If you’re a short-story lover — as I am — you’ll be impressed with Nagamatsu’s meticulous craft. If you crave sustained character and plot arcs, well, you’ll have to settle for admiring the well-honed prose, poignant meditations and unique concepts. Hardly small pleasures ... The reader might best approach the book like a melancholy Black Mirror season ... This is a lovely though bleak book. Humanity has long turned to humor in our darkest moments, but levity feels absent even in a chapter narrated by a stand-up comedian. That said, the somber tone unifies the disparate characters and story lines ... a welcome addition to a growing trend of what we might call the 'speculative epic': genre-bending novels that use a wide aperture to tackle large issues like climate change while jumping between characters, timelines and even narrative modes ... Nagamatsu squarely hits both the 'literary' and 'science fiction' targets, offering psychological insights in lyrical prose while seriously exploring speculative conceits ... a book of sorrow for the destruction we’re bringing on ourselves. Yet the novel reminds us there’s still hope in human connections, despite our sadness.
... an absorbing and heartbreaking contemplation on the very nature of life, death, and what it means to be human. Stretching across eons and worlds, these stories provide the power of short narratives, while each builds on the larger text. The novel-in-stories is a form that many writers attempt; Nagamatsu clearly ranks among the masters. Beyond the sheer joy of reading a well-formed text, this novel also presents massive themes in smaller, intimate stories. This form allows us to become immersed in the details of characters’ everyday lives, individual struggles, and personal grief, leaving us willing to absorb the larger whole rather than being alienated ... This is not a book to read straight through (as I did)—it will make you weep—but it is a book as full of hope, humanity, and possibility as the grief and loss of climate disaster and pandemic laid unflinchingly bare.
Written in the years immediately before Covid-19, How High We Go in the Dark seems unnervingly prescient ... It is entirely possible that certain phrases and scenarios have been tweaked and highlighted during an editing process that will have taken place during lockdown. Yet the overall mood and tone of Nagamatsu’s fictional future is all the more affecting for being so much in sympathy with our lived present. The fact that he steers clear of the sensationalist and overfamiliar tropes of generic apocalypse, opting, instead, for a more subtle and unerringly humane response, gives the book both authority and pathos ... There is an argument that a novel constructed from what are, effectively, individual short stories will lack overall narrative focus. There is an equal and opposite argument that what might be lost in terms of a unified story arc is more than adequately compensated for by the rich, complex labyrinth of possibilities that this more exploratory approach allows. Nagamatsu’s skill lies not only in his evocative imagining of alternative realities, but also in how he builds bridges between them. What starts as a series of snapshots is assembled into a glimmering montage of interconnectedness ... Like a Polaroid photograph, How High We Go in the Dark takes time to show its true colours. When they finally appear, the effect is all the more dazzling ... How High We Go in the Dark is a truly genre-transcending work in which sense of wonder and literary acumen are given boundless opportunity to shine.