a dystopian Seoul. Found in a garbage can as a baby, and raised to be a hitman by the grouchy ganster Old Raccoon, Reseng has never known any different. He receives his instructions from ‘the plotters’, and carries them out to the letter. However, when he breaks the rules, he soon begins to wonder who these shadowy mob bosses actually are.

Un-su Kim’s new noir thriller, The Plotters, reads almost like a collection of short stories, insights into Reseng’s mind, and his life as an assassin. It is cynical and witty, and much more self-observant than initially to be expected. Overall, Reseng has an interesting inner-dialogue; however, frustratingly, The Plotters struggles with female characters, in a manner all too familiar to those who read Murakami.

The female characters here are quirky, yet strangely objectified – the primary example being Old Raccoon’s librarian whose make-up ‘made her look odd and simpleminded’, yet ‘other than being cross-eyed, she wasn’t bad looking’. Following this observation, Reseng both manages to suggest surgery to correct her eyes and thus appearance, and offer to marry her. The novel additionally struggles with pacing, with the main events indicated in the blurb not taking place until a good three-quarters through the novel.

Lauded as ‘the rising star of Korean literature’, Un-su Kim’s voice is certainly unique in its wit. However, given its struggle with pacing, and generally with writing female characters, it's hard to be convinced that The Plotters lives up to this reputation.

Fourth Estate, out now, £12.99