Wen, a young woman, whose family were clearly of a higher social status before her mother got sick and died, now works as a doctor’s apprentice for her father. Wen and her father are Itanyai. They both live in a large factory complex, Gochan One, treating to the workers of a large slaughterhouse. In the same larger compound, there is a factory producing textiles and one making advanced war machines, to further the military might of their country. Most of the workers at the factory know that the bosses charge them heavily for uniforms, lodgings and clothes, but they have no choice but to keep working, if they want to make money.
No one’s as heavily indentured as the new seasonal workers, who are Noor. While the Itanyai are clearly described as more traditionally Asian, with almond skin, dark hair and eyes, the Noor seemed a lot more Caucasian, probably more Slavic of origin. The Noor are believed to be a savage and brutish people, who have tried to rebell against their Ita overlords, and been subdued every time. Many of the regular workers are unhappy about the arrival of the Noor, believing they will bring bad luck to the slaughterhouse.
One of the beliefs among the workers is that there is a ghost haunting the premises. Someone has carved out an altar, where superstitious workers leave their most treasured possessions to wish for favours. Wen scoffs at this, and goaded by some of the other women, challenges the ghost to prove his existence. Shortly after one of the Noor workers, who had humiliated Wen in the cafeteria by tripping her and trying to look up her skirt, is badly injured on the factory floor. Wen is terrified that she indirectly caused the injury and wows to befriend and help the Noor boy. She sells some of her beautifully embroidered dresses to pay for his care, and later risks her own health to help her father nurse the Noor workers through a flu epidemic, which seems to hit the foreign workers harder than the natives. She grows especially close with Melik, who’s one of only two Noor workers who speak her language and the de facto leader of the foreign work crew.
Having had terrible proof that the Ghost does in fact exist, Wen can’t help but be curious and starts to investigate. She discovers that a young Itanyai worker died on the factory floor several years before, and that her father was the one to pronounce him dead. She starts to suspect that her father knows more than he’s letting on, and as she continues to snoop, discovers that the Ghost seems very interested in her as well. Once she discovers the truth of his identity, she needs to acknowledge that he seems to have a peculiar attachment to her, and is willing to do pretty much anything to protect her, whether she wants him to or not.
Full review here.