cover image Ocean of Words

Ocean of Words

Ha Jin. Zoland Books, $13.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-944072-58-5

Set on the Chinese-Russian border in the early 1970s, these short stories by this poet (Between Silences) and veteran of the People's Army, quickly draws the reader into Chinese army life with all its rivalries, propaganda and poignancy. ""Dragon Head"" follows a fascinating battle of wits between an army commander and a local militia commander (""If this were the Old China, no doubt Dragon Head would become a small warlord"") through the twists and turns of betrayal and political intrigue. In ""Miss Jee,"" about a soldier who is the helpless butt of his comrades' jokes, Jin also shows a genuine talent for humor. But the author is at his best when telling the stories of soldiers forced to choose between ideology and love. Whether it is love of a woman or love of knowledge, Jin's characters make hard choices that will move not just readers interested in China or the army life, but any reader vulnerable to good writing and simple human drama. (Apr.)