Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: The Fat Years

This was supposed to be a great book on modern China.  It is "banned" in China.  It is supposed to be comparable to 1984 or Brave New World.

It's really not even close.  While the aforementioned were hallmarks in style and atmosphere, The Fat Years is long on words and short on substance.  I don't know if this is a result of being translated from the original Chinese but this novel couldn't be less interesting.

There is nothing here revolutionary or that we didn't know already.  Yup, China represses its people.  Yup, its hungry for resources.  Yup, its Communist government is corrupt.  Really??  We needed some 300 pages to tell us this?

Maybe its "revolutionary" because Chan Koonchang, a Chinese individual himself, wrote it.  Really just goes to show how backward most Chinese people are if yelling "the emperor has no clothes" is really a big deal when the rest of the world already knows it.

The Fat Years has also been called a work of Science Fiction and a depiction of a dystopia.  Not even close on either account.  Sorry but a story in which the Chinese government puts MDMA (ecstasy) in its water supply to keep its people happy, doesn't a Science Fiction novel make.  And that's it.  That's about as "science fictional" as the book gets.  In terms of a dystopia, doesn't the story have to portray a somewhat fantastical world different from reality to be a dystopia?  Merely writing about the current state of things in China or North Korea doesn't necessarily mean you are writing a dystopian novel.

There isn't nearly enough biting criticism, insight or new analysis here to put this book on the shelf with 1984 or Brave New World.  In fact, there isn't much here beyond what you'd find in your updated version of the CIA Factbook.  I'll gladly put this book on the first airplane to China where it is supposedly a hot commodity because of its "incendiary" nature.  If not, it gets donated to my local library.

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