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Excess Male, An: A Novel Paperback – September 12, 2017
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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“The Handmaid’s Tale of a new generation. This is a stark and fantastic view of an almost inevitable future.” (Peter Clines, author of Paradox Bound and The Fold)
“King writes distinctive and sympathetic characters, and her vision of a not-so-far future is unnerving and thought-provoking.” (The Washington Post (a “Must read science fiction and fantasy” September 2017 pick))
“King’s novel takes its cues from classic sci-fi dystopias, from The Handmaid’s Tale to Ender’s Game, to demonstrate the repressive control mechanisms already at work in everyday life. An intelligent, incisive commentary on how love survives—or doesn’t—under the heel of the State.”
“An extraordinary first novel—an incisive, dryly funny examination of masculinity in a near-future China, where a gender imbalance in the population has resulted in some startling social changes. An Excess Male is a nuanced, meticulously structured character study that builds to a thrilling conclusion.” (Dexter Palmer, author of Version Control)
“In King’s thoughtful, heartbreaking debut...[she] expertly explores the myriad routes to family, hope, and love in a repressive country.” (Publishers Weekly)
“King imagines a frightening reality, in which forced cultural norms run counter to basic human rights, leaving readers exceedingly uncomfortable with its feasibility.” (Booklist)
“Maggie Shen King has a great gift not only for creating a complicated, futuristic world but also for creating characters who win our hearts and minds. An Excess Male is a wonderfully inventive and wonderfully funny novel.” (Margot Livesey, author of Mercury and The Flight of Gemma Hardy)
“I found An Excess Male eerie and riveting. This brilliantly crafted dystopia brings to mind Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but with its dire situation more probable and imminent. An Excess Male is a wonderful read, horrifying and humorous and bringing with it a warning.” (Heather Stallings, author of Click City, a novel serialized by the San Francisco Chronicle)
“In a remarkable debut, Maggie Shen King has brought to life an indelible dystopia that prefigures a looming future. Evocative and compelling, An Excess Male stands as a prescient, searing tale of the family in an imperative battle for sovereignty against totalitarian rule.” (Lane von Herzen, author of Copper Crown)
From the Back Cover
China’s one-child policy and its cultural preference for male heirs have created a society overrun by forty million unmarriageable men. By the year 2030, more than 25 percent of men in their late thirties will not have a family of their own. An Excess Male is the story of one such leftover man’s quest for love and family under a State that seeks to glorify its past mistakes and impose order through authoritarian measures, reinvigorated communist ideals, and social engineering.
Wi-guo holds fast to the belief that as long as he continues to improve himself, his small business, and, in turn, his country, his chance at love will come. He finally saves up the dowry required to enter matchmaking talks at the lowest rung, as a third husband—the maximum allowed by law. Only a single family—one harboring an illegal spouse—shows interest, yet with May-ling and her two husbands, Wei-guo feels seen, heard, and connected like never before. But everyone and everything—walls, streetlights, garbage cans—are listening, and men, excess or not, are dispensable to the State. Wei-guo must reach a new understanding of patriotism and test the limits of his love and his resolve in order to save himself and this family he has come to hold dear.
In Maggie Shen King’s startling and beautiful debut, An Excess Male explores the intersection of marriage, family, gender, and state in an all-too-plausible future.
Top customer reviews
I highly recommend this book to anyone in a book club. It has numerous thought provoking discussion topics and is sure to satisfy a wide audience of readers. I look forward to reading more books by this author!
I am a reader who loves both: I'll watch all the Black Mirrors out there, but I will also tear through Oprah's book selections or a searing memoir like Alice Anderson's story of an abusive relationship because, at the end of the day, for *me*, it's the characters in a story that make it, not fancy sci-fi theatrics. (Think the 2000's reboot of Battlestar Gallactica.)
This novel is a good dose of both an expansively imagined dystopian near-future China and an intimate look at a single family trying to navigate within their highly regulated, surveilled world.
The near-future China in which the novel is set does not require much of a leap of imagination. If a male child will do more for a family than a female one, it is understandable that an individual family would use ultrasound and, sadly, even infanticide or infant abandonment to make sure the one hand they get to play is strong. Unfortunately, when you multiply these individual choices by the population of China, you end up having already 33 million more men than women (est. 2015) and counting. Shen King pushes forward several decades into the future, envisioning a state in which polygamy (polyandry) is both legal and encouraged and a whole host of other “calming measures” have been created to diffuse a burgeoning class of bachelors: government-sponsored “Comfort Women” to relieve the bodily needs, elaborate DND-style war games to occupy their time and energy, and more. Wei-Guo is one of the “excess males,” and we meet him just as he is courting a potential family to become their (gasp) *third* husband.
Adding to the dark tone of this novel is the all-reaching, all-watching State, with its edicts on everything from homosexuality in men to how corporations dole out housing for their employees. The deep surveillance these characters are under and the ways in which people fear their neighbors keeping tabs on them reminded me of Handmaid’s Tale. A scene in which the wife in the family, Wu May-ling, encounters a neighbor who is the wife of one of her husband's coworkers illustrates how distrustful a citizen of this totalitarian state has to be if they want to survive.
Whereas the world Shen King created itself gives the reader a sense of oppression and severe limitations, what really makes this story compelling is the way she allows us to inhabit the minds of the four alternating point-of-view characters. The second husband in the family Wei-guo is courting, Xiong-xin, or XX, is “on the spectrum,” which is hard enough in any society, but in this world means going to great lengths to conceal his condition or risk being dealt with by the state, possibly sterilized. The most heartbreaking scenes in the book, in my opinion, were when XX goes outside on his lunch break and takes extra pork buns to a concreted-in park to feed some stray dogs. This image was a metaphor for all the characters in this story: surrounded by concrete walls and with only a scant few minutes of unsupervised time and even fewer resources to do it with, they seek out the smallest diversions and try to eek out just the smallest bits of joy and fulfillment in their highly constrained lives.
The kind of intimate familiarity I got with each of the characters had me rooting for each of them, and by the time Wei-guo gets enmeshed in a perilous situation with the government, I was pulling for this family to come together and pool their various talents to restore a semblance of wholeness. It was great to see how the strands come together in the end, and it was also a relief when I finished and put the book down. We've got a boatload of problems in Rump's America, but it was nothing like the world Shen King so deftly drew!
Most recent customer reviews
An Excess Male extrapolates the impact of China’s one-child policy in a society that values...Read more