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The Man with the Compound Eyes: A Novel Hardcover – May 20, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (May 20, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307907961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307907967
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Although Taiwanese author Wu has been widely celebrated by Chinese readers for his earlier books, his latest is the first to receive an English translation. In a uniquely harmonious blend of fantasy and blunt realism,Wu’s novel tells the story of two very different protagonists, one from the imaginary island, Wayo-Wayo, and one from coastal Taiwan, whose fates improbably intertwine. As the second son in a culture that worships the Sea God, Atile’i is cast into the Pacific Ocean as a sacrifice once he passes his 180th full moon. Although he is close to drowning, Atile’i’s life is spared when he washes up on an enormous floating mound of trash. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, a literature professor named Alice is preparing to commit suicide following the disappearance of her husband and son. When the trash islet collides with Taiwan, destroying her home, Alice’s plans are set aside, and meeting Atile’i gives her new hope to solve the mystery of her lost family. Wu’s beautifully evocative language and multilayered ecological and cultural themes offer a richly satisfying reading experience. --Carl Hays

Review

“Astonishing. . . . A wonderful novel which deserves a very wide audience.” —The Independent (London)

“We haven't read anything like this novel. Ever. South America gave us magical realism—what is Taiwan giving us? A new way of telling our new reality, beautiful, entertaining, frightening, preposterous, true. Completely unsentimental but never brutal, Wu Ming-Yi treats human vulnerability and the world's vulnerability with fearless tenderness.” —Ursula K. Le Guin

“An earnest, politically conscious novel, anchored in ecological concerns and Taiwanese identity. . . . [Wu’s] writing occupies the space between hard-edged realism and extravagantly detailed fantasy. . . . There may be walking trees, miraculous butterflies and deer that morph into goats, but this is a novel anchored in the gritty mess of what it means to remember and to exist as an individual. . . . Beyond the book's ecological and scientific attributes, you can see a deft novelist's hand at work.” —Tash Aw, The Guardian
 
“A universal, yet unique, tale of love and loss. . . . The Man with the Compound Eyes defies categorization. A heady mix of science fiction, fantasy, environmental fable and magical realism, the author had to create a genre entirely new for this singular, captivating book. . . . [A work of] lyrical, haunting beauty.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“A striking book. . . . [Wu's] characters are not just full and round but, in their every small detail and stray thought, seem to stretch their own skins, swollen with a complex humanity. . . . It is science fiction . . . in the way that the best Margaret Atwood books are science fiction. . . . At the same time, it's [also] in the tradition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magic realism. . . . I read it on the train, on my couch, standing on the street outside a beer garden with a couple of liters already in me and in my car while I drove. . . . I couldn't put it down. . . . I missed the story when I wasn't living inside it. Because as distant and foreign as it was . . . The Man with the Compound Eyes felt like home.” —Jason Sheehan, NPR

“The depiction of Atile’i’s magical realm and his innocent wonder at this unfamiliar and murky world is imaginative and moving.” —Financial Times

“I'm fascinated by The Man with the Compound Eyes, which is rich, dense and dripping with life. The book sings in the key of fable, but with the timbre of reality.” —Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Fictional Universe
 
“Wu’s rollercoaster of a story is about wilderness, wildness, wonderment, love. . . . I couldn’t put it down, and over the course of several days I felt that I had ventured into a new, uncharted territory concocted by a Taipei visionary. Part South American magical realism, part Margaret Atwood rollercoaster of the imagination. . . . [The Man with the Compound Eyes includes] perhaps the best writing to ever come out of a Taiwan novel. . . . The English translation . . . is superb and sensitively captures the nuances of Taiwan’s Aboriginal cultures and languages.” —Taipei Times

“This is a brilliant story. I wept at the description of the dying whales and the approaching tsunami. I've been bemoaning of late the lack of omniscient storytellers, and they work best with a whimsical and fantastical narrator like this. I think this work will be a classic. A haunting and evocative tale, beautifully told." —Hugh Howey, author of Wool

“Beautifully written and beautifully translated. . . . [Ming-Yi] guides us to see the entirety of experience as bumping flotsam in an unending ocean of life colliding and making a mess of things or making something new. . . . Lyric, simple, soft, the story crests and recedes and comes back again.” —The Bloomington Sun-Current

“A gift. . . . Ming-Yi is a naturalist as well as a storyteller, and it is perhaps his greatest achievement that this novel creates a sense of solidarity not only between his human characters, but also between [the] humans and the animals and plants he describes with such fidelity and with such inspiring belief in the reality of their wisdom and power.” —FullStop

“[The Man with the Compound Eyes] has charm. . . adventure, horror, awe, and a heavy proenvironmental theme. . . . Offering a heady dose of realism, surrealism, and magic realism, with several shots of allegory, award-winning Chinese author Wu offers a work for ‘literary fiction’ readers, but not in the snobbish sense. It's really for any curious, intelligent reader not tethered to the best sellers lists.” —Library Journal (starred review)

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Customer Reviews

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See all 11 customer reviews
A beautiful mystical ride.
Robert F. Archacki
I found myself very impatient for things to happen - normally I'm happy for a book to unfold slowly because I'm enjoying the flow of the words but not in this case.
J-J-J-Jinx!
A welcome addition to my library, and highly recommended.
KnC Books

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By KnC Books on May 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"No other creature can share experience like this. Only human beings can, through writing, experience something separately together." - The Man with the Compound Eyes

Most of us lead what we consider simple lives. We look at the mundane activites of daily life - eating, sleeping, working - without consideration of how they affect, or are affected, by the world around us. Indeed, our quest for individuality seems to demand that we see ourselves as separate, living at the center our own little world.

"The Man with the Compound Eyes" is a novel of interconnectedness; where people, places, things, and even time periods come together, and "the finest movement of any organism represents a change in an ecosystem." Author Wu Ming-Yi takes us to a place where our mythic past of oral legends and wrathful gods meets our technological present of live news coverage and cell phones. There, on a beach in Taiwan, they must confront not only each other but the uncertain future as well, when the rising ocean dumps back all the trash people had dumped into it.

As if we have compound eyes, Wu Ming-YI allows us to see a single series of events from multiple perspectives; each intimately personal, yet remaining interrelated. Woven together with the threads of life, death, love, and loss, the characters in "The Man with the Compound Eyes" face their shared trials and individual travails. "Life doesn't allow you any preconceptions. Most of the time you have to accept what life throws at you, kind of like walking into a restaurant where the owner dictates what you're having for dinner."

Lyrical, mystical, yet ultimately real, "The Man with the Compound Eyes" is a subtly layered novel that shows us an intricate and multi-faceted world - the world we just happen to live in. An enjoyable read; the translation by Darryl Sterk is seamless. A welcome addition to my library, and highly recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Halevi Bloom on May 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This cli fi novel -- and it is much more in the cli fi genre than the sci fi genre -- is putting Taiwan on the
international map, with overseas editions appearing in
London, New York and Paris.

Note that the novel was very ably translated by National Taiwan
University professor Darryl Sterk, a longtime resident of
Taipei, and that the novel
is just as much about stag beetles, mountaineering,
love, sex, millet wine and whales" as it is about the lives of the
main characters in the book.
I compare Wu's novel to Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez's
magic realism.

Wu's entrance into the Western publishing world is a singular
event, and while some have characterized the novel as speculative fiction in
the way that the best Margaret Atwood books are spec fic --
I call this novel cli fi, and part of a new genre of climate-themed literature. I live in Taiwan
and read the book three times already and each time a new novel was revealed. I see a movie here, later on,
perhaps directed by Taiwanese director Ang Lee, a la "Life of Pi." It's that good!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By asiana VINE VOICE on July 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mystical and magical stories are intertwined in this book which took a lot of patience on my part to finish. First of all, the translation is really fine, but the author dwells too much on environmental issues taking away from character development. In this novel two main characters emerge, Atile'i,, a second son who, according to the rules of the mystical island where he lives, has to be sacrificed to the sea. But, instead of dying, he is washed ashore on an island of trash which, after many storms is headed toward a portion of Taiwan meets where he meets the second main character, Alice, a college professor, who is contemplating suicide after the mysterious disappearance of her husband and son during a hiking trip. Environmentalists from all over the world, a mysterious man, friends of Alice all have their stories told in this myriad tale, but it was a chore to finish the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. C. Bowman on July 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Man With the Compound Eyes" is a vaguely mythic work of art with a fable at its core.

I found the writing gorgeous, full of imagery, and somehow dreamy. It makes me wish I could read the original, not just the translation. It hits you over the head, hard, many times, with a very pointed message. To be fair, though, that message is necessary to the story; it wouldn't be what it is otherwise. I didn't feel that it was preachy, just very clear.
As a side note, I would love to see this adapted into an anime or a film.

Overall, this was a wonderful read and I recommend it highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J-J-J-Jinx! VINE VOICE on July 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book was not exactly bad or good. I expected somewhat more lyrical prose, but the writing is rather flat. I'm not sure if this is because something was lost in translation or if it was just written that way. I found myself very impatient for things to happen - normally I'm happy for a book to unfold slowly because I'm enjoying the flow of the words but not in this case.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Neal C. Reynolds VINE VOICE on June 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Being eco-friendly is fine with me, but sermons get a bit tiresome, and those in this book are rather tiring. That's not that I'm advising against it. There's a lot of good writing here and the writer certainly makes his point, overdoing it a bit.

BTW, I do mean my review title to be tongue-in-cheek. I do think that environmentalists will love it, but non-environmentalists and those who scoff at the idea of climate change will want to skip it. That's too bad, but I do think the author overdoes it to the extent of weakening his viewpoint. If you're in between, well, give this a try, okay?
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