i picked this book up from the shelf at the bookstore on three separate occasions, three different weeks, and each time put it back, so when i held it in my hands the fourth time i knew something had to be done to end this. so i bought it. for 17 euros. for comparison, most other foreign (aka english) language books in the stores here cost between 6 and 10 euros a piece. anyways, i took the book with me when i left for my six week trip, and once i started reading i could not put it down!
the book is written as a series of interviews and data collected by Bejing Agent 1919 and Hunan Agent 1989 of the National Security and Intelligence Agency. from these pieces we gather the story of a UFO sighting in rural china and the effect it has on the small village of Silver Hill. the interviews build interesting characters, and are very readable.
BJ 1919: Right. Let’s get started. Sit down please. First, can you state your name and status?
Have you turned your machine on? Good. I am happy for you to record everything I say. I have nothing to hide. My heart is transparent for our Communist Party. As your higher administration knows, I am Chang Lee, Chief of Silver Hill Village. I am confident to say that, in the twenty years that I have held this position …
BJ 1919: Thank you Chang Lee. Just respond to our questions. We’ll ask you what we need to know. And please be clear. Bejing has sent me to find out what the hell has been going on here, and I don’t want to hang around this dusty, fly-ridden dump any longer than I have to. (pp. 3-4)
i enjoyed hearing different versions of the story, or at least of the time frame in question, UFO or no UFO, and i love how the characters characterize each other and themselves in so many ways. listen in on this interview between the agent and the local tea farmer, for example:
HN 1989: Assuming you did see Yun on that day, did you notice anything unusual or suspicious in her behavior?
Well, how can I put this… I wouldn’t want to say anything bad about my old friend’s granddaughter. It would be shameful for me, you understand? But when Yun rides down the hill on her rickety old bike, you’d think she was a man. I don’t want to say she’s ugly, mind you. No, it’s just that she’s so stocky. What’s more, years of fieldwork under the burning sun have made her cheeks as dark as autumn dates. She keeps her hair short, like a good socialist peasant, and her hands and feet are so enormous they scare men away. Okay, in the sixties and seventies it was considered a virtue for a woman to look plain. In those days, people would say things like: ‘She’s such a modest person, she must have a beautiful heart inside.’ But nowadays, Bitch Bastard, even a poor man wants a pretty woman, not a woman with big hands and elephant feet. Yun is built like a tree, solid and earthy. I don’t think she can even wear women’s shoes. She needs a size fourty-one, everyone knows that. And she has a problem finding Extra Large clothes, so for years now she has been wearing men’s clothes. It’s not surprising she hasn’t got married. A manly woman is like an earthworm: both male and female in one body. Yes, a giant earthworm, that’s what Yun is. (pp.33-34)
i thoroughly enjoyed this novel. has anyone read any of Guo’s other books? please share!
so i was browsing through the english language / foreign language book shelves at two bookstores today, – as you know, bookstores are my candystores, – looking for another book to jump out at me. i was about to leave empty-handed when a fantasy book on a display table caught my eye. something went, “wait-a-minute” in my head and then it clicked. of course! i know that name! i like it when i can put a face (and voice and poetry) with a name so i bought the book without even looking inside it. i started reading on the train back, and all i can say so far (just finished chapter 1) is that C.C.F. still writes well. i mostly read poetry from him (years back) but this stuff is good. and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t usually read historical fantasy. 🙂 i take it this is the first book in a series of three (so far) “traitor to the crown” books, with Proctor Brown as the central character of the story. in chapter one we meet him, 20 years old, about to meet the father of the woman he loves. he bumps into some british officers and something peculiar happens:
Proctor sipped his beer and found it dark and bitter. Voices rose in argument behind them, chased by the scuff of feet and furniture. Proctor twisted in his seat to look just in time to see a golden light flash so bright it made his head ache and his hand knot into a fist. The light faded the instant the scuffle broke up, and Proctor saw that it came from the same British officer he had encountered outside. ‘Do you know who that man is?’ Proctor asked. (p.6)
so… why not check it out yourself? there is (at least at the time of posting this) a link for the full first chapter of this book — and his other books — (for free) right here, on CCF’s homepage: http://www.ccfinlay.com/free-samples.html
p.s.- so here is my concluding comment on the patriot witch… an interesting read, though for me personally it got too “dark” toward the end. bloodshed gets to me, especially the shedding of innocent blood. that said, i am a little more sensitive than most in that respect. overall, this is well-written historical fantasy with interesting characters, so if you don’t mind a little violence, by all means, it is a good read. (and i am NOT being sarcastic here. promise.)