Excellence prize winner of the 3rd “Nexus Novella Writer Award”
"There are stories enclosed in balloons. My friends and I collect trivial yet precious memories from people."
The “Nexus Novella Writer Award,” designed to transcend genre boundaries and delve into unconventional writing formats to unveil new facets of Korean literature, marked its third anniversary this year. Lee Donghyeon’s Balloon Up received the Excellence Prize, hailed as a “charming work that seamlessly melds the history of humanity into a comic backdrop.” Balloon Up, an SF novel, unravels diverse characters’ stories against the backdrop of a factory extracting accumulated oil from the human body. Much like the colorful memory balloons filled with individual recollections, Balloon Up intimately explores the everyday lives of the characters in the book, vividly depicting subtle yet sparkling moments of life through the author’s unique SF imagination.
In a peculiar factory that extracts oil accumulated in customers’ bodies, Pei Chong, a new team member, partners with Martinez. The task of twisting and wringing out oil from customers’ bodies, treated with Samylase, proves to be both physically and mentally demanding. Despite Pei Chong’s persistent lack of confidence and a constant feeling of being downtrodden, he gradually adapts to life and work at the factory, thanks to his partnership with Martinez. Simultaneously, another character, Ulzzi, works in the team responsible for separating the extracted oil from the Samylase. Driven by the aspirations of her stepfather André, Ulzzi becomes a key member of the “André Project.” Her role involves extracting small, warm memories embedded in the customers’ oil to craft memory balloons. Despite the challenges, Ulzzi bravely raises her son, Martinez, as a single parent. Jeong Jeongbae, also part of Ulzzi’s team, instinctively realizes that time has flown by, and he is nearing death. Reflecting on the many faces he has worked with, he peacefully accepts death, embracing the memories of the factory in his heart.