The Fat Years

The Fat Years

A Novel

eBook - 2011 | 1st U.S. ed.
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In near-future Beijing, a month is missing from all official records, mass amnesia has wiped it from collective memory, and people are possessed with an unnatural cheerfulness. A small group of friends will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Publisher: New York : Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2011.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 9780385534352
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xix, 310 p.)
Additional Contributors: Duke, Michael S.
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SCL_Justin Jul 18, 2017

On the cover of Chan Koonchung’s novel The Fat Years there’s a subtitle reading: “The novel no one in China dares publish.” Le sigh. The book’s publishing history in other places doesn’t interest me nearly as much as the book itself. It’s also funny that I’ve seen it billed as a dystopian science fiction novel, whereas for the most part to me it resembled actual China. There were exaggerations, yes, but this is not the stuff of 1984 (there is an element of Brave New World in it, since as far as I know [SPOILER ALERT] China doesn’t actually lace its water supply with trace amounts of Ecstasy). Mostly though, the book served as an interesting look at how modern China exists.

The first two thirds of the book follow a series of characters in Beijing, but mostly Lao Chen, a writer from Taiwan. An acquaintance of his meets him on the street asking about the missing month they’ve experienced as China experienced its ascendancy. The rest of the world’s economy collapsed, you see, but China managed to get through and everyone is so happy and self satisfied. The book is mostly about trying to figure out why and what happened.

The last third of the book is more like an essay from the mouth of a government official explaining what happened and why and how. If you don’t care about Chinese politics and media and such, this part will likely be terribly dull, but if you do care, it’s fascinating. I liked it a lot, despite its hyperbolic claims of how no one in China dare reads it.

Jul 03, 2014

Oh God, was this Boring (yes, with a capital B).
The story goes round and round in circles. It's not clever and not entirely convincing as science fiction.
It really read like a contemporary political commentary with a few semi-fictional characters thrown in. It was like the author decided that if it got classed in a fiction genre more people would read it, so created a little love story to throw in between the commentary.
It's also not that in depth, I am aware of the political, social and economic issues in China and this didn't add anything to my knowledge of the country.

Jun 08, 2014

This dystopian novel about China in the new future in the end disappoints. The first two-thirds of this satire paints a picture of a country in which every one has collective amnesia and is very happy. The last third is a lecture on economics which reiterates the points in case the reader missed them. One could substitute any country in the West for China without too much difficulty in this description of a society where dissent has been co-opted for material comforts.

May 06, 2013

Chan can tell a good story. The book offers great perspective on contemporary political situation in China.

Feb 11, 2013

This book should please anyone who's ever lived in China or with Chinese people. Sinophiles in general. It was very interesting reading a translation as well. Different structure and narrative style.

joanniek Aug 03, 2012

It was too political for my liking. Parts of it were good. Things may have been lost in translation.

Jul 03, 2012

This book was frightening because it showed how the state manipulated the whole population of 1.3 billion people with insecurity and terror. I begin to wonder how easily Canadians could be used the same way.

austinmurphy Mar 03, 2012

I had no problem with the last section of the book (a detailed economic account of China's ascension that is probably the most interesting part), but it did feel bizarre and not properly connected to the rest of the novel. This feels more like a draft than a finished product.

Feb 13, 2012

Excellent and highly readable. The translator has graciously added cultural notes for those not versed in Chinese politics or culture. What 1984 would look like in our modern world.


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