RaveAsian Review of BooksMa’s writing echoes writers such as Borges and Kafka in its absurdism, but its imagery is also filmic ... It is a style which suits the modern China it depicts, matching both its concrete reality and its nightmarish illogicality ... the novel’s brevity is also one of its charms ... The vignettes which form each chapter offer brief but rich visions of the protagonist’s descent into madness, and the novel has a power, literary and political, disproportionate to its length ... a book which compellingly reveals the paranoia of the modern Chinese state.
Ma Jian, Trans. by Flora Drew
RaveAsian Review of BooksMa’s writing echoes writers such as Borges and Kafka in its absurdism, but its imagery is also filmic, with sequences alluding to the surrealist visions of Luis Buñuel as well as the grittier realities of Jia Zhangke’s work, in particular his 2013 film A Touch of Sin. It is a style which suits the modern China it depicts, matching both its concrete reality and its nightmarish illogicality. To say the novel’s brevity is also one of its charms sounds paradoxical, but in such allegorical fiction, where politics tends to be at least equal in importance to plot, it does not do to belabor the point ... and the novel has a power, literary and political, disproportionate to its length ... China Dream is a book which compellingly reveals the paranoia of the modern Chinese state[.]
RaveAsian Review of Books...The premise of City of Devils feels indistinguishable from that of a novel, but this is narrative non-fiction; French is up-front in his preface that, though historical accuracy has been his watchword, \'assumptions have been made\' where information is missing ... French is steeped in stories of old Shanghai, and his understanding of the time and period allows him to build a fully-realized world around his compelling characters. A large part of the book’s joy is in its detail: the fashion, the drinks, the drugs, the cars, the bars, the slang. French writes in a present-tense heavy, hard-boiled prose which consciously alludes to the crime novels of James Ellroy, peppering his description and dialogue with the patois of the time.
PositiveThe Asian Review of BooksThe impressive array of evidence that the author has uncovered in the course of his research is marshalled in support of a single thesis: that Communist rule in China in its first three decades was nothing other than catastrophic on both a human and an economic level, and that the cause of the catastrophe was not the party as a whole, but rather—very specifically—Mao Zedong ... Despite Dikötter’s lucid explanations, it becomes almost impossible to keep track of the continual oscillations of political legitimacy in this period. It was, simply, chaos ... The Cultural Revolution is less reliant than the preceding texts on the archival material which made Mao’s Great Famine, in particular, such a groundbreaking work; here, the author prefers, as the subtitle implies, to illustrate his historical points with personal anecdote, often drawn from published accounts. This final volume, however, provides a compelling, lucid and authoritative delineation of this most labyrinthine revolution, and proves a fitting conclusion to Dikötter’s great project.