PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewButler can write clean and sharp sentences — that’s in evidence in the first few pages ... But when the narration moves closer to Alice (where it resides for the majority of the book) the prose gets more attenuated and confusing. If you’re not careful, you might mistake it for messy, but I think there’s an exceptional amount of intention and control on display in the telling of this story. There’s no doubt that Butler is saying precisely what he means to ... Even so, I initially found it grueling to read this book. Trying to precisely comprehend every line of Alice Knott felt like wrestling an opponent who very clearly had the upper hand. But once I gave myself permission to experience this prose as I do poetry, the reading experience became much more pleasurable and rewarding ... If you’re already familiar with Butler’s work then I suspect you already know what I mean. If you aren’t then let me say clearly: Don’t expect a conventional reading experience. Alice Knott is a meditation on art and perception whose form seems to serve as both a meta-comment on the function of the novel, and a challenge to the expectations that a reader should bring to one. It’s rare for me to enjoy and value a book on those terms, but this one worked for me. And even more to the point, I respected it for insisting that I rise to its challenge.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... a propulsive first novel that aims to entertain ... There are some interesting ideas about identity and privilege here ... In the lulls between high-octane fight scenes, Nieh uses the gaps in Victor’s fluency to lend realism to the experience of straddling these two worlds ... The second half of Beijing Payback rushes through a few final action scenes, then slows down for a clever plot twist and a brooding ending. And it sets up a sequel, one that I very much look forward to reading.