In one of my bookstore shelf crawls, I came across I’m waiting for you by Kim Bo-Young, which has been translated from Korean into English. I do love a good translation and the blurb about a couple missing their wedding date because of relativistic travel had me hooked.
I thought it was a short story collection, but really it was two stories.
The first was part was the to-be-husband writing letters, explaining the circumstances of his life. He decides to hop on a ship that would orbit the sun at relativistic speeds, so the time he has to wait for his bride-to-be is much shorter (for him at least). But alas, various hiccups with both his and her journey, keep them apart. Years pass for them and thousands or maybe millions of years pass on Earth. So it’s not safe to stay and wait for the other, as rebellions, ecological disaster and perhaps the end of humanity pass as they continue to travel through time. Broken up by the second story in the book, we get to read the letters from the Bride-to-be. She faces being a refugee on a space ship, going through various fluctuations of political instability that lead to her dehumanisation and exploitation.
The story was really great, and I really enjoyed reading all the first letters and then the second, seeing the missing parts of the puzzle falling into place. The narrators are just really lovely, their voices really compelling. I like the technology that develops to allow them to persevere in their desire to reunite. It’s just enough to make their journeys continue to be plausible and give the sense of time passing.
The characters return over and over again to the port where they were supposed to meet, just failing to catch each other at the right time.
The second story was a bit meta. One of my absolutely favourite things is taking mythology or religion and doing something fun with it. This is exactly what this did, but with the mythology from Buddhism and other religions that I’m not familiar with (the glossary at the end of the book was enlightening). I kind of see it as if the Big Bang was consciousness of the universe. It came into being and split itself overtime, creating everything that the universe now is. The beings that inhabit the ‘Dark Realm’ go down to Earth to learn and experience new things. Overtime this went from the very early plants and animals to humans. But some of the beings have become ‘corrupted’ and have to seek out the source of this corruption.
It is very philosophical and strange, but really really enjoyable and interesting. I’m trying to think of an equivalent story, but really can’t. Maybe a bit of Lord of Light, but not really. Same sort of use of gods and attributes, but a much different plot and journey. Anyway, it was a also just a brilliant read. The language was really beautiful, really appreciate the time and effort that went into the translation. I feel like the original must be equally poetic and flowing.
I think I need to track down any other translations of Kim Bo-Young, as her approach to stories is very much my vibe. 10/10 would travel at relativistic speeds to track down more stories.