A raw, intense novel about a high-end, girlfriend-experience prostitute and heroin addict who has just returned to her native New York City after more than a decade abroad?in Dubai, with a man she recalls only as the Sheikh.
In its equal treatment of its characters, the novel’s style is radically democratic. Rather than fleshing out what might, in another book, be central scenes, Faw provides fragment after fragment...The impression is of a life without a through line, propelled forward by habit ... The novel’s obsession with compulsive pleasure and the insufficiency of human relationships is reminiscent of Michel Houellebecq ... The reader is inside her head but stuck in a sort of antechamber, plied with signs of personality while waiting for an emotional vulnerability that never emerges. The implications of this distance are obvious: both reader and client hope to possess K more fully. But it also means that, at times, K reads like little more than a vehicle for glib observations. Without enough insight into her past or her motivations, it’s hard to know where she’s headed ... The sudden swerve into a revenge plot is as startling as a turn from realism into science fiction. Only in retrospect do we realize the extent to which we had been buying into a genre convention—the self-destructive woman’s inevitable doom.
The mystery does add a sense of urgency, but in the end, as the story jumps the tracks and everything gets suddenly bigger and brighter, the simple beauty of K.’s sluggish unwinding is lost in all the clamor ... Faw’s ability to use repetition as a tool is beautiful thing to withhold. Though Ultraluminous hums along with a speed-addled sort of energy, faster and faster as the reader becomes attuned to the rhythm of K.’s world, Faw uses the pace, and her blunt style of writing to create a false sense of, albeit bizarre, security ... Faw’s unyielding writing style, her tight rein over the book’s pace is breathtaking, and K. is a fascinating character, but Faw stumbles when she starts trying to answer the questions of why and what comes next. The end of the book, twenty pages of violent reckoning, blows up the pattern, but it feels unnecessary, a garish extroverted end to a book that reads best when it resides solely in the mind of its engrossing protagonist.