Sunday, January 08, 2017

China: UFO In Her Eyes, by Xiaolu Guo

The blurb on this book looked promising when I picked it up in the library. It is described as a "brilliantly structured and darkly humorous narrative" - which is true, in a way, although I didn't feel that the book quite lived up to the dazzling promise of the dust jacket.

In Silver Hill village, Kwok Yun, an unmarried woman in her thirties, is making her way across the fields when she spots a spinning plate in the sky and hears a loud noise. She faints, and when she comes to, she finds a strange Westerner lying on the ground in the shade of one of the village's "hundred arm trees". She assists the Westerner, who is injured, but he then disappears. When she makes her report to the village chief, the attention of the authorities is attracted to this hitherto neglected village. The subsequent investigation turns the villagers' lives upside down, attracting development to the village, in a way that is not always welcomed.

I enjoyed the book, which is structured in the form of intelligence reports from official files, including interviews with the villagers. I felt, though, that it was a "once over lightly" look at events. And I was a little dissatisfied with the UFO device. I was expecting the mysterious westerner to be an airman from a crashed spy craft but in fact he turned out to have nothing to do with the UFO, which is never explained. There's nothing wrong with a bit of mystery or fantasy in a story, but since everything else in this book is quite explainable, the mystery of the UFO felt quite out of place.

There is a timeline at the back of the book showing events as taking place between 2012 and 2015 - relevant, since the book was published in 2009. So it is set as taking place slightly in the future.

Xiaolu Guo was born in a fishing village in South China. She published six books in China before moving to London in 2002. UFO In Her Eyes was published by Chatto and Windus.

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