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Cycling to Asylum

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  51 ratings  ·  28 reviews
In a near-future New York subject to an increasingly authoritarian and hostile government, Laek, a non-conformist history teacher, finds that he can no longer hide his radical past. After a brutal confrontation with the NYPD, he flees the United States with Janie, an activist lawyer, and their two kids, Siri and Simon. They cross the border by bicycle into Quebec by posing ...more
Paperback, 338 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Deux Voiliers Publishing
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Jul 25, 2014 added it
Many of my friends are writers of various stripes. That includes several novelists, mostly new-minted. Reading their books brings anticipation…and trepidation. What if I hate the book? What will I say? Luckily, there’s no such problem here.

Cycling to Asylum is the first novel by my friend and former neighbour Su J. Sokol (our kids used to shimmy over the fence between our gardens). When Su took a sabbatical a couple of years ago, remarkably, she sat down and wrote every day. The result: this nov
Cora Sire
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
If you want to be enthralled and enlightened, a feat accomplished by only the very best books, this is a novel worth reading. "Cycling to Asylum" is an exhilarating ride through a narrative set in a near future that's frighteningly plausible but not entirely hopeless. The story is told by the novel's protagonists, four authentic voices of a couple and their children, whose adventures keep you turning the pages. You are with them entirely when they embark on a bicycle trek that takes them from th ...more
Melissa Yuan-Innes
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Near future novel that provokes questions about privacy and refugees

A timely novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the opening, where Laek is stopped by the NYPD and decides that the United States is no longer safe for himself and his family, and they escape to Montreal. I lived in Montreal for three years, yet I learned new details about the city, including the reason that the subway system uses those three tones before making an announcement. I also learned how a lawyer, Janie, might have to use slightl
Fábio Fernandes
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I read in 2014. Maybe, if you are an American or live in the US for a long time now, you might see the novel as sort of prophetic (after Ferguson, for instance), but, sadly, I don't see it that way. I see Cycling to Asylum as an all-too-real about the US and the rest of the world right here, right now. It's a cautionary tale for our times. And a very good one at that. A necessary reading. Couldn't recommend it more.

UPDATED: I'd also like to recommend an interview Djibril al
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sokol tackles a rather bleak topic set in a dystopian future, but her writing makes the reader empathize with each of her characters as they face challenges. Plenty of page-turning action that makes you question your own place in society. Great first novel.
Alexis Allinson
Aug 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is a speculative future fiction revolving around the life of one family. Speaking from each of the four main characters point of view, it forms the world around them where there is an unbalance of power over the people has caused a constant fear within society.
In the hope of something better, the family follows example of a family favorite story and uses bicycles to enter a new country and hopefully a better life.
The author has given a quick, yet deep emotional roller-coaster to the l
A.H. Richards
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
In Cycling to Asylum, author Su J. Sokol does not pander to sci-fi clichés, or contrive cliff-hanger suspense. What she does so well, so authentically, is to portray the strength of tender, human and imperfect human love persevering in the face of a threatening, de-humanizing society. Cycling to Asylum masterfully and caringly captures the human vulnerability and courage of partners Laek, Janie and their children, in their fraught journey to find safety and home in an alien country. All of these ...more
Kate Henderson
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Cycling to asylum is a fascinating look at where we're headed. Set in the near future, we learn about a Brooklyn family who seeks asylum in Le Plateau. Very realistic feel of place and characters in New York City and Montréal, complete with the screens and holograms of the future that are easy to imagine. We can only hope that the characters of Laek and Janie represent our best selves in that future, as parents committed to social change, and people who remind themselves they have a realm of emo ...more
Geza Tatrallyay
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Provocative book. Set in the future, I love the picture of Montreal / Canada providing a safe-haven for escapees from an increasingly autocratic American police state to the south. Resonated with my experience as an immigrant to Canada from Communist Hungary in 1956. A quick, easy read, but full of passion and humanity.
Québec Reads
Read the review at And a short extract at ...more
Beverly Akerman
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
A remarkable debut. The first half, with its taut scenes of NYC in a dark future, features real tension.
Aug 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I wasn't expecting much from this book. But all and all good reviews and ratings intrigued me. So, I gave it a try. And it was very interesting indeed. Glad I took my time to read it. ...more
Ursula Pflug
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Su J. Sokol's anarcho-pacifist Cycling to Asylum , a 2014 release from Ottawa collective Deux Voiliers is a debut novel about a couple who spends quite a bit more time working to make the world a better place than on its antithesis, consuming, although they do have very nice bikes.

A bit of publishing context: Deux Voiliers Publishing is an initiative of Ian Thomas Shaw, who writes under the nom de plume Con Cú (owl in Vietnamese). Shaw was also behind Prose in the Park, an outdoor book fair in
Elyse T.
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Science-fiction as a genre is an exploration of the imaginative “possible”. We use it to explore the likelihood of eventual space travel, meeting new peoples, and exploring undiscovered locations; anything that could one day, perhaps, exist. Near-future science-fiction is the soup-du-jour in the world of Speculative Fiction, genres such as dark satire, dystopian fiction, and cyberpunk being very popular. This level of storytelling can affect a reader in shocking ways, as it explores possibilitie ...more
Ellen Moss
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Su J Sokol's first novel is very impressive and timely! Ms Sokol is a new voice for our times the way Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood, Mordechai Richler, Irving Layton, Bob Dylan, Moshe Safdie were avant-garde artists for their generation! In fact these artists are much more appreciated with time! These are people who are deeply affected by their worlds and forge a new path and help change the world! These are gifted visionaries and observers of what's around them and critical thinkers who are no ...more
Sheindl Rothman
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's extremely cool when your friend is a published author, and even cooler when said book is well-written, enjoyable, interesting, and thought-provoking.
The author effectively uses the device of four different narrators, Janie & Laek, the parents, and Simon and Siri, the kids. Each has a unique voice and distinctive view of the world.
Certain scenes from Cycling to Asylum came to mind while listening to current news stories of police brutality.Normally, I eschew anything with even a modicum of
Cait Gordon
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: authors-i-ve-met
I grew up in Montreal, and though this story talks about that island in the future, my heart felt pangs of nostalgia about my past growing up there. The description of the city, right down to the metro car sing-song tone, is bang on.

Su Sokol also did an excellent job of bringing the reader into the experience of these four family members trying to deal with the urgent and sudden need to flee the US for asylum. The book was so well-written, it creeped me out a little. The atmosphere and politica
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It took me a while to finally read Su's book. Like another reviewer indicated picking up a friend's book can give you mixed feelings because what do you do if its no good? Well, thankfully (for me - and anyone who picks this book up) Su is a skilled and talented writer who has written a story that becomes only more and more relevant with each passing year. The characters are interesting and relatable and the plot twists kept me engaged throughout the entire book. I loved how she captures the dif ...more
Keiran Gibbs
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: author-i-met
Taking place in the near-future, C2A is a compassionate work, highlighted by the multi - character POV's. Although some reviews label the book as dystopian, I consider it to be quite the opposite. Montreal is described as a "sanctuary city" and represents a far more utopic vision than its present reality.

I enjoy the light of possibility ignited by these pages; especially in today's present political context, there is no better time to understand difficulties faced by political refugees and thei
Oct 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
As much as I didn't like the writing, I kept reading because the first part was trying to make a commentary on oppression and police brutality and activism. However, once in Montreal (and already at the border) we start getting all the cliches about the nice polite Canadians who are not racist and even the cops are nice and respectful. The complete lack of irony about the nice police officers of Montreal (who are so nice, they only protest by wearing weird pants) was so grating and laughable tha ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: adults, people interested in bisexual characters, open relationships
Shelves: dystopia, books-i-own
I've just finished this great dystopian story about a family fleeing an oppressive NYC Big Brother police state to Montreal by bicycle. My only gripe is that this book is less sneaky bicycle action and more of the political refugee process and bureaucracy of the Québec government...A bit more contemporary of a read than a scifi/dystopia of today. And that I thought some of the sexual material in the novel was somewhat unnecessary to the depth of the story...But still, it was nice to read a book ...more
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully written. This book stayed in my thoughts for a long time.
Andrés Canella
Jun 19, 2014 added it
Shelves: 2015
Reviewing Cycling to Asylum is difficult, because for many this will be a difficult book: this does not refer to the writing - if anything, Sokol's narratives that switch from one member of a family of four to the next are brisk, fun and give insight into how each character copes with change. It's the plot and characters themselves that provide the greatest leap for the reader.

This is my first run with a non-mainstream genre known as "interstitial fiction", which I understand is a between-genre
Timothy Carter
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
STOP whatever you are doing now and READ THIS NOVEL!!!

Hello, my name is Timothy Carter. I'm a good writer. I can tell a decent yarn, boil a few pots, that sort of thing.

Su J. Sokol is a GREAT writer. The kind of author I know I'll never be. Her talent for creating characters, describing locations, adding the sort of detail that makes everything in the book seem real... wow. That's what I'm left with. Wow.

Set in a near-future North America, Cycling to Asylum tells the story of an activist and his
Claudie Arseneault
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
It's hard to describe this book. In itself, the setting and some of the events are really dark, hard to swallow and follow. Yet the writing is incredibly luminous, and CYCLING TO ASYLUM feels more like a ray of hope than anything else. In so many ways, this is a story about the soft resilience of a broken man and his family.

It's hard not to feel for all the characters, even when you disapprove of their actions. Especially Laek. Laek will make you want to hug him, and make you glad Janie is there
Sep 09, 2015 rated it liked it
There are passages in this book that are just exquisitely written, particularly the love scenes. This author is one to watch. The story is whimsical and imaginative. The author seems to paint a world that is black and white, in this futuristic imaginary world, the US is dystopic and Montreal is utopia, in reality the world is more nuanced than that; however it is a surprising and unusual novel and I would recommend it.
Yvanna Kroitor
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - the slightly dystopian future in the novel eerily foreshadows present day. The four characters in the book are engaging and the narrative following their four separate perceptions of reality make for a richer and more nuanced understanding of how the events effect each of them individually. Intriguing and well executed story
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. Loved, loved this book.
Aidan Loeser
rated it liked it
Aug 21, 2018
rated it really liked it
Jun 18, 2016
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Su J. Sokol is a social rights advocate and a writer of speculative, liminal, and interstitial fiction. A former legal services lawyer from New York City, xe now makes Montréal xyr home.

Sokol is the author of three novels: Cycling to Asylum, which was long-listed for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic and has been optioned for development into a feature-leng

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