... a brilliant collection of short stories that run the gamut from intense thrillers to introspective reflections on pain ... [a] visceral gut punch of a collection that mostly takes place within the troubled minds of its protagonists. Young-ha Kim is exceedingly good at distorting reality and telling stories about how meaningless reality truly is. This is everyday surrealism with a sharp edge. In this collection, serial killers are sympathetic and traumatized children are spoiled brats who heartlessly traumatize two generations, one older and one younger. As bleak as this collection is, a bright ray of light shines through. That ray is called 'talent' and Young-ha Kim is an author who deserves to be very famous.
... filled with the kind of sublime, galvanizing stories that strike like a lightning bolt, searing your nerves ... It's easy enough to see why Kim has won every Korean literature award and is acclaimed as the best writer of his generation; pick up this book and find out for yourself.
Kim Young-ha recognizes, and challenges, [the] cultural sympathy for the serial killer with his recent collection of short stories, Diary of a Murderer ... Obsession—that relatable character flaw—rather than a twisted morality, becomes the reader’s uneasy point of identification with Kim’s protagonists. A similarly myopic self-interest surfaces even within Kim’s most altruistic-seeming characters ... Kim’s use of pastiche—diary entries, jotted-down notes, snippets from a recorder Byeongsu wears around his neck—to re-create Byeongsu’s interactions with his dementia draws readers deeply into the protagonist’s voice. This peripatetic self-awareness, patchworked together through his disease, makes him a compelling narrator ... As he drifts in and out of his memories, readers’ various interpretations of the truth will act as a Rorschach test—assessing the limits of their faith in him. But Kim asks, compellingly, why readers might be so eager to believe him in the first place.
... captures the disorientation and claustrophobia-like sense of a world out of reach that comes with Alzheimer's well ... 'Diary of a Murderer' is strong and long enough to be a stand-alone, and as such stands in some contrast to the other three stories here -- which are fine enough, as such, but in the shadow of this one, much bigger story, come across more as padding ... a decent collection, with the more substantial title-piece the stand-out and perhaps not quite enough variety to the quartet.
...offbeat and darkly rewarding fiction ... The book opens with the titular novella, told from the point-of-view of a 'retired' serial killer ... as a writer, [[Kim] ] seems uninterested in the genre or pulp potential of his premise. Instead, he employs the idea of an unrepentant killer with a rapidly deteriorating mental state as a means to ruminate on the nature of memory, familial responsibility, and evil ... The rest of the collection features three shorter works that leave behind thriller trappings for more existential and absurd territory, which proves even more satisfying ... Unconventional and acerbic, Young-ha Kim’s stories possess a knack for black humor as their protagonists find themselves in increasingly degrading situations. Diary of a Murderer feels like a stellar entry point into the writer’s distorted world, and makes clear why his examinations of contemporary urban life and its many contradictions have earned him comparisons to the likes of Albert Camus and Haruki Murakami.
These tales of obsession reverberate with the hard, cool, and dryly comic voice of one of South Korea’s most versatile writers ... The other three stories retain the first one’s chilliness (sustained nicely with help from Lee’s translation), which comes across somewhat diffused in different, but no less jolting, contexts ... Kim’s gifts may need a bigger canvas than the short form allows to spread his wings. Still, this is a lively, enthralling introduction to his eclectic artistry.
This dark, innovative story collection is rife with grim plots and unreliable narrators ... The collection, with its universally bleak stories, suffers from diminishing returns, but the title story is exceptional. The best stories are engrossing and disturbing, and are excellent showcases of Kim’s talent.