22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
And We'll All Float On Anyway,
This review is from: On Such a Full Sea: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Mr. Lee's new novel is so full of smart, speculative fiction ideas, I'm somewhat amazed that I'm not giving it five stars. Extrapolating out our current class and culture divide to three intertwined social constructs, bound together by commercially reinforced corporate-political overseers, is brilliant. In many senses, we're already there, but On Such a Full Sea distills it into story in order to make it even more clear.
Likewise, the protagonist, Fan, and narrator of the novel, her original community, the urban wasteland turned Socialist Capitalism collective known as B-Mor, are ingeniously realized themes. Fan is a Zen-like cipher whose abilities made her excellent at her job in B-Mor and throughout the novel both attract acquaintances and enable her to survive and thrive in the circumstances she encounters. The people she left behind are like any mass of humanity viewed as a group, occasionally agitated but ultimately more concerned about their day-to-day existence than grand notions of right and wrong.
Fan's story is amazing and at times thrilling. There's relatable human drama in the time she spends in each of the modes of living in her world. But there's also over-the-top perils that seem contrived as much to provide additional shock as they are to contribute to the novel's themes. In the cases where they appear, they stick out and distract from a message that the author had already successfully presented, without adding any thrills.
And I guess that's why I ended up giving On Such a Full Sea less than the highest rating. For as inventive and important as the book was, and as beautiful as Chang-Rae Lee's prose can be, there were too many times that I considered putting it down, or wished that we could fast-forward some narrative aside or dystopian scene, or struggled to relate to Fan as a character instead of as a Koan.