My rating: 4/5
Goodreads rating: 3.53/5
Published: May 28th, 2020
Author: Su Tong
Translator: James Trapp
Genre: Chinese literature
Thank you to Sinoist Books and Netgalley for this e-book in return for my honest review.
Prey, Predator, Predator, Prey.On this street, the hunters are also the hunted.The people of China tell of an ancient tale, where the mantis hunts the cicada, unaware of the yellow bird behind him. In a small corner of her many cities, a random act of violence sets off a spinning top, entwining the lives of three people.Baorun, the compulsive bondage expert, is forever aided and abetted by Liu Sheng, a brash troublemaker, to indulge in his obsessions; and the lady Fairy Princess, ever-youthful, becomes the target of the pair’s escalating antics.As the years pass, many things begin to change, but in the dysfunctional world of a mental hospital at the end of Red Toon Street, just who is prey, and who is predator?
The above taken from Goodreads.
I don't read much Chinese literature hence I was skeptical to read this initially. At the start, I did find it quite an effort trying to get through the book as it kept mentioning about losing one's soul. It was kinda hard to trudge on and when it reached the 80 yuan bickering between Baorun with Fairy Princess, it slowly progressed to a more bearable story-line.
Thankfully, this is a well translated book with a simple yet poetic justice approach that made this book work. However, I did find there were too many fillers that sort of lengthen the book itself hence it is a rather thick read. It had me flipping through a lot wondering when it will end. Aside from that, it was illustrated nicely of the surroundings and plots with a straight worded descriptive prose.
It basically is about 3 person, split into 3 parts with their individual point of view. Baorun is from an average family with parents who doesn't heed the ancestors and a grandfather who was indirectly abandoned. A rude boy from young, he realized his potential in tying all kinds of knots. Liu Sheng is from a well respected family, well brought up with a good future. Fairy Princess, is the love interest of both Baorun and Liu Sheng, has a poor upbringing. An incident happened that led to Fairy Princess being tied up by Baorun and eventually raped by Liu Sheng. However, the event turned in to Liu Sheng's favour thus causing Baorun to be jailed instead.
Overall, the book shares the indifference in culture, filial piety and civic consciousness of a small town. Most believing in their upbringing, praying to the God and respecting their ancestors and elderly. Bad luck and untoward wrath will come upon those who ignore. It sure seems like a book of mindful teaching with a philosophical approach to me, with Confucius, Buddhism and Christianity addled into this book.
I would recommend this book to someone who can patiently read through the story and understanding the moral of it all. It may be dark but it sure has lots of hidden messages and teachings to be digested. All in all, it eventually became a nice book to dwell on. I especially liked the third part, Fairy Princess' perils and dilemma. The ending was truly unexpected yet worth the effort to finally finished reading it. That twist though... so reminded me of Murakami's style of writing.
Some notable quotes:
Without their graves, ancestors become lonely souls and wandering ghosts, so how can they help you get your soul back?
When they tie someone up, it's like trussing a pig; they're not nearly as good as you. Everyone says when you tie someone up it doesn't leave any marks.
Life is cheap and so is love; both can be discarded for money.
Whoever lights the first stick of incense for a newly dedicated bodhisattva will enjoy its protection for their whole life.