A sweeping novel that imagines an alternate secret history of Korea and the traces it leaves on the present—loaded with assassins and mad poets, RPGs and slasher films, pop bands and the perils of social media.
It’s a challenging read and yet wonderfully suspenseful, like watching a circus performer juggle a dozen torches; will one slip his agile hands? Park seeks to encompass the vast Korean diaspora, but he’s also fleeing realism, a personal diaspora, away from conventional forms ... Same Bed Different Dreams struts confidently across registers — lyrical, deadpan, acerbic, comedic — while doling out clues. Characters rotate in and out, some glimpsed in passing, their motives opaque ... Sprawling, stunning.
Park’s follow-up, Same Bed Different Dreams, arrives a full decade and a half later [after Personal Days], with all the heft, complexity and ambition such a lengthy interim suggests. The author has greatly expanded his literary scope and complicated his narrative technique, though certain fundamentals remain ... Braids three plots together in a bewilderingly layered structure ... Absurdly complex ... Although Same Bed Different Dreams is one of the most circuitously structured novels in recent memory, the reader is never confused about what’s happening in the practical sense. The path is always clear. It’s the connections between the disparate parts that make Same Bed Different Dreams succeed so powerfully yet enigmatically.
I can’t remember the last time I read a novel so thoroughly invested in coincidence — as a narrative feature, as a metaphysical puzzle, as the contrails left by history ... A supremely cool novel. Park commands an eye-popping array of cultural references ... The prose moves through the material like an Olympic diver slicing into the water, swift and splashless ... Am I a buzzkill for wishing this novel were more than cool? It can come across as too neat. Even the loose ends of plot — for example, a late-breaking twist about Soon’s wife — feel studiously nonchalant ... But absent some deeper conviction at its core, the novel can’t quite reach escape velocity; it ends up stuck in uneasy orbit around the theories he discards ... The range on display is exhilarating. And it makes you wonder: What would happen if he played for keeps?