A Chinese American chef is lured to a decadent, enigmatic colony of the superrich in a near future in which food is disappearing, discovers the meaning of pleasure and the ethics of who gets to enjoy it, altering her life and, indirectly, the world.
Dwells with keen intelligence and rich insight at this nexus of food, pleasure, privilege and catastrophe, offering a mouthful of nectar that tastes faintly of blood ... Zhang veers unabashedly here into the decadence of language, a surplus of sensory texture and figuration ... There’s an ornateness to this prose that is missing from much contemporary fiction.
Scintillating ... Page after page of decadent, sensual writing ... By sprinkling her fiction with smart, speculative touches, she reveals that we as humans can still imagine better, more brilliant outcomes when looking toward the past, present and future. And for Zhang and her readers, taking this route can be fiendishly, deliciously fun.
The haunting story of an ambitious chef desperate to keep cooking even as 98 percent of the commercial crops fail and the world’s store of food dwindles to gruel ... Zhang is such a cool writer that salmon steaks could stay fresh in her prose for weeks. But there’s something absurd about this narrator’s single-minded obsession with haute cuisine during what sounds like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road ... This novel should come with linen napkins ... The story remains tense, unnerving and creepy, but it can feel strangely static. That effect is exacerbated by Zhang’s aphoristic style and the sense that these scenes are being recalled after many decades. Also, the narrator has an aversion to action that places the emphasis on reflection while boiling away moments of real drama. The result is an extremely atmospheric novel about the interplay of environmental destruction and class.