Giacomo Lee: Funereal
Signal 8 Press, 2015, 230pp
Giacomo Lee’s debut Funereal is fast-moving novel set very much in contemporary Seoul, and referencing so many contemporary issues in South Korea’s high-pressure society. Soobin, a marketing graduate whose genuine smile endears her to her customers in the doughnut takeaway store which is the only place she can find work, finds that very smile is her ticket to a partnership in the fake funeral business. Such a business, of course, not a creation of the author’s imagination, no matter how fantastic it sounds. It was featured in an number of newspaper articles a few years ago (for example here), and it’s a great idea to build a novel around it. Soobin’s customers include many from the entertainment industry – performers, executives for whom the focus on how they want to be remembered is great therapy.
When one funeral goes horribly wrong the novel changes tack, and we are plunged into a horribly dystopian view of the k-pop idol band factories run by the entertainment companies. The portrait is seen through a lens of science fiction, but it feels so close to reality that next time you see you favourite girl band’s perfectly synchronised dance moves you may pause to think.
Lee is clearly well plugged in to all the news stories relating to the entertainment industry and this novel will appeal to anyone who wants a well-paced story set in a Seoul which is so close, but not quite, real.