A Harper's Bazaar Best Book of the Year
"This tale of complicity and denial (reintroduced in a new English translation by Lizzie Buehler this summer) feels nauseatingly on point this year. Hurtling from a Seoul office building to a remote desert island in Southeast Asia, Yun’s late–capitalist satire makes the case that the identity we find through work is almost always shaped by how we have been exploited—or how we have exploited others . . . As in the real world, death in The Disaster Tourist becomes more optional the more powerful you are." —Madeline Leung Coleman, The Atlantic
"Yun’s cool, clinical prose is devoid of sentimentality; her deadpan delivery both advances the morbidly hilarious plot and amplifies the drama of ecological disaster made for tourist profit . . . Yun blends satire with metafictional play: her characters meld into the pages of their books; sentences and screenplays bleed out into reality . . . This is an extravagant, clever, unpredictable story that walks the razor edge of horror–comedy . . . The Disaster Tourist lays out contemporary life as a theatre of absurdity: all begin as dark, dark comedies about office anhedonia and veer into colourful chaos." —Esther Kim, The White Review
"Yun Ko–eun presents a dystopian feminist ecothriller that takes on climate change, sexual assault, greed and dark tourism. This is a unique, mysterious and engrossing novel."" —Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine
"Following a spate of recent fiction considering the strange intersection of our work and leisure lives—novels such as Ling Ma’s apocalyptic satire Severance and Sayaka Murata’s oddly affecting Convenience Store Woman—The Disaster Tourist offers up another fresh and sharp story about life under late capitalism . . . Witty and absurd, then suspenseful, even terror–filled . . . This is an entertaining eco–thriller that sets out to illuminate the way climate change is inextricably bound up with the pressures of global capitalism."—Saba Ahmed, The Guardian
"[A] mordantly witty novel . . . This propulsive novel reads like a highly literary, ultra–incisive thriller; it reminds us that the disasters with which we are now grappling with on a near daily basis are not acts of god, they're acts of man." —Kristin Iverson, Refinery29
"Fits perfectly into a growing wave of eco–thrillers and darkly funny fiction that grapples with climate change . . . It's a witty, unsentimental, grimly believable story that neatly weaves together sharp critiques of capitalism, the heartlessness it rewards, and the poverty, environmental disasters, and misogyny it engenders." —Arianna Rebolini, BuzzFeed
"This firecracker of a novel from South Korean writer Ko–eun could not be more timely, with themes around climate tourism, activism, and the #MeToo movement . . . This is a fast–paced thriller–esque story that skillfully addresses individual complicity in harm, and the morality of a fascination with disaster." —Sarah Neilson, Shondaland
"The Disaster Tourist poses an uneasy question: Are we, as humans, observing the disaster or creating it? The characters each play a role in answering this . . . Around Yun’s characters, the natural landscape absorbs, adapts to, and reacts to these interventions, providing hidden avenues for both destruction and redemption—depending on which path a character chooses." —Ysabelle Cheung, Sierra Magazine
"A compact and propulsive dystopian thriller that stands out as one of 2020’s best works of translated literature." —Sophia Stewart, Asymptote Journal
"Unsettling, off–kilter, and at times very funny . . . The novel is deeply moral without feeling moralizing, and its anxiety feels free–floating until it builds to a fever pitch. Read it, and find some relief in the fact that you won’t be traveling for a while." —Jessie Gaynor, Literary Hub
"A tightly plotted, whip–smart satire, and the stakes heighten with every page. Ko–Eun’s writing is unpretentious, deadpan, and often very funny . . . [Yun Ko–eun] masterfully weaves big–picture critiques of cultural appropriation and opportunism with the more delicate threads of human complexity." —CJ Green, Zyzzyva
"Lays bare the inherent inauthenticity of the tourist experience—especially those that purport to be beneficial, even humanitarian, for the local community—and does so in a way that will make you creepily uncomfortable about all your past travel adventures." —Siel Ju, Los Angeles Review of Books
"South Korean author Yun’s spare but provocative novel offers perceptive satire laced with disconcerting imagery . . . Yun cleverly combines absurdity with legitimate horror and mounting dread. With its arresting, nightmarish island scenario, this work speaks volumes about the human cost of tourism in developing countries."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A burned-out employee at a South Korean tourism company is shipped off on an adventure of her own that slowly spirals out of control.
Jungle seems to be just the kind of company made for a world regularly besieged by hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and all manner of tragedy. It packages the events into attractive deals for “disaster tourists,” people looking for a new kind of thrill in the experience-driven Instagram age. For 10 years, Yona Ko has worked at Jungle, chasing disasters and creating the next bestselling package. But when Yona speaks up after her boss sexually assaults her, she is shipped off on a work trip. She must travel to Mui, a distant island, part of Jungle’s disaster programming catalog. Years ago, a giant sinkhole appeared on Mui, and tourists flocked in to soak up the aftermath. But Mui is losing its luster, and Yona must grade its worthiness on Jungle’s list of offerings. Through a series of unfortunate events, Yona discovers just how much is on the line for the desperate citizens of Mui. If they lose the Jungle program’s visitors, they lose everything. Yun’s novelspirals into increasingly bizarre events as Mui battles for its very survival and, alarmingly, pulls out all the stops. The Jungle is an effective model for capitalism—the Upton Sinclair echo might resonate with some. Mui too efficiently fills in for every community in the world pitted against the rest, scraping the bottom of the barrel for survival as it faces an increasingly harsh reality. But Yona remains frustratingly opaque, her background story needing more color. The taut storyline keeps the narrative moving at a tight pace even if the takeaways feel ham-handed at times.
A sharp sendup of society’s obsession with the next hot thing—and the steep toll it extracts on very real lives.