Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea is a readable dystopia that really pushes the reader to think hard

Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea was an excellent reading experience. A parable-style meditation on dystopia and hope, with the reader constantly wondering whether the dystopia is right now: a future narrator might present our current early 21st century exactly this way, and a character like Fan might emerge who, though prosaic, becomes a focal point or catalyst for significant change (that we cannot even really imagine, and that Lee leaves unsaid). The narrative voice and technique of alternating windows worked for me, though I could see how for some it might come across as tiresome. The episodes, or vignettes, could almost be read as parables, and invite the reader to provide for each a pithy maxim: Experiencing, through reading, the equanimity of a character facing adversity, bends the mind.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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