Joining a growing cohort of notable Korean imports, Ha’s dazzling, vaguely intertwined collection of 10 stories is poised for Western acclaim ... PEN/Heim Translation Fund–awarded Hong enables English-language readers access into Ha’s disturbing, unpredictable, oneiric—yet all too recognizable—world in which heat stifles, waste rots, and bonds break; yet, for most, life goes on.
... [a] wonderfully unsettling book of 10 masterful short stories ... Each story is like a rollercoaster ride ... What makes these stories so powerful is Ha’s ability to reveal, often microscopically, the slight, almost imperceptible slippage between the actual events and the protagonists’ perception of them. Eventually, whatever bonds exist between the protagonist and her or his reality are torn asunder, leaving the individual vulnerable and hopeless ... The constant slippage between the protagonists’ perceptions and the reality of the things around them carries through all the stories. The outcome of that ever shifting slippage is what keeps our attention ... Ha fully inhabits her very different protagonists ... feels as contemporary ... I would like to believe that Flowers of Mold — which has been translated into sparkling English by Janet Hong — receives the reception it deserves and this leads to her other books being translated into English, introducing her works to a larger worldwide audience.
The ten well-crafted works of short fiction collected in award-winning Korean author Ha Seong-nan’s Flowers of Mold are not so much horror stories as just horrible ... Ha’s [stories] are mostly characterized by atmosphere: they make the skin-crawl—not by overly explicit description, although there can be that too, but rather by imbuing her characters with a certain inescapable creepiness ... The stories, it must be said, are uncomfortable if not unpleasant: some readers will enjoy the frisson they deliver, while others may admire their craftsmanship without necessarily finding them to their taste ... Janet Hong’s translation deserves more than a mention. It is fluent to a degree that one might never guess it is a translation at all.
A subtle and strange collection that puts people under the microscope. These stories are as literary and oblique as they come, and yet: there is still obsession, violence, and a pervasive feeling of powerlessness. The people of Ha’s fiction are nameless entities bouncing off their surroundings in near total obscurity. Depicted in short, declarative sentences she builds scenes and fills them with detail with a war reporter’s nonchalance ... While this may not please genre readers looking for the purest devotion to gore and the supernatural—those with a taste for the literary will find a strange and intriguing voice at work in Flowers of Mold. And as horror and art continue to steal and mix with each other, I’m sure we’ll find more—on both sides of the aisle—that continue to push the envelope. Flowers of Mold pushes that envelope with its impressive style and stifling isolation, creating something that’s as strange as it is incisive.
The characters in this stellar collection from Ha, her American debut, live at the edge of normalcy, flirting with the strange and unsettling while going about their everyday routines ... Ha sets many of her narratives in the unbearable heat of spring and summer, which adds to the environment and engages the senses ... This impressive collection reveals Ha’s close attention to the eccentricities of life, and is sure to earn her a legion of new admirers.
Ha has a gift for infusing elements of the fantastic into her tales of unremarkable people ... Like those of the American auteur David Lynch, Ha’s characters seem to exist in another dimension ... Even though this is a book of short stories, it’s definitely a page-turner, as readers encounter one strange, unsettling saga after another, always wondering, 'What can possibly happen now?' ... If you're looking for a book that will make you gasp out loud, you’ve found it.