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An Excess Male

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,359 ratings  ·  277 reviews
From debut author Maggie Shen King, An Excess Male is the chilling dystopian tale of politics, inequality, marriage, love, and rebellion, set in a near-future China, that further explores the themes of the classic The Handmaid's Tale and When She Woke.

Under the One Child Policy, everyone plotted to have a son.

Now 40 million of them can't find wives. China’s One Child Poli
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…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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“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
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.
Jessica Woodbury
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Wei Guo wants to become the third husband in a martial arrangement that happens in this envisioning of near-future China (where the one-child policy with preference to sons has imbalanced the population so there are too many sons and not enough wives). But the family he may marry into has their own problems with both orientation and the state. That might be the tag line of this book which drew me into it, but really what I took away from it was that forged families (to protect those outside hete ...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.
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
I first heard of this book in an article about recent dystopian fiction written by women. It stood out, as I tend to be drawn to books written by Asian women, and the premise was especially of interest. Set in a near-future Beijing, affected by the one-child policy which has resulted in far too many males, An Excess Male is the story of a family. May-Ling has two men in her life – Hann and Xiong-Xin or XX. They’re not exactly a typical China family as Hann is “Wilfully Sterile” (the official ter ...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*
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
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
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
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
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-reviewed
This was an interesting book. But not what I expected. The book is categorized as dystopian/science fiction. But there wasn't much sci-fi in the story. The book is about Wei-Guo and his search for a wife and family. Since this is a near future China and women are scarce, he is being considered as a third husband. The book also follows May -Ling and her two husbands in alternating chapters. They are all complicated, flawed characters. The book does touch on some thought provoking ideas about gove ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

This was a great premise but slightly unevenly written. China in the not too distant future has an over abundance of men and not enough women. Bc of this, women can take multiple husbands and this book has multiple povs about a man who wishes to enter a family with two husbands. The book also focuses on the consequences if one is a gay man or mentally ill and how families keep secrets and the lengths they will go to to keep the family intact. The book did digress a bit (dogs) and the
Excellent and timely dystopic thriller set in a near-future China where wildly skewed sex ratios and traditional sexism have combined to change marriage and family in radical ways.

By using the view-points of four different characters (a married woman, her two husbands, and the "excess male" hoping to join them in "advanced marriage"), Shen King is able to build a very convincing and thorough near-future dystopia without indulging in info-dumps or pages of back story. While the novel includes a s
Richard Guion
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This dystopian novel is like a Handmaid's Tale for men. It looks at the effects of China's One Child Policy and the effect of having millions of unmarried men due to the gender imbalance. Wei Guo, a 40 year old fitness instructor, wants to become husband #3 in May-Ling's family. From a distance it looks like a great family to join. They already have 1 male child, and the husbands have solid professional jobs. As the novel cycles through the POV of each character in this situation, you will find ...more
Paula DeBoard
Brilliant in conception and execution.

King transports the readers to a fictional China, where the one-child policy has created an excess of marriageable males and a dearth of females.

Well, this is already happening in China, but it's King's solution to the problem that is mind-blowing, gender-bending and thought-provoking. In this world, women can take on up to three husbands, fertility is praised, and of course, new problems arise with new solutions.

(Hi! Friends? Please read this book so we
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
At first I thought this would be an awkward love type story, but instead it turned into a story I just couldn't put down.
This was an interesting premise, and I had high hopes for this near-future science fiction novel that explores the ramifications of China's One Child policy. Since Chinese culture values men more than women, there were excess men born during the One Child years, which led to a shortage of women of marriageable age. In order to allow more men to marry, each woman may marry up to 3 men. Lee Wuo-gei, a gym owner and personal trainer, has been matched with the Gu family as a possible third husband f ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Page Turner!

I could not stop reading. Excellent dystopian sci fi with plenty of intrigue! The realism of Beibei and XX's characters is remarkable.
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, dystopia
Interesting! A scenario and setting I'm unlikely to encounter elsewhere. Worth a read.
N. Gill
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The pursuit of love and marriage can be alternately exhilarating and heartbreaking. But in the futuristic world of Wei-guo and May-ling finding a mate is a statistical minefield. In China, where male off-spring are preferred, the One-Child Policy has created a country teeming with young men vying for a small percentage of women. Still, 42-year-old Wei-guo plans to beat the odds. He has saved enough money to go into match-making, and when he is introduced to beautiful, young May-ling and her two ...more
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Reading Queer: Reader Reactions 1 5 Jun 06, 2018 11:04AM  
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
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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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