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I must say that I really wanted to like this book As a recipient of an advanced copy I do have a desire to keep the publisher happybut I just can t in good conscience give it higher than 2 stars.The stars are for the writing Lee composes beautiful sentences and has some great passages For example the rain coming down in sheets but unable to dampen any part of them or maybe it s the laboring that gives you shape Might the most fulfilling time be those spent solo at your tasks, literally immersed or not, when you are able to uncover the smallest surprises and unlikely details of some process or operation that in turn exposes your proclivities and prejudices both or isn t this what we also fear and crave simultaneously, that some internal force which defies understanding might remake us into the people we dream we are or if there is ever a moment when we are most vulnerable, it s when we re closest to the idea of the attained desire, and thus farthest from ourselves.Unfortunately, I did not really like the concept or the execution of the book This is a dystopian novel about American after its decline Parts of it reminded me of Atwood s Oryx and Crake series but those were better parts of it the Chinese domination reminded me of Mitchell s Cloud Atlas and parts of it reminded me of Murakami s After Dark The concept is the same, but Lee doesn t render it very interesting For a futuristic sci fi novel, there are surprisingly few new gadgets People still drive cars, they use handsets instead of cell phones but these are the same things Instead, the developments are medical but no one is on any cool drugs and C focused read cancer treatment I didn t feel like this was hundreds of years in the future I felt like it was about 5 years into the future.Lee presents a society divided into three the outcasts those in the counties the Charters elites and the workers in the settlements B Mor He then constructs a fairytale like story of Fan to illustrate her journey through the three societies and eventually reveals to the reader that the workers are the happiest The elites are stressed and worried about their position in society those in the counties are happy but live an unstructured and therefore unstable life The workers have stability and reliability and family and are, therefore, the most satisfied Briefly, they rebel but ultimately things pan out.The story is not really plot driven, Fan is supposedly looking for Reg, but she is not a strong character She is emblematic than anything There are no real changes or developments in the characters The mechanisms are all contrived Fan is delivered from Quig to Mr Leo and Miss Cathy to Vik to Oliver rather simply to give the reader a tour of this world without any real compelling action Ultimately, lots of pieces did not make sense for example, people wanted to be chartered but Charters were frequently falling if they ran out of money to sustain their lifestyle Certainly, having the opportunity for upward mobility is important and being given the chance to succeed is nice, but it is far from guaranteed that one would get anything out of becoming a Charter other than lots of debt unless simultaneously one obtained a job And so, it did not make sense that Mala was grateful that her children would become Charters because she does not have the funds to support them so wouldn t they ultimately become counties anyway instead of just wanting them to inherit her position in Miss Cathy s household Also, it did not make sense that Dale would give anything away to Quig s daughter let alone a lot of costume jewelry because everything has value and can be bartered in the counties The ending was not believable why would Oliver who loves having Fan around sell her out when he is in the process of building a replication of the B Mor homestead to emulate the importance of family It should have been Betty who was selling her out Further, the research facilities already have Reg in captivity, why would they need his off spring Presumably they could take a sperm sample and grow a test tube baby Or even clone him Finally, I did not like the overall narration Lee uses first person plural we to describe the B Mors reaction to Reg and Fan s departure He speaks as if the reader is a B More resident but then, that begs the question to what purpose The narrator is telling a folk tale, he is narrating something which is fantasy after all, no one really knows anything about what happened to Fan or Reg , but he uses omniscient voice and presumes to know the intimate details of her journey as well as the backstory of everyone she encounters In the story the narrator is distant, but when talking about B Mors or interestingly enough the Girls uses 1st person plural The narrator only uses we when telling us what we feel and when we are as he describes being just one, as beset with joy and pain as any single person The use of we is meant to make the characters hive like as are the family units in B Mor , but the story is one of an individual Unfortunately, instead of finding this contract profound I just found the slippage in narration to be annoying.I also felt at times like it was almost an outline, rather than a story For example, the scene in which Fan and Vik go to the circus is written very summarily rather than expository instead of actual dialogue, Lee tells the reader what was said and it just comes across as not yet finished.Overall, the book is just not very compelling it is not plot driven or a character piece it is a description of a setting It comes across as if Lee had a vision of this world and then just wanted to paint it for the reader. Chang Rae Lee s On Such a Full Sea presents us with a dystopian vision of the future a world of abandoned and boarded up metropolises in the U.S that have been converted into colonies by Chinese immigrants fleeing from the toxic environment of their homes in China, which is no longer fit for human life These colonies D Troy formerly Detroit and B Mor formerly Balti have become gated cities where these Chinese immigrants farm fish and fresh vegetables to supply food to the wealthiest members of society who live in Charter villages also gated protected And what lies between these refurbished cities and Charter villages, you might ask What are these good citizens being protected from The outer counties the land of outlaws, social deviants, the insane, the murderers, the drug dealers, and essentially anyone who has been run out of town in one of the safer situations for transgressions not very different from our laws today And that brings me to my next observations, the quiet and eerie quality of Lee s dystopian vision that is not nearly as politically charged as the ones we see in other dystopias Ayn Rand s Anthem, Lois Lowry s The Giver, Suzanne Collins Hunger Games nor Ally Condy s Matched Lee s vision here works on us in a subtle way, creeping up on us before confronting us with disturbing situations and images that will haunt us likely long after we finish reading this book And this story makes us think far beyond the simple black vs white, either or vision we see in so many other dystopias, where there are clear heroes and villains In other words, this story is so much than a simple tale of good vs evil And notice my use of the first person plural point of view here That is the point of view Lee uses to tell the story of Fan B Mor tank diver and her first love, Reg B Mor greenhouse keeper The narrator we tells the story of Fan who becomes a kind of larger than life folk hero as she takes off one day in search of Reg after he mysteriously disappears from B Mor On Such a Full Sea is the story of Fan s great trials and adventures in the outer counties, and I won t say because I don t want to give too much away But I will say that Lee s interesting use of point of view gives the story an added layer of depth, causing us to question the credibility of the story, how many of the gaps have been fantastically filled in by its tellers, which raises the question of how true any historical account can really be Lee also touches on some of our deepest fears which any dystopian fiction worth reading should do with regard to race, class, and the U.S s dependency on China and where that could very well lead us.I didn t want to give this one five stars because I smell a sequel, and I hate when that happens A book should stand alone as a great book and shouldn t need a sequel as almost every great literary masterpiece has , but that is what the damn publishers do these days, so why punish Chang Rae Lee for it, right Besides, this book in addition to its adventurous elements, is beautifully written and has a delightfully surreal and dream like quality to it, and these are qualities I look for in my fiction. The most striking dystopian novels sound an alarm, focus our attention and even change the language The Handmaid s Tale crystallized our fears about reproductive control Fahrenheit 451 still flames discussions of censorship and 1984 is the lens through which we watch the Obama administration watching us.Chang rae Lee s unsettling new novel, On Such a Full Sea, arrives from that same frightening realm of total oversight and pinched individuality But it s a subtler, quieter affair, surreal than horrifying Lee whispers the inchoate anxieties about modern life If Cormac McCarthy s The Road stirred nightmares about our destiny, On Such a Full Sea is likely to draw you off into troubled daydreams about this afternoon.Although it s too late to express surprise about another literary novelist venturing into the tall grass of genre fiction, Lee s range is astonishing Three of his novels including The Surrendered, which was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize deal with war or alienation, but try reconciling those dark masterworks with his witty, big hearted Aloft 2004 , which confidently strolled into John Updike s suburban milieu And now he s published a story set in our bleak, overheated future On Such a Full Sea opens on a wasted landscape where the remnants of civilization survive in strictly stratified compounds, walled off from the lawless scrap heap of North America In some ways, it s a familiar tale a lone radical s picaresque journey through a repressive society ripe for revolution But at every turn, Lee thwarts our expectations Most would agree that any rational person would leap at the chance of living here, begins the plural narrator, the communal we of B Mor, once known as Balti Nearly 100 years ago, their ancestors were shipped in from China to live on the Eastern Shore, where they raise perfect fish in carefully controlled tanks Stability is all here in B Mor, we re told It s what we ultimately produce, day by night by day, both what we grow for consumption and how we are organized in neighborhood teams, the bonds of blood or sexual love relied upon equally to support our constitution In this difficult era the most valuable commodity is the unfailing turn of the hours and how they retrieve for us the known harbor of yesterday That voice, with its strange blend of orthodoxy and poetry, wonder and lament, casts the hypnotic spell of On Such a Full Sea Lee has shifted not just the time and the social customs, but the ideals and the language of these people, to produce that uncanny effect of familiarity and alienness that the most troubling dystopian stories share.This is the tale of Fan, the young woman whose cause has been taken up by a startling number of us Fan s job, we learn, was to husband and nurture the valuable fish that allow our community to do so well in this mostly difficult world Sixteen years old, she enjoyed her job, and she was devoted to the fish, but otherwise there was nothing particularly remarkable about her in this monochromatic culture Except that she loved a gangly young man named Reg, and their pure affection for each other charmed and brightened everyone who saw them together.Then one day Reg was gone, without warning or explanation And so begins Fan s journey to find him a quest across the hostile open counties, a Mad Max land of shantytowns and murderous gangs lucky victims are kept as slaves She heads off without permission, protection or any information about Reg s whereabouts For the people she leaves behind, it s an unthinkable risk We re no longer fit for any harsher brand of life, we admit that readily, and simply imagining ourselves existing beyond the gates is enough to induce a swampy tingle in the underarms, a gaining chill in the gut But they do imagine her quest in rich and sometimes lurid detail The reach of our thoughts has a near ceiling, the narrators say, but Fan s example pushes against that mental limit What follows is the story of Fan s inexorable search for her young lover, a story constructed from rumors and gossip, speculation and dreams Even while reminding us parenthetically that they know nothing about what actually happened to her, the tale takes shape We can t help but build upon what is known, the narrators say, our elaborations not fantastical or untrue but at times vulnerable to our wishes for her, and for ourselves Unprotected and alone for the first time in her life, Fan falls prey to people who have clustered together in varying degrees of compassion and savagery, while back home her curious comrades hope she won t become sausage What a strange novel this is, with its erratic pacing, its haphazard mingling of adventure and philosophical reflection, its constant questioning of its own veracity As Fan s search progresses from one near death escape to another, we begin to understand that we re witnessing the creation of a legend an unlikely heroine who answers the needs of a people suffocating under the ideals of self sacrifice and stability In the narrators plural voice, we can hear the competing strains of censure and enthusiasm, their pious condemnation of Fan s radical act along with their delight that such courage is still possible Eventually, Fan s boosters commit tiny acts of vandalism Graffiti appear briefly on the streets a new sense of life outside their neat streets starts to seem imaginable But doesn t B Mor as conceived and developed and now constituted obviate the need for such purposeful dreaming the narrators ask, answering their own poignant question in the silence that follows.It s a haunting critique of a spiritually stunted community kept satisfied with basic comforts and the promise of protection from a threatening world Are you getting all this, NSA But gradually, the novel s focus shifts toward a wealthy settlement, a Charter, where Fan believes her lover has been taken for medical research That society poses an even disconcerting vision After all, we ve seen oppressive overlords before in dystopian fiction, but what Fan discovers is something far benevolent and therefore insidious.The privileged members of the Charter are fixated on risk Standing at the pinnacle means constantly itching with the fear of failing, of going broke, of getting sick, of growing old Charters are famously nervous, the narrators say, for despite their wealth and security and self satisfied demeanors, they are obsessed with minimizing hazards of any kind, and are perhaps wracked most of all by the finally unknowable dangers of what they ingest The people of the Charter are devoted to the fantasy of their own goodness, but beneath that delusion, they burn in a white fire of anxiety about the purity of their vegetables, the health of their organs, the status of their careers, the flow of their money They re convinced that every atom of their lives can be controlled if only they work hard enough Who wouldn t they betray to protect themselves Once again, Lee creates an impossibly foreign world, and with his muted, elegiac voice shows us living there It s a brilliant, deeply unnerving portrait that might even distract you for a moment when you re battling a svelte yoga fanatic at Whole Foods for the last bag of organically grown quinoa.Run, Fan, run.http www.washingtonpost.com enterta Wonderful prose is here for the taking in On Such a Full Sea A frenzy of littering , the idle blather of pipe dreams , an old man who was stuck in a rut of wrong thinking fantastic stuff So there s that Unfortunately, the plot never really clicked into place for me and it felt as though I was just reading words, albeit words arranged in beautiful phrases I fear this may be a prime example of trying to read the wrong book at the wrong time syndrome Too much going on in real life to give it my full attention The mellifluous writing is reason enough to give this one a try. Uh, so boring I love a good dystopia but this just never got started for me Flat characters and a cold approach in terms of narration I never felt connected to the characters or the world that Lee tried to create. On Such a Full Sea is not an easy read That s the first thing that should be stated The language is oftentimes hard too embellished, and some details too difficult for some readers me included to grasp However, once you understand this is one of the aspects that makes this a beautiful work, it doesn t seem to matter any It is not a page turner, as one might argue to try to increase sells, and comprehensively so Second this is not any distopyan novel, and this is not young adult by any means If it is considered so, YA literature has been made into something completely different with this one, for some of the sutile details are hard to get for an innocent reader Also, it is not a novel as most of us know it The book is clearly not divided into three sections, namely beginning, middle, and end, as stories usually are, but composed of different tellings of stories carefully knitted as a chronological tale where Fan is the main character, but not exactly so It reminds me, in some way, of Kino s Travels, a Japanese light novel That said, Fan s story is sometimes written like a fairytale, or a myth, of simple and crude philosophy I don t know if my impression is shared by others, but the narrative doesn t seem to be told by a collective consciousness , as stated in many reviews I read before buying this wonderful book rather, by different narrators in different points of her story, all of them from B Mor but sometimes fluctuating between distinct scenarios The narrator at the end of the book, for instance, reminds me of the Seven Sisters it must have been someone who knew Fan, and not merely someone who heard stories about her There s a lot to be said about the book as a whole, its political and philosophical subjects, but I will not go there I think it has been pretty much covered by others In one sentence, I loved this book, but not like I loved others, in a weird manner I will attain myself to saying that this book defies patterns and stillness in every sense wealth is not always wealth, poverty is not always poverty, a projected society doesn t always follow a predetermined script A beautiful story doesn t always have a beginning, middle, and end, and a person is not always one. Dystopian fiction is at once prophecy and indictment It has to be these are what allow it to have any of the rest of its definitive characteristics.Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is at once an indictment against and prophecy of a medicinally drugging culture.1984 by George Orwell is at once an indictment against and prophecy of a surveillance state, and the end of privacy.The Handmaid s Tale by Margaret Atwood is at once an indictment against and prophecy of an anti woman culture.Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is at once an indictment against and prophecy of a society that has stopped reading.Each of these authors and the many, MANY others saw something wrong with society, and addressed it by writing about one of the various possible outcomes the path of time and history could wind through.And aspects of these societies mentioned in some of the books in the dystopian cannon have turned out to be uncannily and appallingly prescient Though, it s safe to say that members of those societies and indeed our own weren t aware they were already living in a Dystopian society C est la vie, right On Such a Full Sea is no exception there are indictments galour how we treat the elderly, our health care system, our police force, our educational system, social structure upper middle lower socio economic status I hesitate to use the word class as the word is rapidly evolving.The wide spread use of hand screens is an indictment I find especially disturbing When you have a book, YOU HAVE A BOOK When your entire library is on one device, and the power fails You lose your entire library Does this not trouble anybody else When Google Tech R Us decides to pull a book from every device out there, they re all gone This doesn t bother you I m glad it bothers Chang rae Lee I m on your side, man I m bumping the book up to 4 stars just for that.Here s another note I wrote down while reading, The early explanation of this dystopian eugenics method is an indictment on our own societal cycle of poverty Certain strata are predisposed to higher education, a select few from outside that class allowed in The rest are left to fend for themselves The book is ambitious It s a futuristic Gospel Odyssey, with the protagonist Fan as the messianic traveler, going from locale to locale helping people that don t necessarily deserve to be helped, and blinding the cannibalistic Cyclops families when need be If you haven t read the book, skip out on this next part if you have, I d love for you to tell me what you think in the comments view spoiler Fan is an unlikely Messiah much like Christ himself She s different from the dystopian protagonists who save us all Like Christ, going from one place to another, performing miracle after miracle saving one after another before making the ultimate sacrifice.Honestly, I was shocked that she didn t die SHOCKED There were several allusions to her death For instance, the picture on the wall that the girls 1 7 drew so strangely beautiful, that by the end, after the heroine is physically destroyed but rises again, whole in form, but entirely changed pg 261 There were several of those And from the beginning, the narrator kept setting us up for Fan s saving all of them But how I never saw it I m assuming Chang rae Lee is planning on writing a sequel, because there s so much that was never wrapped up For instance, why did she kill her own fish And how did that help them Also, who is the narrator talking to Us in the past Us in the future Are we the directorate Another Charter Can anybody say, Reg I m bumping this back down to 3 stars There were scenes in the book I thoroughly loved escaping from the dogs, for one But, there was just too much that was unresolved I m sure that the people who don t read the spoiler section are all saying wait a second, he forgot to bump the review up to 4 stars Huh serves em right hide spoiler I should say right off the bat that I am shocked than anyone that I didn t enjoy this book I had been looking forward to reading it after it ended up on numerous best of the year lists, and even so when the author was announced as part of the line up for the 2015 Open Book series at the University of South Carolina I try to get to a few of those every year, and have to be selective as it is a four hour trip total.I did learn about the background to why the author wrote this book, and feel as if I have a better understanding as to why he made some of the decisions he did Learning these things did not make me enjoy the book , per se, but understanding it led to my appreciation of the novel.The author set out to write a novel about modern day factory workers in China He even visited some factories to see how people lived and worked, but then as he wrote, just didn t feel inspired A train trip through Balti, where he saw some abandoned row houses, made him start thinking about how immigrants might use abandoned space in America, but a lot of the way society works now would not allow for that imagining So he had to set the novel in the future, and an accidental dystopian novel was born.He also started thinking about the idea of an immigrant group, rather than an individual or family He pointed out how most of the novels with immigration as a theme focus on a person, a family.This idea of groups of immigrants is important, because the entire novel is told by a plural narrator The story seems like it is the story of Fan, who leaves the future resettled city of B Mor Balti but in the author s mind, the novel is about the narrator The group, the community This explains why Fan s story is left without a satisfying ending, but I still would have liked of Fan s story It isn t obvious that she isn t the main character she s written very much like a protagonist she leaves BMor to find the father of her child, she journeys to other areas of the former United States of America, she is the one encountering the strange groups of people that naturally form in these types of lawless landscapes, and as a reader I just expected to have satisfaction.All along the way, the narrator s have commentary on the decisions Fan makes, the values she shows, and how they are effected They are not omniscient nor are they without opinion Sometimes it comes across as judgmental, and that was actually amusing Otherwise I share a struggle with this novel that I had with Station Eleven I want my dystopia to have a little realism to it At least Lee is looking at the ramifications of pollution in various ways the community moving to BMor completely destroyed their factory town in China and they needed a new place to live would you choose Balti , everyone ends up with C I assume this is cancer it s not a question of if but when, and BMor people are the food factory workers of the new society Lee is thoughtful in his commentary on the differences in classes, and interestingly this ran along a parallel theme to a non fiction book I ve been reading Our Kids The American Dream in Crisis Lee pays a lot of attention to China and thinks everyone should be, as the next economic center He follows the logical progression to a time when China is flailing the way other former superpowers are not struggling for the time frame of this novel Still I am not satisfied, not after listening to the author speak, even if I found him thoughtful and well researched I would still read other books by him, because they all sound different from one another And I enjoyed meeting him and shaking his hand.ETA This book was discussed on Episode 030 of the Reading Envy Podcast. (Download Kindle) ⚣ On Such a Full Sea Û From The Beloved Award Winning Author Of Native Speaker And The Surrendered, A Highly Provocative, Deeply Affecting Story Of One Woman S Legendary Quest In A Shocking, Future America On Such A Full Sea Takes Chang Rae Lee S Elegance Of Prose, His Masterly Storytelling, And His Long Standing Interests In Identity, Culture, Work, And Love, And Lifts Them To A New Plane Stepping From The Realistic And Historical Territories Of His Previous Work, Lee Brings Us Into A World Created From Scratch Against A Vividly Imagined Future America, Lee Tells A Stunning, Surprising, And Riveting Story That Will Change The Way Readers Think About The World They Live In In A Future, Long Declining America, Society Is Strictly Stratified By Class Long Abandoned Urban Neighborhoods Have Been Repurposed As Highwalled, Self Contained Labor Colonies And The Members Of The Labor Class Descendants Of Those Brought Over En Masse Many Years Earlier From Environmentally Ruined Provincial China Find Purpose And Identity In Their Work To Provide Pristine Produce And Fish To The Small, Elite, Satellite Charter Villages That Ring The Labor Settlement In This World Lives Fan, A Female Fish Tank Diver, Who Leaves Her Home In The B Mor Settlement Once Known As Balti , When The Man She Loves Mysteriously Disappears Fan S Journey To Find Him Takes Her Out Of The Safety Of B Mor, Through The Anarchic Open Counties, Where Crime Is Rampant With Scant Governmental Oversight, And To A Faraway Charter Village, In A Quest That Will Soon Become Legend To Those She Left Behind A very disappointing work but one that would incite a lively discussion The premise reminded me of Never Let Me Go, but does not match Ishiguro s novel in its execution or skill It tries to grapple with interesting questions of what the good life is and whether it is best achieved through collectivism, individualism or some combination of both and it presents a disturbing portrait of the artist and patron in society But these glimpses of depth are muddled by wooden characterizations and rather desperate plotting devices Several passages I found ludicrous and completely unnecessary, embarrassing to the author even This book is only worth reading if you re a great fan of Lee s work or of dystopian novels How did the publishers and author decide it was ready to be shown to others If you re interested in reading something by Chang rae Lee but haven t yet, please avoid this and try Native Speaker or The Surrendered instead.