Friday, June 11, 2010

UFO in Her Eyes

UFO in Her Eyes by Xiaolu Guo

A very strong and unique work, ambiguously science fiction. Set in China it focuses on the uneven and questionably beneficial process of modernization that hits one village. The framing is an investigation into possible UFO sitting that occurs in 2012. The substance or lack thereof the aliens remains highly vague, frustratingly so at times. The main premise of the work isn't developed beyond general suggestions, and to an extent this aspect proves a fundamental redirect, setting up a failure in genre terms. Creatively, though, the book isn't really about the aliens, instead it focuses on how the Chinese government's investigation promotes disorienting rate of modernization on a small rural village. The technological aspect doesn't go beyond the present day yet its focus on social dislocation and rapid alteration in circumstance touches at the core of the science fiction project.

The book takes a sort of psuedo-documentary approach, being a collection of interviews and officially collected documents. In that aspect it's similar to Tidhar's the Tel Aviv Dossier, although better in quality overall. In depth focus on a type of rapid and disorienting social transformation that strikes me as the kind of thing SF should depict more. There's also a nice undercurrent given in the dictatorial state methods used to collect the data of the narrative.

In reading the book I was left unsure repeatedly on the balance of realism within it, how much of what was described was plausible as opposed to an extrapolation. Overall, though, on the strength of the writing and the core premise it appears as a unique and imaginative depiction that's also in line with some of the continuities at work in China today.

Similar to and better than: The Tel Aviv Dossier by Lavie Tidhar

Similar to and worse than: Air by Geoff Ryman

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