Flux by Jinwoo Chong is time-travel crime noir that will break your mind. The wild ride is written with pitch-perfect tension and Chong delivers on everything that is set up. The book left my jaw on the floor page after page and is one of the most fun times I’ve had reading a book. Period.
The story follows the lives of three individuals intersecting in mind-bending ways. There’s an 8-year-old whose mother dies in an accident. A 28-year-old who loses his job. A 48-year-old who is disconnected from his family. Their lives and stories weave in unexpected ways.
Buckle up for one wild ride that you won’t want to get off of.
Flux is out now. You can read an excerpt from the book below.
Bo sat in the backseat of the car with his brother while their father drove them home. Snow had begun to pile against the glass. Slowly, it blotted away the orange lights streaking by,
turning them from comets to glowing balls of gas, passing one by one along the highway.
Bo’s brother Kaz was making bubbles with his mouth, uninterested. Their father Hal was driving with one hand, pressing his other fist into his brow. They hadn’t spoken to each other for at least half an hour.
“Did Umma make dinner?” Kaz asked. Hal glanced back at them, as though remembering for the first time that evening that they were there. He drove on another few seconds.
“No, Kazzie, I’ll make you something when we’re home.”
He spoke Korean to them, something he only used to do in front of their grandparents, adhering to some code, determined to impress their mother’s parents with the sight of a white man grasping the language the way that he could.
“Grilled cheeses,” Kaz ordered. To this, Hal said nothing. They turned off the interstate and onto the quiet roads. Banks of snow were piled high on each edge of the road, leaves and dirt mixed in so that they resembled hulking mounds of sludge. Bo let his gaze fall on the space between his feet a couple inches off the floor of the car. He saw his right shoe was missing, and the underside of his white sock had gone black with grime. He looked halfheartedly around the car, hoping to find it, but gave up.
“Is Umma making dinner soon?”
The word, like it had the first time, sent a charge through the air. Bo’s stomach knotted upon itself, hearing it the second time. He could not see the bottom of Hal’s face through the rearview mirror. The fist he held at the top of the steering wheel was clenched tight.
— C L I C K —
Jacket Guy never misses a shot, not once. He is given many opportunities, perps that run, perps that jump into cars, perps that fire their guns over their shoulders or through walls and doors. Jacket Guy always nails them. Always. And while the thought does occur that Jacket Guy may not ever miss because Jacket Guy only takes the shots he knows he can’t miss, it is not dwelled upon for very long or for very hard. This is, after all, a great way to live. Jacket Guy may lay claim to an absolutely perfect shooting record—in rain, in wind, in the dark, while running, while hanging from buildings, while fighting through busy and unsuspecting crowds—and it completely works, it’s perfect, and nobody can question his authority on the matter; it cannot be disproven and never will. Jacket Guy has a name but wears the same jacket every episode, so he’s Jacket Guy, and it is not a lack of interest in Jacket Guy’s real name that has effectively erased it from existence in this viewer’s mind but rather an easier route to identification. It has never been particularly important what Jacket Guy’s name is, or what Jacket Guy’s commanding officer’s name is, or what Jacket Guy’s Girl of the Week’s name is. The allure of Jacket Guy has always been the yarn. It is generally understood that Jacket Guy lives through a great many yarns that do not eventually make it to air because they are not the most interesting, nor the most perfectly portioned for Jacket Guy’s 9/8 central time slot. A guess, for sure, but a guess that makes sense in-universe and cannot effectively be disproven, much like Jacket Guy’s prodigious skill with the state-issue Smith & Wesson Model 39 tucked into his belt at his hip. It is the first thing onscreen as season 2, episode 2, “The Mighty and the Weak,” gets rolling: close camera trained on the handle of the 39, pan out to Jacket Guy—and his jacket—headed inside the precinct gnashing his teeth on a steaming hot dog. A cinematographic move that accentuates Jacket Guy’s humanity and hints at a life outside his work that portends itself as lonely and grim, as anyone may easily picture. Jacket Guy’s commanding officer scolds him for the hot dog, warning him that the cart on 71st once gave his wife food poisoning for three days.
“Don’t joke,” says Jacket Guy. “You don’t have a wife.”
“Funny. I want you to get your ass to the McAuley shipyards. Homicide called in this morning.”
“That’s for you to decide.”
Their voices are blurred by the sounds of a busy office, raggedy men in handcuffs being walked to the jail cells in the back by petty officers. Jacket Guy almost rolls his eyes.
“I’m not your guy. I don’t know the first thing about Little China,” he says, throwing the rest of his hot dog in the trash. Douche Cop pushes past on his way out, earning looks but no words. There was reason enough for Douche Cop—a sad, burly guy who towered over Jacket Guy and the rest of the precinct, designed by production and casting crews to be both pathetic and formidable—to be upset. There had always been a notorious, unhinged intensity behind his face, underneath his plastic bravado. Jacket Guy had solved his two-month sting of the West Antioch gambling ring operating downtown in just a single episode, the season 2 premiere, “Dark Reckoning.”
“You’re right about one thing,” says Jacket Guy’s commanding officer. “You are definitely not my guy. But you’re all I’ve got. Ask your questions when you get there.”
“What am I looking at?”
They turn around and scrutinize a bulletin board stuffed with shipyard photos and grainy shots of three people, a woman and two men, all Asian.
“They found a six-month-old girl still in her baby carrier by the dumpsters on 115th. Hypothermia. Left out all night.”
“Devastated. Windows broken in the baby’s bedroom. They’re saying botched kidnapping. Dad’s some kind of locksmith. New parents. Live in a one-room situation above the store. We haven’t gotten through to them so far. They talked to us through the door this morning, pretending the shop’s closing. Not much room here for a warrant, yet.”
“What makes you think I can get through to them?”
Jacket Guy’s commanding officer gives him a look, and the meaning of this look is partially lost, perhaps by evolving customs of social signaling that do not carry over from the 1980s to the early aughts in which this viewer is watching a rerun on tape. But whatever the look is or what it entails, Jacket Guy gives a little nod of his head, takes the file from the top of the desk along with the three photographs, makes it to the doors at the end of the hall. He stops, looking just slightly over his shoulder. It is not only the solemn quiet of the moment, given that a little girl has been found dead; it is almost as if the whole look of the world around them has shifted, sideways, into an entirely new tone. This is, of course, the episode that changed it all.
“How cold was it last night?”
Jacket Guy’s commanding officer puts his hands on his hips, formidable and dark. But his shoulders fall. It is apparent that Jacket Guy’s commanding officer, himself a tall, imposing man with broad shoulders and greying hair, has, in fact, thought deeply about what he says next. That death, though commonplace in their line of work, has never truly softened its edge on his mind, not in the decades he has been on the force, and never will, no matter how much longer he stays.
“Nine Fahrenheit. Kid that young, dead in an hour, two, tops.”