4 July 2009

Xiaolu Guo, UFO in her Eyes, 2009

Guo’s debut in English Village of Stone was a slow-burning but ultimately great read, so this one is a must-see. Despite the title her concerns aren’t in the least science fictional and the UFO is merely a McGuffin for some Chinese government officials investigating the sighting, something that sets off all the subsequent events. This is a crossover story in a number of ways: what we have in book form has been modelled as a lively film script, a format Guo-the-filmmaker clearly wants to do as a book in its own right; meanwhile Guo-the-author is bringing a couple of predominantly Western cultural facets (UFOs and 9/11) and shoehorning them into her own unsuspecting culture, a near-future rural China, with the result of rapid and mostly unnecessary development that changes the face of a town while leaving its people behind. It’s a beautifully produced book that's typographically inventive with plenty of stuff that makes the pages turn fast, but I found as a whole the story lacks much substance; by the end one is asking what has everyone achieved apart from putting the small town of Silver Hill a little more prominently on the 21st Century Chinese cultural map. The multiple viewpoints work well together with much wit and profanity (but again, at the expense of characterisation); the interview format for the entire book is original but it’s a novel that doesn’t do much more than scratch at some surfaces despite some clearly referenced gender and class issues: the novel is meant to be fun, and is.  PY


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