Waste Tide, by Qiufan Chen

Second paragraph of third chapter in original (NB that in the English translation by Ken Liu, this passage is about a quarter of the way into the third chapter, rather than near the beginning):

她不知道自己跑了多久,也不知自己身在何方,紧迫感缓慢地拉扯她的神经,让她无法遏制逃跑的欲望。可是并没有人在追她。没有任何有形的威胁,更像是一种无形的未知,从遥远海平面般的边界袭来。她的眼角似乎瞥见,那是无法形容的光芒,带着金属镀膜或晶体折射般的繁复虹彩,又仿佛流云或者海浪般变幻莫测,吞噬着她背后原本黯淡黑白的空间。 She [Mi Mi, the protagonist] didn't know how long she had been running, nor where she was. A sense of urgency tugged at her nerves, making it impossible for her to give up the desire to run, but there was no one after her. There was no concrete threat, only a formless, unnamed foreboding that swept over the sea at her from the distant horizon. Out of the corners of her eyes, she seemed to glimpse some indescribable glow, a complex iridescence found in the sheen of metal coating or the luster of crystals, fluctuating in the manner of waves or racing clouds, devouring the dim, black-and-white space behind her.

Another of the Chinese contemporary SF works that is being widely recommended – I picked this one up from Vector in the spring. It's a grim contemporary tale of pollution off the Chinese coast, in a community that has grown up from migrant workers who have come to process waste, and something non-human that has also emerged in the meantime. The metaphor of monsters living in the rubbish dump goes at least as far back as ancient human societies, but I felt this pulled that old story together with the contemporary structural problems of China, both managing its own growing and demanding society and dealing with America. Ken Liu's translation has its quirks – I don't really need to know about the precise tonal pronunciation of words that are used only a couple of times – but it's fluent and seems to catch a time and place, fictional but closely related to today's China. Recommended. You can get it here.

This was the top unread book by a writer of colour on my pile. Next is the other Chinese sf novel recommended by Vector, An Excess Male, by Maggie Shen King.


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