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An Excess Male

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  2,336 ratings  ·  449 reviews
Set in a near-future China the One Child Policy has resulted in 40 million men unable to find wives. This book is one such leftover man’s quest for love and family under a State that seeks to glorify its past mistakes and impose order through authoritarian measures, reinvigorated Communist ideals, and social engineering.

Wei-guo holds fast to the belief that as long as he c
ebook, 416 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by Harper Voyager
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Jessica Strider Yes and no. The focus of the book is on the four people and whether they'll expand their marriage. Wei-guo - the third prospective husband - has sever…moreYes and no. The focus of the book is on the four people and whether they'll expand their marriage. Wei-guo - the third prospective husband - has several conversations about the difficulty of finding a wife and the depression many men feel. There are threads about how the government keeps men happy (Helpmates) and entertained (strategic games). Foreign brides are discouraged by the government's China First mandate. The world-building is quite involved and careful. I can't comment on how accurately the author got the Chinese mindset and would love to hear others' thoughts on this.(less)

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Elyse  Walters
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was FANTASTIC ...... surprisingly fantastic.

I first learned of this book back in December, last year while speaking to another stranger on the airplane.

Lives are governed by the Communist government.....set in the 21st century China.
“China’s one-child policy and it’s cultural preference for male heirs have created a society overrun by 40 million unmarriageable men. By the year 2030, more than 25% of t
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

A compelling and emotional read. I loved the close examination of what constitutes family, love, and happiness for the four main characters, and how wonderfully interconnected they were with each other.

The totalitarian regime combined with the regressive sociopolitical views forced by the government on the population made for a sufficiently frightening and depressing backdrop.

Definitely recommended, particularly if you like rich, character driven stories.
“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong…it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideas.”

----Emma Watson

Maggie Shen King, a Taiwanese bestselling author, has penned a highly thought-provoking dystopian novel, An Excess Male that revolves around a not-so young man longing for companionship with a woman while getting wrapped up in a government-influenced deadly drama and scandal and is set in n
Jessica Woodbury
AN EXCESS MALE imagines what happens in a China where the One Child Policy and the preference for male children leads to a society where men vastly outnumber women but society frowns on unmarried men. In this world, women can take up to three husbands and have one child with each of them. What's so interesting about the world King imagines is how patriarchy and bigotry still persist despite the fact that they no longer make sense.

Told through 4 different points of view, we follow Wei-guo, a sin
Nov 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I have every incentive to procrastinate right now, yet An Excess Male wastes away by my bed, unfinished. I think I'd rather do the dishes than keep reading it, to be honest, which is frustrating because it really is a well-considered, carefully constructed, scarily plausible thought experiment.

The basic premise: near-future China is having a woman crisis. After decades of its one child policy and strong cultural preferences for boys ('to carry on the family name'), there are too many young men
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
China's One Child Policy will result in around 24 million more men than women of marriageable age by 2020. That's fact, not science fiction and takes into account that the One Child Policy has been wound up. This novel extrapolates a future where the One Child Policy continued and caused lasting social adaptations, but even so, most of the underlying issues explored in this book are now inevitable, if somewhat exaggerated here.

The Excess Male at the heart of this book is Lee Wei-guo, a 44-year o
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
What starts off as a great concept becomes a rather over written slow novel where nothing really happens. Don't go in expecting a smart sci fi dystopian concept novel. Its really just a literary drama in disguise. The scifi concept is just a very fine mist. The characters are rather uninteresting and the plot overly slow. Not sure if this is based on any potential facts but it does feel realistic in the authors writing style. ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting concept and characters get bogged down by over-writing. There isn't much that actually happens here and it doesn't happen for hundreds of pages. Part of the problem is that the book is being published by Voyager, which specializes in Science Fiction and Fantasy and this reads more like a literary novel with the trappings of S-F/dystopic fiction. Marketing shapes expectations and perception and this is being marketed to the wrong audience.

I saw all of the five-star reviews for this
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This ended up being entirely different from what I expected. From the cover I was expecting something action packed and adrenaline heavy. It actually ended up being a character driven story.

The story is set in the future in China when there are far too many men and too few girls due to girls being killed/aborted/genetically engineered into boys. Wei-guo is an "Excess Male" and is trying to enter into a marriage contract as a third husband. While the book starts with his POV, it shifts throughout
I almost loved this book. In fact I did love it, until about halfway through when I realized where it was going. Then, not so much.

First of all this book is far more speculative fiction than it is strict sci-fi. That's actually fine with me, but since it was marketed as sci-fi (and published on a sci-fi imprint) that did throw me off a little bit. The focus in this book is on the characters, not the world-building nor plot. Thankfully King does a good job with her character development - each c
Rating: 4.25 stars

Better than just your four star, but not quite to the pinnacle of 5 star-ness. I have to hand it to Maggie Shen King—she takes several assumptions and trends, plays them out to their logical conclusion, and makes a dramatic book out of it. Plus I always enjoy speculative fiction that isn’t set in North America!

First, take the Chinese one-child policy. Add to that the preference for having a male child to inherit your goods. Mix in a good dose of authoritarian Communist party, w
Britta Böhler
Intriguing premise (based on the 'real-life' consequences of China's one-child-policy) and well-developped characters. But quite a bit too slow for my taste and the plot is suffocated by too many (often rather boring) details.

Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sadie Forsythe
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


I wavered between a four and five star on this book. It isn't easy to read at times and my first words on finishing the book were a wail of, "(view spoiler) doesn't get his happy ending." It's almost worse than that honestly, because a gay man in a family is replaced by a straight man and the family is functionally improved. It is definitely only the straight characters who get their simple happy ending, and that very much bothered me. But the more I thought abo
Aug 20, 2020 marked it as dnf
I'm not going to leave a rating because even though I wasn't enjoying it and gave up, it was very much I case of my own expectations and not a flaw with the book itself. I wanted something, well, nicer. And from the setting to the plot to their people and their unpleasant, offensive thinking, there's just nothing nice here. ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jamie Collins
An odd but interesting story, set in a dystopian future China where the gender imbalance has resulted in the official endorsement of polyandry. This focuses on one particular family where a young wife was sold into marriage to two middle-aged brothers, one of whom is gay, and the other on the autism spectrum. Her unhappiness has caused them to consider taking on a third husband, which is a risky prospect because of the necessity of keeping the nature of both men secret from an oppressive, author ...more
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting concept -- an exploration of the possible consequences of the One Child policy, where it has resulted in a population of dangerously few women. But this is painfully slow. Scene after scene that cover the same ground, restating the characters' thoughts and motivations again and again. XX -- the character who's on the spectrum, what this dystopia terms a Lost Boy -- was the most interesting and well developed to me; sadly, the three other POV characters came across as quite flat, i ...more
Peter Tillman
Rachel Swirsky's review:

"I was impressed by this book’s unusual engagement with complex political issues, its complex characters, and its largely elegant plot development. In An Excess Male, King has challenged herself with particularly difficult writing gymnastics. I’m not the right person to say whether she lands it perfectly, but it’s a beautifully executed aerial."

But see Jennifer Mo's,
"I have every incentive to
the only thing I care about in life are the bond between women, and how a dystopian as described in this book would affect those --- this book barely touches on that. The plot is always set in motion and perpetrated by men, and the sole female character is literally monopolized by all the male characters. There is very little interest in female rebellion, and the book didn't even touch on what the queer female experience must be like in this dystopian world, despite explicit and repeated discuss ...more
Ninitha (Niko)
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
A dystopian novel that doesn't explain the dystopian lifestyle in detail is a let down. There are great elements in this book, but somehow the characters feel under developed, and some plot twists unwarranted. It also seems deeply depressing that even in a matriarchal society, women are subjected to patriarchy. I'm not sure I like this book. But then again, I don't hate it either. It just all seems a little vague and all over the place, much like this review. ...more
K.J. Charles
Aug 22, 2020 added it
Shelves: sf, china, dnf
Intriguing premise of the logical extension of a one-child policy that leads to there being far too many unnecessary men [insert joke here] but it seems to be very much a character piece and I did not like any of the characters at all. An early casualty of my radical new reading policy which is "if you aren't actually enjoying it, you can stop. Yes, even if it's good." ...more
I love (okay, I don't love, but I am appreciative of in a writerly sense) how even in a gender-skewed dystopia where polyandry is becoming the norm due to 40 million "excess males", women still are getting the short end of the stick and are still being pressured to produce sons. *sighs* ...more
May 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I heard an interview with the author on the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast a while back and picked this up when I saw it at the bookstore a while later (this was all pre-pandemic, so this became part of my book hoard that could theoretically keep me reading for several years). I decided to read it now as a nod to Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

The Chinese government's controversial one-child policy began in 1979 and ended in 2015, but it will have a legacy for decades to come, particu
Matthew Lloyd
The blurb of this novel announces that China's One-Child Policy and misogyny "cultural preference for male heirs" has created a society overrun by unmarriageable men. In this future-China, Maggie Shen King suggests that a form of polyandry will serve to keep these men in line while preventing the women whom they marry from obtaining the social and political privileges such an imbalance might have allowed them to claim. Not long after the husband-limit is increased from two to three, this story f ...more
Caitlin Cramer
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: strange-worlds
This book is somewhere between a 4 and 4.5, but rather than agonize over the decimal value, let’s get to it. This is ultimately a story about a family with secrets trying to survive in a surveillance-obsessed authoritarian society. Each family member struggles with resentment over unmet needs. This family would not exist as a unit in a free society. They lie, maneuver, and manipulate one another. And yet when threatened, each is willing to go to extraordinary and often touching lengths to protec ...more
This book took me on a journey. It was a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. And I don't mean that in a good way. Frankly, there were parts of this book that could have made it 5 stars, or at least a high 4. But other parts were worth of a 1 or a low two. Despite my 3 star rating, there wasn't much in between.

The initial chapter was everything that I'd dreaded based on the marketing copy for the book (N.B. I read it for my book club). I can't say that the marriage prospects of someone desperat
The Handmaid’s Tale is an apt comparison for An Excess Male, a dystopic sci-fi novel that extrapolates the results of China’s One Child Policy.

An Excess Male centers around one family and Wei-guo, an “excess male” who hopes to join that family. In the future imagined by King, China has turned to polyandry to deal with their skewed sex ratios. Legally, a marriage is allowed to have one wife and up to three husbands. Wei-guo, a forty-something bachelor dreams of having a family, but even entering
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really loved this speculative fiction novel. I can't wait to see more from this author! ...more
wow this was great. equal parts tender exploration of romance and also dystopian thriller. Shen King sets up the world easily without infodumping and crafts complicated, flawed characters. love it.
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Maggie Shen King is the author of An Excess Male (Harper Voyager), a Washington Post Top 5 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novel of 2017, a James Tiptree, Jr., and a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. She is Goodreads September 2017 Debut Author the Month.

Her short stories have appeared in Ecotone, ZYZZYVA, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Fourteen Hills. Her manuscript Fortune's Fools, won Second Prize in

Articles featuring this book

"I saw three basic ways to try to balance the equation—import women, export men, or ask women to take on more than one husband. I thought the last...
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“How many wives out there have it much, much worse?” “Why should other women’s unhappiness justify mine?” 3 likes
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