In an acute translation by Lisa Dillman, [the narrator's] excavation draws on his memories, but also on the documentaries and scholarly studies that sought to explain the freakish episode, giving a gripping metaphysical dimension to the horror story ... In a manner that resembles the startling allegorical inventions of J.G. Ballard, Mr. Barba thrillingly assails the myth of childhood innocence, showing childhood to be both more euphoric and more savage than anyone had imagined—a foreign country that the rational adult mind can never fully comprehend.
A Luminous Republic employs a narrative device often used by Kurt Vonnegut, which presents the primary event of the story as a real event, references it as if the reader has surely heard about it, discusses it at length in discursive, obfuscating ways, before finally arriving at it in the final pages of an almost inevitable anti-climax. The technique is supposed to amplify the suspense, but instead ends up deflating it ... Barba is deftly capable of insights ... And that’s the thing about A Luminous Republic: its melancholic mood and contemplative tone are interesting, engaging, and lovely to read. Barba is clearly a gifted writer with a generous sensibility. So although the characters aren’t as well developed as its premise, it remains a novel that thoughtfully and compassionately considers people and as a result feels utterly human as a whole.
It’s a wonderfully creepy and authentically different example of Modern Weird ... We begin in the lulling, judicious, cerebral yet emotive first-person voice of our unnamed narrator ... Barba’s prose relies heavily on rich and poignant aphorisms from its sensitive and self-doubting narrator ... forceful symbolic language embedded in action...imbues what might otherwise be a simplistic tale of bad-seed kids with haunting and haunted allegorical power ... Ultimately, Barba proclaims, we all move through enforced patterns toward unknown fates.