11 December 2017

Review #689: An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong…it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideas.”

----Emma Watson

Maggie Shen King, a Taiwanese bestselling author, has penned a highly thought-provoking dystopian novel, An Excess Male that revolves around a not-so young man longing for companionship with a woman while getting wrapped up in a government-influenced deadly drama and scandal and is set in not-so-distant future in China, where male to female sex ration has become tremendously high, gradually making women almost extinct from the face of the Earth. This is the Handmaid's Tale for the men set the year of 2050.


From debut author Maggie Shen King, An Excess Male is the chilling dystopian tale of politics, inequality, marriage, love, and rebellion, set in a near-future China, that further explores the themes of the classic The Handmaid's Tale and When She Woke.

Under the One Child Policy, everyone plotted to have a son.

Now 40 million of them can't find wives. China’s One Child Policy and its cultural preference for male heirs have created a society overrun by 40 million unmarriageable men. By the year 2030, more than twenty-five percent of men in their late thirties will not have a family of their own. An Excess Male is 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.Wei-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 to 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 looks to explore the intersection of marriage, family, gender, and state in an all too plausible future.

Lee Wei-guo, a 40 year old award-wining physical trainer has now only one dream to get married to a woman and start his loving family. But in the year of 2050 in China, when the male-to-female ratio has drastically gone up, it is real difficult to find a woman to get married to, as a result, government of China has set certain laws to maintain a balance, starting with the allowance to the handful of desirable and marriageable women left in the country to have a maximum of 3 legally-wedded husbands and to have one child with each of her husbands, not only that, the husbands must may dowry to the woman and her family while getting married to her. Yet Lee has hope that he will get married to his dream woman someday even though getting married through matchmakers is a luxury now. And he does meet the woman of his dreams with her two husbands and her child, but sadly his road to happiness become too dangerous when Lee gets caught up in a Government-initiated deadly conspiracy in a country where being gay and mentally retarded will label you as a criminal.

Its not hard to imagine a dystopian future like that, when the preference for male children has given rise to a drastically high rate of male-to-female sex ratio, turning female human species almost extinct from the world. This is a hardcore soon-to-be-reality, if female infanticide is not stopped or banned either by the government or by the world health organization. I was not at all feeling sorry for the men while reading this book, I felt like they deserved such a poor fate of not being able to get married or not being able to indulge in physical bodily pleasures in our near future. Even though I strongly condemn the issues of female infanticide and gender inequality, I know that this is how our society or the world is going to go on till the end of the time and this author has done a brilliant job in re-imagining on what might happen and how is it going to finally affect the men, if we do not stop or address to those grave issues growing like a wild fire in the societies we live in.

The author's writing style is exquisite and evocative enough to move the readers deeply with the voices of the protagonists. There is a subtle hint of a love story centered around the political conspiracy against those are Willfully Sterile men meaning gay, and those romantic scenes and emotions are dealt with utmost sensitivity and feels to keep the readers hooked on to the story line. The narrative of the four main characters are very well portrayed with enough realism and is articulately penned to make the readers contemplate with the plight of the characters. The pacing is steady and smooth, laced with gripping tension and nuances of a deadly and clever conspiracy is bound to keep the readers glued till the very end of the story.

The world imagined by the author, so rather say the future depicted by the author is logical, full of sense and is extremely believable. Hats off to the author for trying to make us show the ugly truth behind our constant preference for male children and preferring men over women. The characters are extremely well painted by the author into the story line. The voices of the four protagonists, two brother, Hann and XX, their wife, May-ling and her soon-to-be-husband, Lee, are vividly arrested by the author with layers of back story and character development to make them look real in the eyes of the readers. Hann is a headstrong man who only wants to keep his family happy, nerdy XX is busy in his world and has little to do with his wife or the child or his brother, May-ling is a compassionate and thoughtful woman who cares for all the men in her life despite of a broken past and Lee is a determined ordinary man with dreams and aspirations.

In a nutshell, this book is going to resonate with all the human beings of this world, and trust me, this is a must-read book that is an sure-shot eye-opener for many who turn a blind eye to gender inequality and female infanticide.

Verdict: A compelling, an enlightening and a must-read dystopian science-fiction.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Maggie Shen King for giving me an opportunity to read and review her debut book.

Author Info:
Maggie Shen King is the author of An Excess Male (Harper Voyager), a Washington Post Top 5 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novel of 2017. She is Goodreads September 2017 Debut Author the Month.
Her short stories have appeared in Ecotone, ZYZZYVA, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Fourteen Hills. Her manuscript Fortune's Fools, won Second Prize in Amazon's 2012 Breakthrough Novel Award.
Visit her here

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