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Extended Audio Sample The Fat Years: A Novel Audiobook, by Chan Koonchung Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (465 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Chan Koonchung, Koonchung Chan Narrator: David Tse Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2012 ISBN: 9780449011485
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Banned in China, this controversial and politically charged novel tells the story of the search for an entire month erased from official Chinese history.
Beijing, sometime in the near future: a month has gone missing from official records. No one has any memory of it, and no one could care less—except for a small circle of friends, who will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of the sinister cheerfulness and amnesia that have possessed the Chinese nation. When they kidnap a high-ranking official and force him to reveal all, what they learn—not only about their leaders, but also about their own people—stuns them to the core. It is a message that will astound the world.

A kind of Brave New World reflecting the China of our times, The Fat Years is a complex novel of ideas that reveals all too chillingly the machinations of the postmodern totalitarian state, and sets in sharp relief the importance of remembering the past to protect the future. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • Rarely does a novel tell the truth about a society in a way that has the power to shift our perceptions about that place in a fundamental way, but Chan Koonchung’s The Fat Years does exactly that. A dystopic political fantasy, it provides a frighteningly accurate portrayal of a rising world superpower where few things are as they seem, and where critics who persist in speaking truth to power are ‘harmonized’ in the name of social stability and maintenance of Communist Party control. If you read only one book about China this year, make it this one — it tells you more about China than any work of non-fiction. Didi Kirsten Tatlow, China Columnist, International Herald Tribune and New York Times
  • "Possibly the most audacious book to have been published by a Chinese author not living in exile since Lu Xun excoriated the atrophied Confucianism of the early 20th century. . . . This novel isn’t only essential reading, it is also urgent. The Globe and Mail
  • In conjuring China’s very near future, Chan Koonchung has given us a bracingly honest portrait of the present. He captures all the flamboyant paradoxes of daily life in China on the cusp of empire, but is also awake to its submerged anxieties. His writing is steeped in humor and fantasy, but his project could not be more serious: The struggle over the soul of a nation. Evan Osnos, Beijing correspondent, The New Yorker
  • "What happens when 1.3 billion Chinese are all very happy? The Fat Years is suspenseful, hilarious, intelligent, and dark — a powerful novel. Anyone interested in learning about the current state and future of China should read this novel. Shu-mei Shih, University of California, Los Angeles
  • It's no wonder that the insecure Chinese authorities have banned this book in China itself.  It tells stunning truths that those authorities strive hard to keep under the rug, and it tells them with a literary flair worthy of Orwell.  Chan Koonchung's novel is deeply disturbing, biting, weirdly funny, and, above, all, piercingly honest. Richard Bernstein, author of The Coming Conflict with China
  • A thought-provoking novel about China's tomorrow, that reveals the truth about China today. Xinran, author of The Good Women of China
  • With echoes of Kafka, Lu Xun and Orwell, The Fat Years limns a New China that few have imagined: a booming, post-revolutionary land where historical and political amnesia are rewarded by the right to wealth and a seductive but amputated ‘good life.’ More unsettling, Chan's novel suggests that the ‘China's model’ of high-speed growth may mean that, far from heading towards greater openness and democracy as we have long imagined, history may actually be headed towards a new kind of Leninist consumerism. Orville Schell, Director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society
  • This dystopia masterfully captures the dilemma today's Chinese face: embrace economic growth or fight for justice. Chan delves into Beijing’s conscience and does not like what he sees. Isaac Stone Fish, Reporter, Newsweek/Daily Beast
  • Chan’s compelling dystopian fantasy reveals the underbelly of today’s Rising China while holding up a challenging mirror to fellow Chinese and all thoughtful readers. Timothy Cheek, University of British Columbia, author of Living with Reform: China Since 1989
  • "The Fat Years is the best and most accessible account of the multiple faces of China’s public intellectuals and the complicated world of popular authoritarianism in which they live.  A distinctive form of whimsical realism that makes for compelling reading. Paul Evans, Director of the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia 
  • Bracing, smart and entertaining. Independent
  • Hardly a thriller in the conventional sense of the word but a lot more scary than most. The Times
  • The Fat Years presents a vivid, intelligent and disturbing picture of the world’s emerging super-power. The Spectator

  • “Smart, incendiary . . . Although The Fat Years clearly owes a debt to Brave New World, Chan's characters are infinitely more believable, and drawn with a real sense of sympathy and understanding — something Huxley's archetypes famously lacked. As for plausibility, The Fat Years is almost too believable . . . An urgent clarion call for people in every country to treasure their individuality. NPR

  • Chan has crafted a cunning caricature of modern China, with its friction between communism and consumerism, its desire to reframe the Revolution in terms of 'market share and the next big thing.' But he has also identified a deeper dislocation, one stretching from China to the world. Los Angeles Times
  • With its offbeat puzzle and diverting characters, The Fat Years is not only absorbing in its own right, it also shines reflected light on the foibles of the West. The New York Times Book Review
  • Inventive and highly topical. The Wall Street Journal
  • A fascinating tale of China just over the horizon. The New Yorker
  • Part political thriller, part dystopian nightmare . . . Chan reveals the moral and political perils of contemporary Chinese life. Publishers Weekly
  • Eerily prescient. . . A gripping, if not terrifying, treatise on the rise of China, present and future. Toronto Star

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Thierry | 2/9/2014

    " Great book, it really is an eye-opener. As a novel, it's not the best book ever, however, it's a great introduction to the contemporary systems in China. It also made me think about the consequences and the needs for new governmental and economical systems. This is a book that everyone should read, since the balance in the world is shifting to the Asian countries and the book is a great way to discover it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Emily Ptak | 2/2/2014

    " I am still in the midst of this mysterious book, and the strong elements of the Fantastic are making the Todorov in me smile. This near-future (but actually mirror image of the present) China sheds light on the dystopian way the country functions. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Monica | 2/1/2014

    " A strange and different novel about China in the near future with insights on China and the Western world. Orwellian. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steve Gillway | 1/28/2014

    " Until this degenerates into a diatribre it is good and incisive on modern China. The translator argues that it is not really dystopian fiction and he may be right, but as soon as he invokes Orwell's 1984 you quickly realise this book's limitations. Because of the global nature of the world and China's growing importance books like these are vital in bridging the cultural gaps. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul Downs | 1/16/2014

    " Very interesting look at modern day China. Apparently it is quite provocative to the Chinese, which says something. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Helen Argiro | 1/1/2014

    " I love the premise of this book. The only reason it's missing a star is because I think the translation could have been better. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Timothy | 12/21/2013

    " If it were being rated as a novel, well, it's barely warrants the category. As a dissertation on recent Chinese history and a description of the Chinese party-state worldview, it's superb. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Netts | 12/11/2013

    " Interesting subject, shitty writing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Patrick DiJusto | 11/30/2013

    " Eh. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael Leung | 10/26/2013

    " Excellent book on China, the Communist Party and its future. The book starts off slow but the epilogue is well worth it alone. How many books can say that? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marieke | 6/20/2013

    " Review to come...or something like a review. To reflect that this novel was something like a novel, yet not really. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Diane | 4/26/2013

    " Probably a touch of the truth considering China's political system...but fiction. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hadrian | 6/19/2012

    " A political essay cloaked as a dystopia. Very reminiscent of the Goldstein book of 1984. Very eerie and prescient examination of the power and possible ends of the shadowy CCP. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chris | 2/13/2012

    " Very interesting read on living in China. Took a while to slog through it and you sort of figure out where it is going 1/3 of the way through. Then you have to wait until the last 5 pages for them to get to it. But not a bad book in any way. That's about all you are getting from me. "

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