Review of Jin Li and Dai Congrong, ed., The Book of Shanghai, (Comma Press, 2020) — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.
The Book of Shanghai is part of a series of books which pick a city and then collect stories from/of that city. In the introduction to this volume, Jin Li provides a nine page overview of the history of literature and authors from Shanghai, from the late 19th century to the early 21st century, charting the evolution of the modern period of Shanghainese literature and the influence of western culture upon its development. It was fascinating and accessible and I learned a lot about a topic I had previously known very little. Thumbs up for that alone.
This isn’t the sort of collection that we normally review here, as most of the stories in it are of a more straight-up literary flavor, with little to no speculative elements in them; only a few stories fall under the spec-fic umbrella, to a greater or lesser degree, despite the blurb on the back making the stories sound much more fantastical than some of them are. Nevertheless, when I was offered a review copy, I jumped at the opportunity, having previously read and deeply appreciated two of Comma Press’s spec fic/SFF anthologies. This volume also didn’t disappoint. As usual, we’ll review each story separately and link to the reviews below as they are published. As is not usual, however, we’ve put an asterisk (*) next to the stories that do fall in the SFF/spec fic remit of this blog, so that if for whatever reason you wish to avoid the non-speculative stories, you can (though we don’t recommend that — they’re all good).
- “Ah Fang’s Lamp” by Wang Anyi
- “Snow” by Chen Danyan
- “Bengal Tiger” by Xia Shang
- “Woman Dancing Under Stars” by Teng Xiaolan
- * “The Novelist in the Attic” by Shen Dacheng
- “The Story of Ah-Ming” by Wang Zhanhei
- * “The Lost” by Fu Yuehui
- “Transparency” by Xiao Bai
- * “Suzhou River” by Cai Jun
- * “State of Trance” by Chen Qiufan