The membranes A novel

Dawei Ji, 1972-

Book - 2021

"It is the late twenty-first century, and Momo is the most celebrated dermal care technician in all of T City. Humanity has migrated to domes at the bottom of the sea to escape devastating climate change. The world is dominated by powerful media conglomerates and runs on exploited cyborg labor. Momo prefers to keep to herself, and anyway she's too busy for other relationships: her clients include some of the city's best-known media personalities. But after meeting her estranged mother, she begins to explore her true identity, a journey that leads to questioning the bounds of gender, memory, self, and reality. First published in Taiwan in 1995, The Membranes is a classic of queer speculative fiction in Chinese. Chi Ta-wei dystopian tropes-heirloom animals, radiation-proof combat drones, sinister surveillance technologies-into a sensitive portrait of one young woman's quest for self-understanding. Predicting everything from fitness tracking to social media saturation, this visionary and sublime novel stands out for its queer and trans themes. The Membranes reveals the diversity and originality of contemporary speculative fiction in Chinese, exploring gender and sexuality, technological domination, and regimes of capital, all while applying an unflinching self-reflexivity to the reader's own role. Ari Larissa Heinrich's translation brings Chi's hybrid punk sensibility to all readers interested in books that test the limits of where speculative fiction can go"--

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Location Call Number   Status
1st Floor SCIENCE FICTION/Ji Dawei Checked In
Speculative fiction
Psychological fiction
Science fiction
New York : Columbia University Press [2021]
Main Author
Dawei Ji, 1972- (author)
Other Authors
Ari Larissa Heinrich (translator)
Physical Description
158 pages ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

A celebrated queer writer and critic in Taiwan, Chi makes his English-language literary debut with this translation of his mind-bending 1995 sf novella. Set in a futuristic Taipei, the story revolves around Momo, "T City's" premier aesthetician, and her relationship with her mother, a high-powered executive she hasn't spoken to in 20 years. Though much space is devoted to describing a future world where humans live in domes under the sea while Earth's surface is inhabited by cyborgs who labor for the world's mega-corporations, Momo's life is only faintly sketched as a quiet, solitary existence in her salon, where between clients she reminisces about her past and wonders if she will ever earn her mother's regard. A twist ending satisfyingly reveals the reasons for this authorial choice and poignantly concludes the book's exploration of the ways our lived realities are shaped by ourselves and others, especially in the context of a parent-child relationship. The Membranes is a welcome addition to the small but growing ranks of international science fiction available in English translation, and is an excellent early example of climate fiction.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Chi's classic queer Chinese-language SF novel, first published in 1995, makes its English-language debut and invites a new audience into its strange, subtle world. In the year 2100, Momo is a reclusive celebrity skincare specialist in the undersea metropolis of T City. Despite her deep loneliness, she avoids human contact, preferring to lose herself in browsing online, studying data secretly mined from her clients' skin, and recalling her own troubled memories of a medically fragile childhood colored by the loss of a treasured android friend and her distant mother's careerism. As the narrative weaves through Momo's memories, it becomes increasingly referential and dreamlike, culminating in a cascade of exquisitely shocking twists that recast the story and Momo's experiences of consciousness, identity, and gender in a new light. Readers will notice prescient echoes of modern life in Chi's depictions of all-absorbing media consumption and loneliness in the midst of hyper-connection. Translator Heinrich closes with helpful context, situating the tale in the cultural boom of post--martial law Taipei. Though Chi's meandering, restrained style will be unfamiliar to many Western readers, this captivating novel is rich and rewarding. (June)

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