An Excess Male

Maggie Shen King's absorbing dystopian novel, An Excess Male, takes as its premise the dire future of men under China's one-child policy.

King grew up in Taiwan and moved to Seattle when she was a teenager. She's studied in both Chinese and American schools, and her short stories, written in English, have appeared in journals like Ecotone and ZYZZYVA. An Excess Male, her first novel, demonstrates her great imagination and dexterity as a storyteller. Set in Beijing in the not-so-distant future, the story follows Wei-guo, a single and successful personal trainer who belongs to a surfeit of unmarried men caused by China's one-child policy and a cultural preference for males. Because the number of available women has declined dramatically, the state has set up a system under which women take up to three spouses based on their reproductive and financial viability. This reversal of patriarchal polygamy is fascinating to experience as Wei-guo tries his hardest to win the hand of the lovely May-ling, who already has two husbands.

King elicits an entertaining degree of poetic justice in making men classifiable objects and pitting them against each other as they compete for a limited number of women. But she also cracks open the failed promises of communism and the evils of eugenics and social engineering. In King's China, for instance, those with autism and other disorders are called "Lost Boys" and are sterilized and institutionalized. Gay people are deemed "Willfully Sterile." Though they're incorporated and included in society, they're forced to register their identity and are prohibited from reproducing. That one of May-ling's husbands is closeted creates some of the book's most compelling and painful moments.

Boldly envisioned and executed, An Excess Male is thrilling, provocative and genuinely frightening in its implications. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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