cover image Waste Tide

Waste Tide

Chen Qiufan, trans. from the Chinese by Ken Liu. Tor, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8931-2

Anglophone readers will cherish the opportunity to experience Chen’s sweeping, complex, and deeply emotional near-future dystopian vision via this thoughtful rendition by Hugo-winning translator and author Liu that maintains the story’s essential Chinese character. Guangdong Province’s environmentally devastated Silicon Isle, ruled by three powerful clans, is the destination for the electronic garbage created by a world addicted to body enhancements. The rubbish is processed in hellish conditions by the migrant workers considered by the rich natives to be subhuman “waste people.” Chen Kaizong, a Silicon Isle–born but America-trained translator, reconnects to his heritage and clan family while accompanying Scott Brandle, a visiting representative of TerraGreen Recycling, which wants to automate the process. Meanwhile, waste girl Mimi, on the run from the henchmen of the Luo clan after having been connected to the mysterious illness of the clan leader’s grandson, becomes the central figure in a rising rebellion. Liu’s careful handling of multiple Sinitic languages, as well as naming conventions that connect to class, education, and geographical origin, maintains the flavor of the setting and preserves the integrity of Chen’s focus on interacting subcultures and the social opportunities available to those capable of linguistic code switching. Chen’s story is extremely relevant to the current moment of throwaway culture, increasing income disparity, and technological advances progressing at such a rate that morality and ethics have trouble keeping up. Readers who crave gorgeous imagery and a thrilling narrative that also explicitly wrestles with big questions will be overjoyed. Agent: Eddie Schneider, JABberwocky Literary. (Apr.)