Walking Practice: A Novel
Squid Game meets The Left Hand of Darkness meets Under the Skin in this radical literary sensation from South Korea about an alien's hunt for food that transforms into an existential crisis about what it means to be human.
After crashing their spacecraft in the middle of nowhere, a shapeshifting alien find themself stranded on an unfamiliar planet and disabled by Earth’s gravity. To survive, they will need to practice walking. And what better way than to hunt for food? As they discover, humans are delicious.
Intelligent, clever, and adaptable, the alien shift their gender, appearance, and conduct to suit a prey’s sexual preference, then attack at the pivotal moment of their encounter. They use a variety of hunting tools, including a popular dating app, to target the juiciest prey and carry a backpack filled with torturous instruments and cleaning equipment. But the alien’s existence begins to unravel one night when they fail to kill their latest meal.
Thrust into an ill-fated chase across the city, the alien is confronted with the psychological and physical tolls their experience on Earth has taken. Questioning what they must do to sustain their own survival, they begin to understand why humans also fight to live. But their hunger is insatiable, and the alien once again targets a new prey, not knowing what awaits. . . .
Dolki Min’s haunting debut novel is part psychological thriller, part searing critique of the social structures that marginalize those who are different—the disabled, queer, and nonconformist. Walking Practice uncovers humanity in who we consider to be alien, and illuminates how alienation can shape the human experience.
Walking Practice features 21 black-and-white line drawings throughout.
Translated from the Korean by Victoria Caudle
Praise for Walking Practice: A Novel
“Elegantly written and deceptively humorous, Dolki Min’s bombastic debut novel, Walking Practice, is a haunting examination of survival, gender, and the complexity of the human experience. A tremendous literary achievement.”
— Eric LaRocca, author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes
“Walking Practice is an unforgettable survival story of an alien trying to survive as a human on a hostile planet. This unique and imaginative, weird and delicate sci-fi is a considerate exploration of our social structures: the gender conventions, queerness, and discrimination against the weak. A radical, darkly funny, spine-tingling story, perfect for fans of Matt Haig’s The Humans and Michel Faber’s Under the Skin.”
— J.M. Lee, bestselling author of Broken Summer
"Surreal, compelling, and utterly unique." — Buzzfeed
"Walking Practice explores the burden of gender expectations, the struggle of having a flesh prison body, having to feed yourself and wanting to be loved, and even the awkwardness of dealing with other people on the subway. But what really makes this story sing is the uniqueness of the narrator’s voice—both compelling and witty....It is moving and funny, critical and crass. This one is for anyone who is made to feel like an alien in their own body." — Tor.com
“Through this weird, funny, deeply earnest book about a killer alien who doesn’t fit in on Earth, Min has crafted a queer novel about feeling out of place in one’s body and its surroundings... The evident pleasure with which Min has drawn this character makes for a vibrant and memorable fictional encounter with an otherness that’s not, in the end, so different."
— The New York Times Book Review
"An alien arrives on Earth, hungry for love. The narrator of Min’s dark satire is a shape-shifting alien who crash-landed here 15 years ago. In that time, it’s sampled all sorts of sustenance on our planet, but only human flesh truly satisfies. So it uses dating apps (username: Hunting4luv) to quell its cravings for sex and sustenance....Entertaining and surprising....A slim, sui generis allegory on romance and its discontents." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Who would come up with a story about a shapeshifting alien who crashlands on Earth, learns to walk by hunting humans and then is forced to confront their sins of survival while critiquing humankind’s marginalization of Others? Dolki Min, that’s who. And who would read such a story? You, if you know what’s good for you." — Ms. magazine
“There’s bleak comedy aplenty in Dolki Min’s Walking Practice—which makes sense, given that protagonist Mumu is a shapeshifting alien who chats with unwitting guys on the internet and then devours them. But this isn’t simply an exercise in the overlap of horror and humor; instead, Mumu’s observations on human gender roles and the fraught nature of nearly every interaction in the narrative give this book a substantial narrative weight, even as the text and translation also factor in some playfulness.”
— Words Without Borders
"On the surface, this smart debut novel (translated from the Korean by Victoria Caudle) is a fun story about an alien who finds men on dating apps and eats them to stay alive. But underneath lies a potent critique of gender norms and an exploration of what it feels like to not fit in your body or your surroundings."
— New York Times' Books We Recommend