Review: “Running Shoes” by Ken Liu

1 of 5 stars.

Several serious global issues are rolled into one overly simplified fable lacking any nuance. Nicely, it’s very short.

Giang is a 14 y.o. laborer in a Vietnamese shoe factory. Due to a workplace accident, her father is too injured to work. Her mother works long hours to pay the father’s medical bills. Giang’s wages pay for food, housing and her brother’s schooling.

As she falls behind, Giang is punished with laps [clearly not while wearing the expensive running shoes that she makes]. As soon as she gets back to her station, she’s is fatally wounded and her consciousness goes into a pair of shoes and Giang-the-shoes is shipped to Boston where she is Bobby’s Christmas gift. A year later, Bobby gets new shoes since Giang-shoes have started to weather. He knots the laces and tosses the shoes up over an electric line. Because consumerism.

Issues mentioned: child labor, over-long workday hours, workplace safety, gender inequity in education, American consumerism and waste. All of these are serious issues that would merit deeper treatment.

“Running Shoes” appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015 edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in SQ Mag, Issue 16, September 2014. I have previously reviewed Liu’s “The Long Haul: From the Annuls of Transportation, The Pacific Monthly, May 2009″.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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