StoryGraph Saturday: Strange Beasts of China

StoryGraph Saturday is a weekly thing where I randomly choose a book from my To Read pile on StoryGraph and show it off to both remind myself that it’s there and to show it to you, Dear Reader, in case you might find it interesting, too.

Strange Beasts of China
by Yan Ge, translated from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang
192 pages
Published June, 2021

From The StoryGraph:

Winner of an English PEN award, Strange Beasts of China is a disquieting bestiary that blurs the line between human and beast told with stylistic verve by one of most exciting voices in contemporary Chinese literature.

In the fictional Chinese town of Yong’an, monsters and spirits live, almost indistinguisably, alongside humans. Strange Beasts of China follows the narrator, an amateur cryptozoologist, as she attempts to document each type of beast with the help of her former professor and his enigmatic assistant. From the Sacrificial Beasts, who can’t stop dying, to the Heartsick Beasts, who are genetically engineered to be as loyal and loving as possible, each chapter introduces a new beast and dives deeper into a mystery that threatens the narrator’s very sense of self.

In prose that is both whimsical and daring, Yan Ge guides the reader through the underbelly of a chillingly uncanny world and questions what it really means to be human.

I’ve been wanting to read more works– especially fantasy– in translation, as it’s always good to broaden one’s horizons and find out what the rest of the world is doing with my favorite genre, and finding a Chinese novel about weird beasts and the woman who studies them sounds like a fascinating entry into current Chinese SFF. Are there more well-known Chinese SFF works? Yes, there are, but I’m not as interested in them for several reasons.

That said, I want to read Strange Beasts of China, as well as Jin Yong’s Legend of the Condor Heroes, which is a series of Wuxia novels that has been immensely popular in China, and is currently being translated into English. I think there are four books out now (or will be soon). So one day, I will get around to reading those, and hopefully before that I will pick up a copy of Strange Beasts of China.

3 thoughts on “StoryGraph Saturday: Strange Beasts of China

  1. Like you I’ve been branching out and trying to read more translated works from as many langauges as I can. I’ve read just a little Chinese with mixed success finding ones I enjoyed. I was a little disappointed with Vagabonds, though it was an interesting sci-fi story. But I enjoyed A Hero Born, the first volume of Legends of the Condor Heroes. I’ve read mixed reviews of it but it worked for me. I’ve been collecting the rest of the volumes and hope to start on book 2 later this year. Strange Beasts of China sounds like another that might work and be worth trying.

  2. I was about to mention A Hero Born! I enjoyed that one, too, but I haven’t read the following volumes that are out yet. I want to get caught up before they get too far into it, because I think there are 13 books in total. It’s a different kind of story, for sure, but once I got into the rhythm of it it was super interesting. I’d never read a wuxia novel before. I put in a request for an inter-library loan for Strange Beasts of China, as my library doesn’t have it. I’m hoping it arrives sometime soon.

  3. Really glad to hear you enjoyed A Hero Born. Like you, I had to get into the rhythm of it, as it is told somewhat differently than typical western stories, but once I did it flowed really well for me. I’ve watched a number of wuxia movies but this was my first novel. And though I don’t think it’s wuxia, I do have a copy of Journey to the West, a classic Chinese story I’ve always wanted to read. I seen several movies derived from it. Can’t wait to hear about Strange Beasts of China when you get it.

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