Hyperion, Feb 2001, 21.95, 122 pp.
Three decades have passed since Han Pyongt'ae moved from Seoul to the small Korean town due to his father's transfer after a dispute. Han knew that he expected to own the school after reaching fifth grade in the obviously much more sophisticated Seoul school.
However, instead of being the obvious leader in this small pond, Han soon realizes he has a rival in the older class monitor Om Sokdae. Han loses the indirect war and bows to Om's rules. He even begins to admire his opponent's abilities to successfully cheat and always win yet Han finds himself morose and unhappy in defeat.
OUR TWISTED HERO is a captivating allegory that will remind readers of tales like THE LORD OF THE FLIES or Holden Caulfield in Korea. The story line works because Yi Munyol never preaches, but instead allows the simplistic rivalry to unfold into a much deeper meaning and parallels events in his homeland. Han and Om engage the audience who surprisingly roots for both boys to somehow come up with a win-win deal. If this is any sample of the author's talent, readers will know that Mr. Munyol is a superstar that deserves his other novels to quickly be translated from Korean into other languages.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner