The novel The Fat Years by Koonchung Chan has been banned in China. I know this because it says so right on the cover of the book. Big deal right? What isn’t banned in China? Does a book being banned somewhere entice anyone to read it anymore like in the old Legion of Decency days? What possible titillation or thrill from forbidden knowledge could come from a banned book these days when you can go in the internet and see any type of porn you want and/or cats spouting philosophy while dressed as piglets? So the banned in China reason to read The Fat Years is off the table… is there any other reason to read it?
Sometime in the very near future, 2013 in fact, a month has gone missing from the official records in Beijing. Not only that but no one cares and the Chinese people have all gotten a lot more cheerful. Could these two things be connected? The Chinese government is operating its own capitalism success story and it has lulled the citizenry into a stupefying contentment. One such comrade is writer Lao Chen. He is enjoying living off the fat of the land until some friends enlighten him as to what is actually going on. Well then they all have to try and make it right.
Chan's dialog in The Fat Years exists solely to preach about politics. The staleness of the characters and the moralizing of the author are death to whatever thriller opportunities The Fat Years might have had. This novel is a 1984 meets The Matrix wannabe. There are a few intriguing ideas (Government controlling memories while it’s using propaganda to brainwash you today and would you rather be unhappy in the real world or happy in a pretend world?) but overall? Can I hear a Ho-Hum?