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
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.