Novel: An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King

Maggie Shen King’s An Excess Male (2017) is thoughtful, realistic, cautionary SF that benefits from a refreshingly non-western perspective. Set in China during the mid-twenty-first century, this one tackles the consequences of the country’s one-child policy by examining the plight of Wei-Guo, a physical trainer in his forties and one of Chinese society’s many unmarried men. Wei-Guo pins his hopes on marrying the attractive young May-ling, and they seem to have chemistry. But this isn’t your usual courtship: May-ling already has two husbands, Hann and XX, who are brothers. May-ling, Hann, and XX have a complicated dynamic, one that makes them all anxious to welcome Wei-guo into the family. But their simple desires are constantly challenged by the oppressive societal norms of an unforgiving communist regime, which dictates their every move and controls their collective fate.

An Excess Male is quiet, subtle, and convincingly rendered, benefiting greatly from thorough worldbuilding and a roster of sympathetic and well defined characters. King’s prose is assured, and so is her grasp on the complexities of the future society she’s exploring. The pacing is steady, and while the plot is less-than-explosive, that seems appropriate to a complex drama about people constrained by strict, State-enforced social conditioning. All told, a smart debut of cautionary futurism.

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