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The Fat Years [Paperback]

Chan Koonchung , Michael Duke
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 July 2011


Beijing, sometime in the near future: a month has gone missing from official records. No one has any memory of it, and no one can care less. Except for a small circle of friends, who will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of the sinister cheerfulness and amnesia that has possessed the Chinese nation. When they kidnap a high-ranking official and force him to reveal all, what they learn - not only about their leaders, but also about their own people - stuns them to the core. It is a message that will rock the world...

Terrifying methods of cunning, deception and terror are unveiled by the truth-seekers in this thriller-expose of the Communist Party's stranglehold on China today.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (21 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385619189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385619189
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 424,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A fascinating tale of China just over the horizon" (New Yorker)

"A thought-provoking novel about China's tomorrow, which reveals the truth about China today" (Xinran, author of The Good Women of China)

"The Fat Years remains valid because it is not simply a "what might happen" exercise in futurism. Its central conceit - that collective amnesia overtakes the entire country - is an all-encompassing metaphor for today's looming superpower... a triumph" (Observer)

"A not-so-veiled satire of the Chinese government's tendency to make dates such as the Tiananmen massacre virtually disappear" (Financial Times)

"Chan Koonchung's humorous tale reveals the distorted reality of China, where despite the supersonic development of its economy, political life is steadfastly unchanging" (Ma Jian)

Book Description

Banned in China, a Chinese 1984 that holds controversial secrets about both the leaders and the people

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Tommy Dooley TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
So if truth is not an option what is left? Well the easy answer is lies or fiction and the latter is what this claims to be. As it is set in the near future it could possibly claim to be science fiction, but it really is not. It is based on real events past and current, that have shaped modern China and presents us with a sort of dystopian land somewhere between `Brave New World' and `The Stepford Wives'.

The plot is that all of China is or appears to be `happy', their ranking in the world `happiness index' has gone from languishing at the bottom of the table to being number one. But all is not well as one man realises everyone seems to have forgotten things like the regular violent and brutal `crackdowns'. There is also another phenomenon in that a whole month, or at least 28 days have gone `missing'. There is no official record of what actually took place and no collective memory either. Further the world economic downturn seems to coincide exactly with the rise of this harmonios golden prosperity for China.

Fang Coadi wants to know what happened and why no-one can remember. He runs into an old friend `Old Chen', who is also happy but cant work out why and one by one we are introduced to new characters and how they are all inter linked. They have some great names both of people and places; my favourites are`Miaomiao' and `Happiness Village Number Two'.

The story contains quite a few monologues which give polar opposite views of the current state of China, these can go on a bit but come across as being well informed though not necessarily enlightening. There is also a bit of a love interest, but all of the sub plots are not really explored thoroughly and a lot of the questions that are posed are not fully answered. This I feel was intentional.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Times 23 May 2011
By Penny Waugh TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Since the US dollar collapsed in 2011 China has become the leading world power in 2013. All seems well in that vast country; from being near bottom of the 'World Happiness' list China has become No 1 there as well, the people are happy, unaggressive, apparently unworried by the government clamp down on the internet and newspapers, and totally unaware that somehow a month, February 2011, has been entirely wiped from their memories.
This book is presented as fiction, and there is a story there, sometimes quite moving, but the main body of the work is presented as a series of lectures, on China as it is, as it might be, as it possibly should be. The story concerns several people who do remember the missing month; a friend (the narrator) who does not but comes around to their way of thinking, and a high government official they kidnap and who expounds at length on the Government's views and methods and insists there could be no other way to govern China. There is little in this story about the outside world and there is a whiff of claustrophia about it.
Somehow this works, for me anyway. I was never tempted to give up on it, though it was hard going at times. I came away from the book with, I hope, more understanding of China and Chinese thinking than I had previously.
The question is: Is it better to live in a good (actual) hell or in a fake paradise? A question not answered here, maybe, but how could it be?
A strange book, but certainly very interesting and I'm glad I've read it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just a bit flat 19 July 2011
By Richard Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
On the surface The Fat Years sounds like an excellent thrilling novel. The world enters a hugh economic downturn and the value of the dollar is slashed, cue western governments turning east. China takes the horns of this downturn and turns into a truely vast global powerhouse. All this happens on the same day...

However some people don't remember it like this, they remember the entire worlds economy colapsing, a month of massive crackdowns in China and then the Chinese goverment announcing a new age with China at the forefront. This novel is the story of the people who remember and what they find. To be honest the characters are a bit odd, they are Chinese so I expect cultural differences but the people who remember are characterised as unhappy, whilst everyone else is in a mild state of euphoria. We also have lots of references to state sponsored (and pirate) Christianity as a calming influence on the masses (Karl Marx and his "Opium for the masses" quote seems quite appropriate). All in all the new China looks like an idylic communist state where people feel that they are free enough. Obviously things are not what they seem...

As the quest to find the lost month continues we have lots of details on how the Chinese communist party has done what they have (to stay in power) and as the story continues less and less happens and the closing interogation just ends up as a lecture. What starts off as a reasonably entertaining story ends up as a lecture on world economics, how the communist party has implemented change on the people to keep them happy and how China has managed to keep the whole world on its side.

I found the look at Chinese culture more entertaining that the main thrust of the story unfortunately.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Groundbraking in China, but not so in the west 2 July 2011
By Ioannis Glinavos VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a very interesting book indeed. It is the first time I read a chinese novel and this one is a lot easier to get into than i thought it would be. It may be that the translator has done a fantastic job, or that the author is very skilled. The basic idea in the book is that the Party manipulates the global financial crisis to re-establish its dominance in China. It is a plausible story and it is argued in an almost academic way with references to economic theory and political doctrine that an academic recognises as accurate. The twist is that everyone in China's New Age of Ascendancy is so over the top happy. The book's motivating drama comes from the effort to answer this question, what makes people so abnormally happy? This book is claimed to have been a sensation in China and I can see why. It speaks truthfully about a number of issues contemporary chinese society tries to ignore. It may be a must read for the chinese audience but is it so for the western? As a work of fiction with political content, it is not one of the most powerful, but it is new and interesting. I would recommend you read it and think: Is this possible? Can a need for stability lead to welcoming dictatorship? Would only the Chinese welcome the 'Party' or would we all?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars non starter
I borrowed this from the libraray and lost it before I could take it back. Didn't get into it so big loss all round as I had to buy a new one for the library.
Published 7 months ago by Kathleen Reddick
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fat Years
A terrifying, and all too feasible, portrait of China. It may be set in a slightly different world, but the stark reflection of actual life in China is masterful. Read more
Published on 28 Jun 2012 by Catriona Reid
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost in translation?
This thriller set in somewhat dystopian, near-future China sounded great. The government cracks down brutally, yet only a few citizens seem to remember. Read more
Published on 15 Mar 2012 by J. Charlesworth
2.0 out of 5 stars just ok
Many of the other reviews have already stated much about the story itself so I won't repeat it. For me the characters were interesting, the description of the culture and party... Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2012 by L. Davidson
5.0 out of 5 stars Good fun and thought provoking too
Having checked out the reviews before I started, I was very pleasantly surprised. I found this book a very easy read and one which I didn't want to put down. Read more
Published on 2 Jan 2012 by M. D. Holley
3.0 out of 5 stars not as revealing as I'd expected
Maybe I wanted revelations about life living in a modern day communist country. All I 'got' from this was the vague notion that propergander, the media & the institution run... Read more
Published on 22 Dec 2011 by Mad Saint Uden
4.0 out of 5 stars And they should be scared
When a state is nervous about a piece of journalism, that's one thing - all big institutions have secrets they'd rather keep under the carpet. Read more
Published on 18 Dec 2011 by Alan Hansen
3.0 out of 5 stars Sadly just a one joke book
As insightful as `The Fat Years' is, it's unfortunately a one joke book without a satisfactory punchline. Read more
Published on 6 Dec 2011 by Lewis Cannon
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely topical
It is slightly unfortunate that this book was originally published in 2009 and set in 2011, but has only been published in the UK now. Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2011 by A. Skudder
3.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent imagining of China's future
In the near future in Beijing, a small group of friends are sure that a month has recently gone missing from China's history, but most of the population don't seem to remember it. Read more
Published on 17 Oct 2011 by AR
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