Review: On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee


Little weight of reality … On Such a Full Sea author Chang-rae Lee.Dystopia is by its nature a dreary, inhospitable country. To its early explorers it held all the excitement of discovery, and that made their descriptions fresh and powerful – EM Forster’s “The Machine Stops”, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. But for the last 30 years or more, Dystopia has been a major tourist attraction. Everybody goes there and writes a book about it. And the books tend to be alike, because the terrain is limited and its nature is monotonous.

The most familiar view of it is a wild landscape, more or less catastrophically ruined or neglected, in which human settlements exist widely separated from each other and cut off from nature, other species, sometimes even the outer atmosphere. These enclaves – underground or in domes or behind walls – are human hives, controlled by government and supporting a regimented, sheltered, safe, highly unnatural, often luxurious, “utopian” lifestyle. Those inside the enclaves consider those living outside them to be primitive, lawless and dangerous, which they are, though they also often hold the promise of freedom. So Dystopia has a hero: an insider who goes outside.

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