Rodrigo Márquez Tizano’s debut novel...is a kaleidoscopic take on love and loss and longing, written in a voice that is sharp and cynical yet somehow without despair. ... a vivid piece of social satire, distraction rewired through the lens of oppression as a mechanism of control. That we recognize ourselves in it is entirely the point ... one of the pleasures of Jakarta is the way it continually upends our expectations
... one of those rare superb novels that are hard to get into but reward you for trying. Twenty pages into it, I was still confused about what I was reading ... a dense narrative that mixes science fiction, horror, adventure, and a touch of literary fiction into a story that never allows the reader to get comfortable ... is a bit disjointed at times, but it soon becomes evident that the incoherence is purposeful; it becomes a tool that allows Tizano to convey the atmosphere of the city and the narrator’s bizarre reality ... This sense of discomfort is perhaps Jakarta’s greatest accomplishment: it gets under your skin and stays there, making you uncomfortable about many little things, some of which you can’t immediately identify ... Besides the ever-present sense of anxiety, there are passages in which Tizano fully engages with various genres, which in the end make this novel one in which fans of a variety of genres will find something to enjoy ... Tizano manages to deliver creepy, gory images with great economy of language ... philosophical morsels enhance the storytelling and allow Tizano to flex a different set of writing muscles ... Any discussion of Jakarta would be incomplete with mentioning Thomas Bunstead’s outstanding translation. Given the amount of strange language used here, translating this book could not have been an easy task. Furthermore, this novel signals the arrival of a unique, important voice on the American literary landscape. Jakarta is an imaginary cultural narrative that can easily be seen as an exaggerated, fictionalized version of the truth ... Readers who have been craving a different take on the apocalypse would be remiss to skip this one.
Outraged and outrageous, disgusted and disgusting, every bit a miniature labyrinth in itself, Jakarta offers a way of seeing, over its 160 pages ... With the splattery verve of a horror writer, Tizano guides readers through his narrator's experience gathering diseased corpses and slaughtering rats...But Jakarta is horror-touched rather than horror itself, with beguiling short chapters--running from a few lines to a couple of pages, without paragraph breaks--and a mad variety of interests. One burst of prose might consider the history of infections over centuries, quoting fictitious journals from original European invaders, who let disease implement the hard work of conquest. The next might hilariously survey the fervor for a made-up team sport in Atlantika in the days before the final outbreak, or recall the nun whose geography lessons years ago inspired the narrator to fantasize about unknowable Jakarta. To show it all at once, Tizano dares readers to get a little lost.
There are elements of science fiction within the narrative, along with a smidgen of body horror. But this is the kind of novel where reality itself seems to be breaking down along with the narrative; readers of Jeff VanderMeer’s Ambergris novels or Samuel R. Delany’s phantasmagorical epic Dhalgren will find plenty to delight in here ... not always an easy book to read: It takes place in the shifting head space of a character living in a world whose geography — and whose very epistemology — seems to be in a state of constant flux. One could also make a comparison here to the fiction of Ben Marcus, which has a similar fixation on the ways in which language can be altered for bleak narrative effect. But the rewards that come from reading Jakarta are manifold, and relate to the new territory its author carves out. This is Tizano’s first novel, ably translated by Thomas Bunstead, but he has the boldness of someone who’s been at it for decades. It’s the beginning of a promising literary career.
... a feverishly depicted panorama of a city laid low by a series of surreal events and misfortunes ... Lacking a clear or typical trajectory, this short novel is dense with imagery and boundless imagination, creating a vividly grotesque reality for those who exist within its society: the disillusioned gamblers, the cleanup crews, the bureaucrats, and the Z-bug’s dead. Blending the wildly dystopian with the mundanity of the everyday, this time-jumping narrative is a bolt of originality from a writer to watch.
The novel’s milieu evokes Philip K. Dick at his gloomiest, and the narrator’s mood can be as defeated as anybody’s in Atwood or Orwell. Its style is unique to Tizano, however ... The nonlinear approach can befuddle, and though translator Bunstead ably stabilizes the tone, stray plot threads can be hard to parse. The title partly refers to a code name for the narrator, and the story invites readings as an allegory for our loss of identity in the face of social and epidemiological threats. Clear lessons are in short supply, though ... An assured but challenging anti-narrative, its offbeat structure evoking a world slipped off its axis.