Chinese science fiction, once an unknown quantity in the U.S., is making its way to the forefront through sheer excellence.

WASTE TIDE

Cutting-edge, near-future science fiction from China: With a setting based on a real-world Chinese town that recycled electronic waste from all over the world, Chen's (aka Stanley Chan) first and so far only novel, originally published in 2013, comes to vibrant life in Liu's deft and informative translation.

To Silicon Isle, a vast waste dump where electronic devices and components are manually recycled, desperate workers flood in from all over China despite the extreme toxic hazards and attacks by fanatical environmentalists. Ruthless local clans enforce long hours and wretched wages. Luo Jincheng, head of the most powerful clan, despises the migrant workers and treats them with particular brutality and contempt. He refuses to do business with Scott Brandle, a mysterious American nominally representing TerraGreen Recycling, a global corporation hoping to reap vast profits from automating the processing. Brandle's interpreter, Chen Kaizong, a young Chinese-American who speaks the local dialects, hopes to find his roots; instead, he finds Mimi, a waste girl viciously abused by Luo's thugs, who dreams of earning enough money to buy her family out of poverty. Her one friend, or perhaps exploiter, is Brother Wen, an electronics genius building devices and weapons out of junk and secretly assembling an army of the downtrodden. What nobody anticipates are the active remnants of biological warfare experiments discarded in the trash, with horrifying and tragic consequences. The author patiently engineers these ingredients and personalities into a nightmarish conflict while showing a particular talent for writing viscerally gripping action. The moral dilemmas he presents are all too familiar, with seemingly little to differentiate villains, victims, and victors. China itself, of course, takes center stage, as the past—with its rich cultural backdrop, paramount loyalty to family and clan, and reverence for tradition—confronts social upheaval and the accelerating importance of artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Chinese science fiction, once an unknown quantity in the U.S., is making its way to the forefront through sheer excellence.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8931-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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