cover image Strange Beasts of China

Strange Beasts of China

Yan Ge. Melville House, $25.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-61219-909-2

Yan delivers a noirish, stylish bestiary in her English-language debut, reminiscent of such Chinese classics as The Book of Mountains and Seas and Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. In the mythical land of Yong’an City, humans live alongside a variety of quirky, beautiful beasts who are often almost indistinguishable from their human neighbors, aside from mild behavioral or physical characteristics. Sacrificial Beasts, for instance, have low-hanging earlobes with sawtooth edges. Sorrowful Beasts cannot smile, or else they die. Others enjoy fantasy novels or have a penchant for char siu pork. The main character, an unnamed cryptozoologist, spends her days smoking cigarettes, drinking at a dive bar, and documenting the stories of her beast-inhabited city. Many involve romances between humans and beasts that are taut with tragedy and friction. A painter, for instance, falls in love with the perfect bestial mate, but loses him after a mysterious incident involving his pregnant sister. The overall effect of Yan’s storytelling is dreamy and hypnotic, sometimes opaque but always captivating. These cryptic but well-told tales offer much to chew on. Agent: Matthew Turner, RCW Literary. (July)