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An Excess Male

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,750 ratings  ·  347 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 authoritatian measures, reinvigorated Communist ideals, and social engineering.Wei-guo holds fast to the belief that as long as he c ...more
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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3.69  · 
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 ·  1,750 ratings  ·  347 reviews

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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
“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
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.
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
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
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
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
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 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*
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
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
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
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
Caitlin Cramer
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really loved this speculative fiction novel. I can't wait to see more from this author!
Mya Alexice
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.
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
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
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
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
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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
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“How many wives out there have it much, much worse?” “Why should other women’s unhappiness justify mine?” 3 likes
“The merengue was invented out of necessity,” I tell everyone. “It was the only dance possible for ankle-chained slaves in the cane fields of the Caribbean.” 1 likes
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