In this winner of the Munhakdongne Novel Award, South Korea's most prestigious literary prize, Mr. Kong is an office worker who must look after Cabinet 13. Although it looks like any other filing cabinet, this one is filled with files on the "symptomers," humans whose strange abilities and bizarre experiences might just mark the emergence of a new species.
... a book that pivots from a catalog of strange phenomena into a story of bureaucratic intrigue with some shockingly visceral moments. It isn’t a book that ever feels predictable ... While the events depicted veer into the fantastical...the tone in which they’re recounted is intentionally dry ... The way that the plot of The Cabinet slowly coheres is one of its most impressive qualities. The encounters and observations that seem arbitrary at first eventually converge into a reality-bending narrative with detours into paranoia, satire, and body horror ... Unfortunately, the second half of the novel also incorporates a more familiar plot—one in which Mr. Kwon is approached by sinister forces asking him to take part in a bit of espionage and betray his supervisor, Professor Kwon. It’s unclear how much of the paranoid-thriller element of this subplot is meant to be taken at face value, right up until a shockingly violent scene that feels out of step with what’s come before. It’s the small details that make The Cabinet compelling, though, and this novel has them in abundance. The lives of the symptomers that Mr. Kong monitors are compelling on their own. Like them, this book eludes easy description, and at its best it charts out its own distinctive corner of fiction to call home.
Science Fiction can take itself too seriously, so it is great to read an offbeat genre novel and they don't come much more leftfield than The Cabinet. It stands on similar ground as A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, filtered through the macabre gaze of Chuck Palahniuk ... The book has a very dry sense of humour ... The book starts to take some dark twists and turns. The humour steps aside to be replaced by humanity ... A mention to translator Halbert must be given as you feel the authentic voice of Kim has been captured and put on the page.