I picked this book up randomly at the library not knowing anything about it but I was intrigued by the cover and the synopsis.
Silver Hill Village, 2012. On the twentieth day of the seventh moon Kwok Yun is making her way across the rice fields on her Flying Pigeon bicycle. Her world is turned upside down when she sights a UFThing – a spinning plate in the sky – and helps the Westerner in distress whom she discovers in the shadow of the alien craft. It’s not long before the village is crawling with men from the National Security and Intelligence Agency armed with pointed questions. And when the Westerner that Kwok Yun saved repays her kindness with a large dollar cheque she becomes a local celebrity, albeit under constant surveillance…
The idea and the title of this book drew me in straight away and I have to say that the format of the novel made for a really quick and interesting read. The story is told through interviews conducted by police officers and they interview the villagers of Silver Hill throughout the events that take place. The pages themselves are printed to look like they have been taken from a binder and there are even images of additional information that has been attached with paper-clips to the pages. I really liked this design choice as it made it all feel a lot more realistic and authentic.
I have never read any Chinese fiction before and I have to say that this book did a really great job of building the setting and the people in a way that made it feel like China to me. This is a story of modernisation and the development of rural locations, people’s attitudes towards change and people’s ability to cope with modern technologies. It gave an interesting insight into what it must be like for someone living in a rural isolated area to suddenly be given an education, new buildings, new businesses and access to computers.
I think that the author, Xiaolu Guo, did an amazing job of showing the different opinions of the villagers in a non-biased way and although this book is fiction, I could imagine that this is how it would be in reality. As a reader, you can see that Xiaolu Guo has experienced both rural China and modern Western countries. The English used in this novel is quite simple but I think it gives a level of realism to the story and the characters as the characters are supposed to be speaking Chinese, so these files would in fact be a translation.
I think that this book brings up a lot of ideas about modernisation and the importance of community in a way that was not preaching for either side but showed a realistic view of what could happen. Overall I really enjoyed this book and would be interested in reading more by this author. The writing style was simple and fast-paced and the idea and format of the story is something that I have never experienced before so I am excited to see what else this author has to offer.