4 of 5 stars.
Social and economic inequality perpetuates, if not exasperates, itself. The privileged haves accumulate an increasingly larger portion of the economic pie at the expense of the unprivileged have-nots. This imaginative tale out of China, here translated by Ken Liu, takes the divide to the speculative extreme by physically dividing the world both spatially and temporally.
In a future engineering feat, Beijing is divided into 3 non-overlapping Spaces in which the entire city transforms itself physically into a class-divided Space while the other two Spaces enter into cocooned sleep until their Space emerges again. First Space, home to the 5 million wealthiest privileged people, exists for 24 hours out of every 48. They have the best foods and can make in a week what those in the Third Space would make over 40 months. The Second Space then exists for 16 hours every 48 hours. They are the 20 million strong middle class white-collar workers and specialists. The Third Space of over fifty million people, are under-educated blue-collar workers, half of whom manually process the trash and recycling of the other two Spaces. They are awakened only 8 dark hours of every 48.
The Change is the Earth-rupturing transitional times as the prior Space goes into deeper sleep and the next emerges. It’s largely illegal to cross the Space boundaries as whole buildings and sections of Earth flip and invert like origami. Yet, Lao Jao needs the money, and undertakes a Space-crossing mission to deliver messages and supplies across the 3 Spaces in order to provide for his infant daughter. In many ways, he gets to see how the other halves live . . .
This tale appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, which I received directly from Prime Books.
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