Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sci-Fi: On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee

Publisher: Riverhead
Date: January 7, 2014
Format: ARC
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.)
Pages: 350
Reading time: about a week, maybe

From GoodReads: In a future, long-declining America, society is strictly stratified by class. Long-abandoned urban neighborhoods have been repurposed as highwalled, self-contained labor colonies. And the members of the labor class—descendants of those brought over en masse many years earlier from environmentally ruined provincial China—find purpose and identity in their work to provide pristine produce and fish to the small, elite, satellite charter villages that ring the labor settlement. In this world lives Fan, a female fish-tank diver, who leaves her home in the B-Mor settlement (once known as Baltimore), when the man she loves mysteriously disappears. Fan’s journey to find him takes her out of the safety of B-Mor, through the anarchic Open Counties, where crime is rampant with scant governmental oversight, and to a faraway charter village, in a quest that will soon become legend to those she left behind.

My review: I really wanted to love this book. Literary speculative fiction, preferably with dystopian elements, is one of my favorite things to read, and Lee's writing style is unique. Not only is his writing quite nice, but the narrator is a pretty interesting collective family or community voice rather than a single first- or third-person narrator. I also enjoyed finding the parallels between Lee's future societies and current trends in our own.

But...it took a while to get into the plot, and I think I only became engrossed because I was stuck on airplanes for several hours with just reading to do. Though the storyline did remain interesting, the book seemed really slow. I never caught on to what point(s) the author was trying to convey - the story seemed like it was trying to give some kind of message, but I struggled unsuccessfully for the full novel with figuring out what that message was. And while I liked the sudden twist at the conclusion, I didn't like how one of the main issues driving the entire plot was left open. I was hoping this would be a super read, but it failed to live up entirely to my expectations.

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