From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Lianke (Serve the People!) confronts the black market blood trade and the subsequent AIDS epidemic it sparked, in a brilliant and harrowing novel. Ding village is ground zero for an AIDS epidemic that mushrooms after villagers are coerced into selling their blood and are subsequently infected by contaminated plasma injections. "Blood kingpin" Ding Hui amasses wealth and power, and nothing can stop him, not the murder of his 12-year-old son, Ding Qiang, who narrates from beyond the grave; or his dying brother, Ding Liang; or the pleas of his father, Ding Shuiyang. As the death toll climbs and coffins grow scarce, the survivors become enmeshed in petty rivalries, foolish schemes, and gossip. Shuiyang's dreams give him glimpses of the future, but the villagers won't listen, and soon they've chopped down every tree in town to build coffins, which leaves them without protection from the elements and allows Hui to further exploit the cascading disasters, culminating in a bizarrely booming business to assuage bereft parents by arranging marriages between dead young people that brings Qiang full circle. Carter does a crystalline translation of Lianke's brazen, unflinching portrayal of a community in the throes of collapse. (Jan.) (c)
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*Starred Review* A powerful look at the AIDS scandal in Henan Province during the 1990s, when many people became infected with HIV after selling their blood at private collection centers, Yan’s evocative novel focuses on one family at the heart of the tragedy in the fictional Ding Village. Ding Hui grew rich buying blood from the villagers and exposed many to HIV by reusing needles. Hui’s father, Shuiyang, believes Hui should take responsibility for the illness that has swept the village, but even the murder of his young son doesn’t sway Hui. Hoping to atone for Hui’s crimes, Shuiyang gets permission to use the school as a hospice for the many sick villagers. What starts out as an idealistic experiment in which the infected villagers work together to make their lives easier crumbles before Shuiyang’s eyes as the small community is plagued by theft and a corrupt duo who seizes power, while Hui continues to prey on the villagers by selling them coffins donated by the government. Communist ideals battle against capitalistic impulses and human nature in this grand, layered novel, a must-read for anyone interested in present-day China. --Kristine Huntley