Author: Myung-hoon Bae
280 pages | 210*145mm
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|>>>This book is written in Korean.|
About This Book
Beanstalk, a 674-story skyscraper which is 2,409 meters high, is a city-state with some 500,000 residents. The building is the fictional virtual world described in rising novelist Bae Myung-hoon's new novel "Tower."
Better known as an science fiction (SF) novelist, Bae uses his social and humanistic approach to depict various types of people in this fictional and "three-dimensional" space based on a solid structure that uses the metaphor of modern civilization.
Beanstalk comes from the fairly tale, "Jack and the Beanstalk," but the author actually took the idea from the elevator construction scenes of future skyscraper Burj Dubai in a television documentary.
In Bae's imagination, the city-state appears as an urban, high-tech construction with a strict class divide. The skyscraper is depicted as a "three-dimensional" structure, as opposed to the "two-dimensional" outside world.
But the book is more focused on socio-scientific imagination, rather than the engineering and technological approach which explains the construction of the building.
Beanstalk's transport is limited to elevators that are complicatedly intertwined and symbolized as state-of-the-art vehicles. But at the same time, they are inconvenient, as people must transfer several times to reach a different zone.
This unrealistic and exclusive sphere is a perfect state, equipped with everything from hospitals and real estate to borders between zones. They have problems with foreign immigrants, real estate, wars, diplomacy and love affairs.
The novel consists of six stories that take place in Beanstalk. In the modern "Tower of Babel," residents are just ordinary people living in a neighborhood, but make trouble with each other and sometimes struggle for power.
Bae's imagination is quite explosive, creating allegories that are easily associated with Korean society through various stereotypical characters mixed with humor and wit.
Professors working at the power research institute in Beanstalk embark on a new project to reveal the power structure at the covert request of the opposition party camp just ahead of the mayoral election. Chung, head researcher of the project, uses bottles of expensive liquor that are widely given as gifts. He attaches electronic tags to the bottles of liquor to track how they circulate in the upper class and finally converge at the core of power.
The tower is called "Babel" by neighboring countries, as its high-quality virtual reality seems to be outwardly inhumane and an overly commercialized modern capitalistic symbol.
However, Beanstalkians gain access to each other through "blue public mailboxes," which were voluntarily created by residents. In this system, people deliver mail voluntarily to their neighbors.
The stories don't have a set time or space but include universal themes that can happen in any society.
The book not only lampoons modern civilized society but also humorously touches on the core of human stories and embraces it as it is.
"It is easy to lampoon the modern urban civilization but it is difficult to unfold the positive and hopeful stories within the civilization. What I think is an alternative is something like a life, exactly speaking, stories about how humans live in it," he said in a press release.
The 31-year-old author said that the novel is about ordinary people who have "a skeleton in their closet."
Educated at Seoul National University, he entered the literary scene with "Terrorist" in 2004 after receiving the literary award organized by the university newspaper. The following year, he won the prize with "Smart D" in a science technology literary contest.
He has written about 50 pieces of SF short stories through Webzines and genre magazines.
Although Bae is one of only a few SF novelists in Korea, his stories deliver hopeful messages through people.
His new novel doesn't tackle aliens or robots but is closer to social science than natural science. "I was born in 1978 and published the book in 2009, and I see the contemporaneousness just as much as I have lived. I saw the problems everybody feels in the same way and thought about it enough and wrote the alternative in my novel," he said.
-- Chung Ah-young, www.koreatimes.co.kr
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