While lockdown may have affected our ability to travel and work, it hasn't slowed the pace of must-read new books. Whether we can or can't indulge the habitual pleasures of escapist reading on the beach, here's an eclectic and electric quartet of fiction (including one for the kids) to satiate and surpass all literary leanings.
Chen Qiufan's cutting-edge, near-future sci-fi novel is about as prescient as writing gets. It's a story based on a real-world Chinese town that recycled the world's electronic waste. In the novel, the waste dump is called Silicon Isle, and it becomes the lifeblood of desperate workers from around China who — despite the toxic hazards, environmentalists' attacks, long hours and pitiful wages — all want to work their way out of poverty. Meanwhile, relationships are formed between friends and exploiters (and there's a fine line between the two) against the troubling and accelerating backdrop of biological warfare, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Simply stunning.
British author and former comic actor David Walliams has firmly established himself as his generation's Roald Dahl, with an ability to pen fantastically funny and engaging tales, all illustrated by Dahl's former artist, Tony Ross. Slime is a tiny island that's home to a large number of nasty grown-ups who run the schools, parks, shops and even the ice cream van, and they all make the little ones' lives miserable. Something needs to be done. But, who is brave enough to take on the nastiest adult of them all — the island's owner, Aunt Greta Greed? Meet Ned, the boy wonder with a special power: slimepower!
If I had Your Face
Frances Cha's debut novel is set in contemporary South Korea, where it's estimated that one in three women have plastic surgery before the age of 30. Cha uses this reality to portray the tale of four young women from the same apartment block who strive to "beautify" themselves in the hopes of getting ahead. Along the way, the women nurture a strength, spirit and resilience from the friendship they develop, but the results of their "makeovers" meet with mixed success — or a lack of it. It's an eye-opening depiction of Korean society and its deep-seated inequalities, but one which Cha, a former Seoul-based travel and culture editor for CNN, tells with vigour and panache.
Last Tang Standing
Like all good Chinese children, Andrea Tang is doing her best to fulfil her mother's plans for her life: she's on track to become partner at a top Singapore law firm, she has a beautiful apartment and she's got the perfect hubby-to-be boyfriend. But a highly attractive new lawyer is trying to steal her promotion, she's maxed out her credit cards and her boyfriend's gone walkabout. Cue multiple dating problems. Funnier and deeper than Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians — and written with a wit, verve and tenderness that Kwan's novel lacked — Lauren Ho's debut is a dazzlingly dashing rom-com.
(Source: China Daily)
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