Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

In this interconnected short story collection, generations progressively further into the future attempt to deal with the impact of a devastating global pandemic. As death becomes an everyday reality, how will society adapt? How will we deal with the loss of children, of parents, of friends? How will humanity recover? Focussing specifically on Japanese-American and Japanese perspectives, How High We Go in the Dark is both refreshing and at the same time deeply disturbing.


I listened to the audiobook with separate narrators per story – all of them a pleasure to listen to.

I wanted to escape from The Wheel of Time so I asked Robin to recommend me something different to listen to and… well, this is the other end of the spectrum.

How High We Go in the Dark is a very dark, thought-provoking, sometimes bizarre collection of interlinked science fiction stories (where have we seen that before!) with stories set progressively further into our future, beginning a decade from now and ranging towards the launch of a generation ship to colonise the stars, and beyond.

Even though the stories have different main characters, the protagonists are linked, often by blood but always by their Japanese heritage. The stories revolve around the impact of an incredibly deadly pandemic on global society. In particular, Nagamatsu explores the results of the proximity and omnipresence of death – an inevitable aspect of life that our society has largely sanitised and hidden away.

Nagamatsu takes a more literary approach than most science fiction writers and explores that societal impact largely through human interaction (as befits a professor of anthropology).

How High We Go in the Dark has almost no plot and no explicit worldbuilding, but drops the reader into social situations progressively further removed from our time. The changes in society that happened in the meantime are apparent only between the lines. Expect no laser guns or space battles, but rather personal and gripping accounts of what it means to be Asian-American, viewed through the lens of a possible dystopian future.

I thoroughly enjoyed How High We Go in the Dark, even as a reader that generally prefers more plot-heavy books. I loved how Nagamatsu built an interesting world with occasionally bizarre elements, that still feels very grounded – especially given his writing seems so minimal on explanation or background.

Robin might not write a review because she read the book a while back, but if you generally enjoy what she is into, I would definitely recommend this: straddling the divide between science fiction and literature, this book is both engaging and thought-provoking.

Even if you are not into the more literary side of the genre, especially the first two stories in the book are absolute gems, and both of them would well be worth reading separately of the rest of the novel.

Be aware, though, that How High We Go in the Dark is, well… very dark. You won’t be reading this book with a smile…

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