The elements of fairy-tale fantasy scattered across The Explosion Chronicles help to sweeten a tough-minded satire ... Even in Carlos Rojas’s robust and well-paced translation, such a diet of supersized wonders can try the reader’s patience. Like his greedy citizens, Mr Yan sometimes fails to put a brake on grotesque excess. Many of the strongest episodes keep to a more domestic scale.
""...a hyper-real tour de force, a blistering condemnation of political corruption and excess masquerading as absurdist saga ... Robustly translated by Carlos Rojas, the novel is a grotesque entertainment on a Grand Guignol scale, as well as a pointed indictment of what the real Yan, in his afterword, terms 'mythorealism' — an exaggerated reality of deliberate, collective stupidity and counterfactuality, strikingly similar to today’s concept of 'fake news' ... we can marvel at his Swiftian sardonicism, yet its basis, however irrational, is reality. To this end he has written a novel which extends beyond China’s moral contradictions to the ethical ambivalence of our times.""
...the formal inventiveness of The Explosion Chronicles is impressive and its fictional universe vividly drawn. But one cannot help wishing it were less an operatic allegory of political principles and more a story, animated by fallible protagonists who are not entirely devoid of moral ambivalence.
This darkly absurd history trucks freely with the fantastic—the city’s airport is built in less than a week—but many of the more brazen events are taken straight from the news ... Mr. Yan’s burlesque of a nation driven insane by money is equally a satire of some of the excesses of the Chinese Revolution.