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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Novel about American dystopian future, can be recommended due to its style and theme, 10 Jan 2014
Denis Vukosav - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Such a Full Sea (Hardcover)
"On Such a Full Sea" a novel written by Chang-rae Lee is a story about the American dystopian future, made in beautiful style, but at a slightly lower level of quality due to the pace that makes some parts of novel a bit too slow to go through.

In a future Baltimore, now called B-Mor, reader will see the divided world - on one side the small and privileged Charter Villages placed outside the city, on the other side former city that was transformed to production settlement.
There Chinese refugees were placed when in the past many parts of China became unsuitable for life and now their descendants are working and living to fish and produce food for those new elite.

A story that is actually a legend is told from the third mysterious person perspective - at its beginning reader will meet main character, a female named Fan, who is fish-tank diver that will leave her home when the man she loves will disappear. She will embark on a dangerous and uncertain journey, not giving up until she finds the truth, and through her voyage the reader will learn about the future world characterized by crime and the dangers until she will reach remote locations of which she had previously only heard stories...

The novel premise is excellent, because most readers who love science fiction also like to read about dystopian visions of the world especially if you have such interesting and convincing imaginary world like this author managed to create.
The only thing that makes it slightly less enjoyable and separates it from the excellent rating is the plot development around the middle of the novel when the activities will become a bit too slow and often it seems as if the author deliberately prolonged action in order for novel to obtain extensiveness.

The author's nice style enables reader to enjoy in sequences of beautiful sentences without author repeating himself, that won't result in readers' fatigue, but inevitably will lead to a slowdown in the pace making those less patient readers might think about putting a novel back on the shelf. But if a novel is given a chance to finish, just as it has managed to surprise throughout its duration, reader will be surprised with its ending.

Therefore, this new novel by Chang-rae Lee, the author that with its writing stepped out in a completely different genre can be fully recommended due to its style and theme but in the moments when events will become a bit slow don't give up because the novel is worth for reader to come to its end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars ‘Have we not done the job of becoming our best selves?’, 29 April 2014
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Such A Full Sea (Paperback)
The title of this novel is drawn from a line in Shakespeare’s play, ‘Julius Caesar’. It’s a line from Act IV Scene II where Brutus speaks to convince Cassius that it is time to begin the battle against Octavius and Antony : ‘On such a full sea are we now afloat/ And we must take the current when it serves/Or lose our ventures.’ Sometimes (but not always) this line seems appropriate to the journey of Fan throughout this novel.

At some time in the future, after a period of decline, America is a rigidly class-stratified society. Urban neighbourhoods are now self-contained labour colonies. The labourers themselves are descendants of people brought over from provincial China, by then an environmental ruin. The lives of the labourers are given shape and purpose by their work which is to provide produce and fish to the small elite charter villages that surround the labour colony. Fan is a female fish-tank diver in the B-Mor settlement (once known as Baltimore). Fan leaves her home when Reg, the man she loves, disappears. Her journey in search of Reg takes her from B-Mor, through the anarchy of the Open Counties to a faraway charter village. Fan’s quest becomes a legend to those she leaves behind, and the narrative unfolds in a first person plural voice: the collective voice of those that Fan leaves behind in B-More.

‘A tale, like the universe, they tell us, expands ceaselessly each time you examine it, until there’s finally no telling exactly where it begins, or ends, or where it places you now.’

This novel is part quest and part dystopian fiction with hints, to me at least, of a futuristic morality play. I found elements of the narration irritating and yet, while I didn’t like the anonymity of a collective first person voice it seemed to very effectively convey Fan’s world. For me, it wasn’t Fan herself that made the story interesting, or even the (incomplete and sometimes hazy) world depicted. What held my attention was trying to work out how Fan was going to arrive at (and at which) one of three possible endings I imagined for her. But by the end of the novel, Fan as an individual was less important than her story, which itself became secondary to the language used in writing it.

And yet, while elements of the story are recognisable and familiar, it’s never comfortable. Fan is not a superhero and her ordinariness (in some aspects) is more unsettling than some of the challenges she meets during her travel. It’s hard to categorise this novel: it was an interesting journey but I’m not at all comfortable with its conclusion.

‘What hasty preparations we make for our future.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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On Such A Full Sea
On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee
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