An Excess Male, A Book Review Without Spoilers

Author, Maggie Shen King

“Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head, but doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again.”

Ray Bradbury


The Short Review

Three Reasons I Recommend you read AN EXCESS MALE…

  1. Learn about China, a rising power with imperial roots and aspirations. Let this novel wake us up to the reality of Big Data meeting Big Brother
  2. Fall in love with the characters put forward by Maggie Shen King
  3. Enjoy a good old fashioned love story/thriller. Actually….NO…the love story is unlike anything you have probably read, but the tale will thrill. Love, loyalty, duty are on display, nearly every page.

To buy AN EXCESS MALE, click here.

The Long Review, Also Without Spoilers

I recommend this novel with a few reservations. AN EXCESS MALE falls into the category of speculative fiction, though it bleeds into the scifi genre and would likely be enjoyed by anyone who loves “surveillance stories”, like Minority Report and The Net. This novel has a few PG-13 scenes, and some adult themes that might bore a young adult reader, but many young adults and those older who read speculative fiction will love the book. I would not recommend it for Middle Grade or younger.

Shen King’s story belongs in the future, and yet the reality she portrays is around the bend…How many years away? Maybe ten.

The premise of the novel addresses the terrible truth China is now grappling with…that their one-child policy has resulted in 40 million unmarriageable men. By the year 2030, more than 25% of men in their late thirties will have no family of their own. What are the options for Chinese society? Here are three possibilities…

  1. Import wives from neighboring Asian nations or elsewhere. The problem…the Chinese, especially the government values a pure and loyal race. They elevate the Han Chinese culture and importing wives will dilute Han Chinese blood.
  2. Send those extra men to battle. Society does not need them for child-bearing, so let them win honor in fighting to extend China’s influence around Asia and the globe. The problem…many of these men are the only children, the beloved one child of their parents. Who will take care of the parents, those elderly loyal citizens of China who have lived and suffered under this oppressive law to bear only one child? What does it mean if the government plucks away and sacrifices their one and only on the battle field?
  3. Require that women in China take more than one husband. Most will take two…some will even take three husbands. A new family system will evolve around this patriotic duty. The problems that may result…READ THE NOVEL TO FIND OUT.

Maggie Shen King writes a story that assumes the third possibility. Women marry more than one spouse, all for the good of China. In a spirit and tone that celebrates her Taiwanese/Chinese heritage, Shen King imagines a world where men pay dowries, women of child-bearing age are precious and coveted, and single men bear a painful stigma. Shen King tells the story in the third person, changing the close narrator’s viewpoint chapter by chapter. She signals the shift by titling her chapters with the character’s first name. Two husbands, one wife and one potential husband…these are the characters the reader follows into a labyrinth of love, politics, corruption and societal rules that do not bend for individual freedoms.

I have only one complaint about the novel, that the ending felt rushed and a bit predictable, somewhat contrived. Pacing did not match the earlier portion of the story. It’s an issue that can happen when writing from multiple characters’ perspectives. In this case, the main character and to some extent the heart of the story got somewhat lost in the milieu. However, even with a few flaws, I found the book fascinating and worthwhile. It’s a fun quick read and will immediately get you thinking and feeling.