Something that has perplexed me as I’ve been gathering texts for my next research project has been the multi-cultural perspective within the dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel framework, besides Nnedi Okorafor’s (and even she veers more into Afro-futurism, which is fairly different, generically speaking). Thankfully, I remembered that I had read Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea two years ago for CBR7, and I decided it might be time to give him a second chance. Wow. I am so glad I did, because I think his novel fits neatly within the parameters I have outlined so far.
I won’t recap the summary here, because I reviewed the book in 2015. Instead, I’d like to talk about what changed for me, and I think it was a fundamental understanding of the story.
The narrator is a Greek chorus of sorts, an indeterminate first-person plural that never distinguishes themselves for us. Therefore, the way we see and understand Fan is colored through their understanding of Fan. It’s a postmodern way of telling a story, and comprehending that made the experience much more enjoyable for me. It was also a lot less frustrating, because it showed how much none of us know Fan, and therefore, the way the story depicts her may or may not be entirely reliable. If you hate postmodernism, this may not be your cuppa.
Also, there’s a real poignancy to Fan’s relationships with other women in the story. While the conflict centers around her quest to find Reg, she develops a strange sense of community with so many other female characters in the story. That’s something I had missed the first time around, and the ending took me by surprise. I had forgotten how the book ended, but it’s kind of devastatingly beautiful in its denouement.
It’s still not a perfect book, but I found the re-read to be a much more rewarding and rich experience. I am delighted that I will be spending some research time with this unique and slippery text.
Cross-posted to my blog.