As an idea and premise, and also as explained in engaging afterwords by Yan and his translator, Carlos Rojas, is darkly exhilarating and daring. But aside from a few intense and unexpectedly moving sequences...the novel itself is numb. The storytelling is slack...while nowhere is there anything like either the rage or artfulness to be found in novels by Yan’s contemporaries Ma Jian and Mo Yan.
A warm-hearted, if not gentle, satire that skewers religious institutions without mocking faith itself ... Satirical novels too often start and end on the same note, which effectively guarantees a loss of momentum. Not true in Heart Sutra. Guessing its next development is no likelier than guessing who will win the next Nobel — and it is a deeply satisfying read as a result ... Not much ends well here, and yet Yan's storytelling has a luminous, irrepressible quality.
With beautiful papercut illustrations, satirical humor, and allegorical prose, Lianke’s brilliantly reimagined campus novel showcases the author’s masterful storytelling, which uses realism and fantasy to explore the intersection between religious and secular beliefs.