3 of 5 stars.
Certain phrases hold deep meaning around the globe without having to explain the time and place they denote: Ground Zero, Tiananmen Square, the 38th Parallel. Recent historic world events are both humanized and contextualized when given fresh perspectives in this novella translated by Ken Liu.
The first twist–for English audiences, at the very least–is a Chinese national as narrator providing a non-Western POV for everything from WWII to the Gulf Wars, The Cold War to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, with distant reports of 9/11 and firsthand accounts of the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre.
The second twist is a cause and effect game-changer. World events unfurl in reverse order. Narrator Xie Baosheng is born the day of the Mayan 2012 Day of Apocalyse, not that anything of note happened that day. His first memories are of his country’s pride in hosting the Beijing Olympics , but then the world seems consumed with USA rough handling of Afghanistan and Iraq culminating in the 9/11 stunning blow to NYC that shuts America down . Slowly, computers and cell phones disappear. Technology reverts and the world appears dumber for it. The free markets of China clamp down into isolationism as the narrator attends the Tiananmen protests while in college .
Seventy years of Baosheng’s life and love, and the militaristic and cultural wars raging around him, help make history accessible if not totally recognizable as Nixon visits China, wars erupt in Vietnam and Korea. And late in his life, aggressive Japan rapes China while a distant threat named Hitler emerges in Germany to ravage Europe . . .
This tale appears in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Science Fiction Novellas: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, which I received directly from Prime Books.
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