Flux by Jinwoo Chong (book review).

There’s a fascinating juxtaposition of high-tech thriller and noir detective tale in Jinwoo Chong’s debut novel ‘Flux’. Three strands of the tale are woven together with references to the hard-boiled 80s detective show ‘Raider’, whose iconic storylines are seemingly reflected in the events of the novel’s protagonists Bo, Brandon and Blue.

Their love of the show permeates their thoughts and adds layers to the flashback sections as they think back not only on their favourite episodes and scenes, but also on their life at the time they first watched the show. It’s such a fabulous way to tie the story together and, by the time I was half-way through the book, I was beginning to think that ‘Raider’ had been one of my favourite childhood shows, too.

Flux is the name of a revolutionary technology, an everlasting power supply in battery form that was destined to take the world by storm and make its inventors into the world’s richest people. But, twenty years later, Blue is looking back at lawsuits, unexplained deaths, bankruptcy and plea deals. Why and how this happened is revealed slowly, one step at a time, through the eyes of Brandon, who was there at the start.

This is an addictive book, keeping me guessing from one chapter to the next. Brandon seems confused a lot of the time. There’s obviously something weird happening at his work place and he’s losing track of time. The prose is smooth and lyrical as we follow the twists and turns of Brandon’s misfortunes and try to get to grips with the secrets behind Flux.

There are lots of interesting background characters who may or may not be of significance, the driver and the receptionist with the long earrings for example. Writer Jinwoo Chong has a way of creating his supporting cast in a realistic way that hints at other lives going on outside the story.

The opening scene in which Blue is preparing to appear in a documentary about the Flux scandal sets the scene and gives us an idea of what will happen, without spoiling the story of what happens to Brandon as he lives through it. There are so many twists and turns, it’s difficult to know what’s going to happen to take us to the finale.

From the time he is recruited into the company making Flux, nothing seems certain anymore. His boss, Lev, is either very generous or possibly creepy or maybe just hiding something. He takes control of Brandon’s life and becomes more menacing as the book progresses.

There are so many interesting background things happening, too, things that appear related to the plot but that only gradually reveal their significance. What became of the actors who appeared in ‘Raider’? What happened to the elevator? Why has Brandon lost his voice? As the threads are tied together it becomes more and more satisfying.

This is an impressively complex story, especially for a first novel and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Gareth D Jones

February 2023

(pub: Melville House Publishing, 2023. 352 page hardback. Price: £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-68589-034-6)

check out website: www.mphbooks.com

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