Sunday, July 1, 2012


by Junot Díaz

 Junot Díaz has made a name for himself by writing perceptive stories about characters that have a certain geekiness to them (such as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), but before writing this story, he'd stayed away from genre writing.

Monstro is a science fiction horror story, set in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the near future.  It is narrated by Dominican-American student at Brown, who has returned to the DR with his ill mother for the summer.  Bored, he starts hanging out with Alex, a school-mate who lives a privileged life in both countries.  Alex has a large circle, including the girl Mysty, who utterly captivates our narrator, who is not used to travelling in such circles.  They spend their summer hanging out and partying, and the narrator steadily works his way closer to the aloof and difficult Mysty, who has no interest in him.

While this is going on, a strange new disease breaks out in Haiti.  People have a strange, fungus-like substance growing on them, and they begin to merge into one another.  They also linger endlessly in a near-death state, and regularly let out a loud wail in unison.  No one knows what the disease is, and Díaz keeps returning to it and its progress while still keeping the focus on our narrator.  Eventually, other, stranger things begin happening in Haiti, leading to violence, and the eventual intervention of outside military forces.

Basically, this is an 'end of the world' story, and a tale of unrequited love, combined with Díaz's own brand of Spanish and futuristic slang.  It's endlessly readable, and whets my appetite for a new Díaz novel.

No comments: