Some powerful imagery, and toward the end of the book, things start to come together and make sense, and the writing feels stronger.
This is a bit of an odd book but the writing style is beautiful and gripping and I loved the way the author uses the sense of smell to bring the story to life. I'm having a difficult time trying to explain the plot because it all gets a bit odd, but the style and themes of the book I found similar to Margaret Atwood and her MaddAddam series, and the themes also remind me of Octavia E Butler's stories.
Then it shifts to a future dystopian story about Miranda, a little girl born with a peculiar smell. Every time the story starts to get really interesting, the author shifts to a second narrative. These parts of the story start out as being historical fiction with slight magical elements, then shift to being full on magic realism/fantasy. Then by the time the next Miranda chapter ends, I'll forget what was going on with Nu Wa and then it shifts again. The Nu Wa story ends by answering a major question in the Miranda storyline. The Miranda plot doesn't answer questions of the tax suit, the corrupt corporations, the Nu Wa connection, or even the memory sickness. Even the whole Nu Wa aspects feel like they were incidental to the actual story since it ends without Miranda really understanding it. It is set up like Miranda wants this guy to protect her from the Doctor guy, but then she takes the money and runs and is immediately caught by the doctor.
At the root of it is a kind of surrealist science fiction where everything makes more emotional than logical sense, but it turns its eye not to mere strangeness but the tortured web of race and gender and sexuality and diaspora and myths whispered quietly in the bellies of ships on that long ocean passage.
Asian superficialities aside, the intimations of immortality in both works were of an unfortunately similar feel: a disjointed narrative ploddingly fleshed out with a prose whose effort spent on grasping onto similes and metaphors was painfully palpable, although SFG didn't have as noticeable an issue with basic grammar (you have to live the rules before you break them). I was excited to come across a copy of this work in an indie used book store in central California of all places, but I feel some class must have read this on assignment (the store is in the downtown UC Davis area), partly because of the notes drawn in the beginning and on a science expo leaflet used as impromptu bookmark, partly because of the whole eclectic nature of the work. It's books like these that make me err in thinking modern publishing has grown too lax in contemporary tomes, but I need only glance at the works that continue to be held up as classics in order to realize that there's less impressive works in every era, and at least these days no one tries to pretend 9% of the human population satisfactorily represents the world entire.
The story is a portrayal of both their lives, seeped in fantasy and magic realism. Overall Id recommend reading the book for the beautiful writing that engages your senses and emotions and the imagination within. Id recommend to anyone who likes: science fiction, fantasy, science ethics, feminism, magic realism,ad
There are enough unexplored science fictional aspects to the China setting that those portions of the book seem less fantastical than they do surreal. The part that I hated, though, was that the main characters continually do inexplicable things and then, when called out on their actions by others, can offer no explanation.
Larissa Lai has authored three novels, The Tiger Flu, Salt Fish Girl and When Fox Is a Thousand; two poetry collections, sybil unrest (with Rita Wong) and Automaton Biographies; a chapbook, Eggs in the Basement; and a critical book, Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s. A recipient of the Astraea Foundation Emerging Writers' Award, she has been a finalist for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Tiptree Award, the Sunburst Award, the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award, the bpNichol Chapbook Award, the Dorothy Livesay Prize and the ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism.