the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Maureen F. McHugh’ Category

china mountain zhangChina Mountain Zhang, by Maureen F. McHugh

published in 1992

where I got it: purchased used

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How to describe the plot of this book? Impossible. There are no grand quests, or enemies to defeat, or betrayals or heroes or world changing events or any of that. What China Mountain Zhang does offer is intimacy and intense subtlety in an SFnal world.  On the one hand, this is a quiet story of a man in hiding, who only lets the world see of him what they wish to see. If the safest thing for the public to see is a marriageable Asian with a decent job, that is what he will present to them. On the other hand, underneath the facade, underneath the social demands Rafael is crushed under, he is eternally screaming.  This is a story about how the only way to find yourself is to lose yourself.

 

Winner of the James Tiptree, Jr Award and the Locus Award for best first novel, and nominated for the Hugo and Locus award, China Mountain Zhang isn’t your typical SF novel.  Reading like literature, enjoyment of this novel is like discovering a new variety of wine you never knew existed and whose flavor you can’t describe, but you know you’ll be taking an entire case home with you.

 

China Mountain Zhang takes place about a hundred years from now, after America’s socialist civil war, after China came to our rescue and became the promised land, after Martian colonies were established. In America, to be Chinese means to get preferential treatment –  better jobs, better apartments,  easy acceptance to the top universities in China.  To this end, Rafael goes by the Chinese name Zhong Shan, and doesn’t tell any of his co-workers what he does after work. He can pass for Chinese, and that’s all that matters. No one needs to know that his mother is Hispanic.

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After the Apocalypse, by Maureen F. McHugh

published in 2011

where I got it: library

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When we see the word “apocalypse”, everyone always thinks end of the world. And the world is a very big thing. But a small ending can also be an apocalypse. A marriage. A job. An expectation. An experiment. Because often it’s those things, those little, intimate things that many of us take for granted, that shatter our world when they end. Their endings become a person’s personal apocalypse, something to be survived.

Maureen McHugh’s slender volume of stories called After the Apocalpyse is stories of those little apocalypses. Some of the stories are true post apocalyptic tales, one even features zombies. But most? most are about those intimate endings, where the character’s world comes to an end, and they have to decide what they are going to do next: if they are going to give up and die, or if they are going to survive it.  Told in a very understated and matter of fact style, these stories have that bare bones feeling, with sentences that get to the point without the luxury of ornamentation.  McHugh doesn’t try to pretty up what her characters are going through, she just tells their stories.

Here are my thoughts on a few of the stories:

The Naturalist – probably the darkest and creepiest entry, this zombie story is truly post apocalyptic in more ways than one. In this future, zombie preserves also serve as prisons. Dump the prisoners into the preserve, and when the felons get tired of running and hiding, the zombies will eat them, problem solved. One incarcerated man decides to study the zombies, as if they were just another kind of animal.  He sets up a blind, but to attract the zombies for study, he’ll need some bait.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.