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China Dream

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  657 ratings  ·  94 reviews
A poetic and unflinching fable about tyranny, guilt, and the erasure of history, by the banned Chinese writer hailed as Chinas Solzhenitsyn.

In seven dream-like episodes, Ma Jian charts the psychological disintegration of a Chinese provincial leader who is haunted by nightmares of his violent past. From exile, Ma Jian shoots an arrow at President Xi Jinpings China Dream
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published November 1st 2018 by Chatto Windus
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Average rating 3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  657 ratings  ·  94 reviews

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Nov 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Like the author notes in the preface, China Dream is written in a rage, and understandably so, as Xi Jinpings China, with its Chinese Dream, is beginning to resemble something potentially as dangerous as Maos Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 70s. Unfortunately, for me, this rage does not quite turn into something poetic or dream-like like the blurb suggests. This is rather coarse in language and violent in content, with more than a few scenes of unrealistic action and dialogue. This might, ...more
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, chinese-lit
This strange, hallucinatory novella deals with the terrible legacy of Maos Cultural Revolution, through the eyes of a repellent bureaucrat named Ma Daode. Despite his attempts to forget, he is haunted by events of the past that sabotage his current success. The novella is episodic in structure and certain chapters worked much better for me than others. I disliked the extended sequence in the brothel, which made a point about corruption but neednt have been so lengthy and repulsive. Towards the ...more
Jammin Jenny
I really liked this historical fiction novel that takes us behind the scenes of communist China and some of the atrocities the leaders of that country did to their citizens. I hope more people read this book and learn some of the things that went on. I had a hard time telling fact from fiction, but in the epilog the author makes more of that clear.
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars.

I would have liked the story and characters to be more developed and the scifi elements more prominent. As it is I found it a bit bland and forgettable.
Rebecca H.
This is a short novel with a lot to say about both contemporary China and Chinese history. The main character, Ma Daode, is the director of the China Dream Bureau, and his plan is to create a chip that will replace peoples private dreams with propaganda created by the government. We quickly learn that one of the reasons Ma Daode is so passionate about this project is that he desperately wants freedom from his horrible memories of the Cultural Revolution, where he witnessed terrible violence. As ...more
Is the book politically important? - definitely. The beautiful intense prose squeezes out the bleak era of the sinister Chinese regime in not-too-distant future. The content echoes with Orwell's 1984, relating to the psychology of the main character under the seemingly mind control autocratic system.

The integral part of this novel exhibits the totalitarianism manifested itself as 'China Dream device', a tool ingrained in one individual's brain, locking all personal thoughts into one pipping
Benyakir Horowitz
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When, I first read this book, I had a hard figuring out what genre this book exactly is. Is it dystopian? Only if you count modern China as it. Is it Sci-Fi? Theres very little Sci-Fi to it. In fact, its relegated to a few sentences in a couple of chapters. Is it satire? Well, yes, but satire isnt really a genre (though its usually literary or comedic). I forget the word, but it's literary with a few supernatural elements (like Toni Morris or Paul Coelho).

Its hard to describe what I liked about
Benjamin L.
Not Recommended.

I must admit I often find it difficult to review foreign language political fiction. I find Satire as a genre is hindered by translation and cultural differences far more than most, and that can sometimes make it difficult to know if if I have a good grasp on the text or not. What things do i not understand because they are poorly presented, and what things do I not understand because it was written with a mind qualitatively different to my own? I also had this problem with the
Gregory  Hunt
Oct 01, 2019 rated it liked it
A few months prior to reading this book, I found harboring a growing hatred against the Chinese as a whole. By whole, I mean the country, the politics, and the people. I couldn't understand people living such servile lives. While I blamed the whole world for the lack any real revolutions in recency, I particularly had gripes about the Chinese. Rage is a new emotion for me, especially rage towards people. The rational part of my mind was fighting the emotional part. 'I can't hate, I can't hate, I ...more
Jenn Fields
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Chinese dissident author Ma Jians latest novel is a scathing satire panning Xi Jinping, but it will be tough for people living under Xis regime to get a copy of the book. Mas workhis past novels have been critical of the one-child policy and the occupation of Tibethas been banned in China for three decades, and he lives in exile in London. But if youre lucky enough to get your hands on China Dream, snag a copy and revel in that feeling of laughing at the absurdity so you dont cry.

The central
Chinese literary satire is its own love-hate genre. This novel is an angry, stinging satire unafraid to lampoon the contemporary culture of China. Unfortunately, the repetitive prose (or its translation) often reads flat and awkward, weighed down by the abundance of explanations, proper nouns and party-speak. Although there are moments of dark humour and insight, the continuous heavy-handed barrage has little nuance. (On one hand there are a lot of references that will only be familiar to ...more
Jalen NeSmith
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
RBSCG (Read Before Sympathizing w Chinese Government)
Horace Derwent
Jan 24, 2020 is currently reading it
this is not about imagination or future, this is about reality. tyranny really exists today in modern china, and this dystopian novel just delivers true horrors
Bárbara Széchy
Feb 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: chinese-lit
That ending was like an angry cry full of pain, like a punch in the stomach. Wow. Can't say I loved this book but I do appretiate it for what it is and what it represents.
Guy Salvidge
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Ma Jian is an excellent and very important writer, but this isn't his best work. It's a slight, dreamlike narrative featuring corrupt official Ma Daode, head of the China Dream project. Through the story, Ma has a number of flashbacks detailing the bloody events of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, when he was a teenager. As a satire on Chinese government policy this works effectively enough, whereas in terms of believability it's a bit thin. Red Dust, Beijing Coma and The Dark Road are all ...more
Alex Eraclea
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book, the English version, for me, as a native Chinese speaker, is quite disappointing.

The English translation is more or less literal and only literal, meaning that it does not transcend the context of two very different and often opposite cultures. The author, Ma, as I understood, wrote in Chinese and you can tell by reading the translation, where there are a lot of literal only translations of beautifying Chinese poems and idioms (though I am not able to guess all). Very often, this bad
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Can I say that a book is beautifully written when everything in it is so catastrophically ugly, the main character--and everyone else--so despicable, that it made me sick to my stomach? This novel literally triggered a series of sleepless nights. Why? Because every word of it seems so eerily plausible.

Ma Jian is a supreme master satirist, a Chinese Jonathan Swift on steroids. No, there is nothing amusing in his satire. He takes the reality of contemporary China and exaggerates it just enough to
Melinda Christensen
This novel is an informative and somewhat entertaining satire. It reveals the tremendous abuse that Communist China inflicts upon its citizens, but the language and the sexual innuendo are atrocious. I might recommend the book for its history, but otherwise no. In fact, I'm afraid that I won't be able to forget some of the nasty things I've read in this book! The premise that the government can alter its citizens' individual memories doesn't hold up; an idea that we are all aware of. Each ...more
Akemi G.
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-fiction
I picked up this book without knowing about the author or the content, just assuming it's a satirical novella--and maybe a kind of alt history SFF?

It's more ghost-story fantasy than science fiction, which is my only complaint. When I read a passage like this in the first chapter:
Once the Internet Monitoring Unit merges with our China Dream Bureau, the supervision of dreams will become integral to our daily work. We will record, classify, and control the dreams of every individual, and begin
Eshana Ranasinghe
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure what I think about China Dream to be honest. My insides are a jumbled mess of thoughts and feelings.

It was interesting and captivating but visceral, unapologetic and dark. I was a bit disappointed that the microchip implant which monitors and replaces/represses dreams which do not align with the China Dream was barely a part of the story. It's not really a fault of the book just my preconceptions didn't match what was in the book.

I'll write a more coherent review when the story has
Larry Davidson
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powerful story written by exiled writer Ma Jian mocking the Chinese ruling authority and their control over their population. The protagonist is Director Ma Daode who is in charge of developing the China Dream, a device that can be implanted in each individuals ear to help them replace their past thoughts with the future dreams.

The story moves through a series of events, including the bulldozing of a town by Chinese officials , his visit to a house of prostitution, and the Golden Chinese Dream
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Exiled Chinese writer Ma Jians seventh novel, China Dream, might describe a living dystopian nightmare but its dangerously close to the truth. The book describes the slipping mind of Ma Daode, director a newly created China Dream Bureau (China Dream Bureaus really do exist), the purpose of which is to ensure that President Xi Jinpings vision of a China Dream that sets out Chinas future of national rejuvination reaches the brain of every resident of Ziyang City. Ma mingles fact and fiction, ...more
D.B. John
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This short, compulsive, dreamlike novel with linger in your mind long after youve finished it. The author, whose novels are banned in China, satirises the states drive to wipe its dark past from the public memory, replacing it with a bright, anodyne narrative of rejuvenation, and progress towards the China Dream.

In 2012, President Xi reopened the lavishly refurbished National Museum of China on Tiananmen Square. As he admired each new hall, followed by members of the politburo, not a single
LuAnne Feik
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
To show how, even with modern technology, China faces a monumental challenge in efforts to control a 1.3 billion population, Ma Jian created seven short satires and a protagonist, Ma Daode, who is the director charged with developing a China Dream device that will erase memories and permit President Xi and the Chinese Communist Party to insert a new national vision of global domination and earworm slogans into the mind of every citizen. The trouble is, this U.S.-educated director cannot even ...more
Oct 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults.
Recommended to Helen by: No-one.
Shelves: china
This was a well-written, albeit occasionally shocking, novel that is basically a vehicle for the exiled author to direct criticism at the Chinese Communist Party and its leadership, especially the president of China, Xi Jiping. It's a satire interspersed with intense tragedy as the main character (Ma Daode) struggles to suppress memories of the horrors of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution - memories that eventually take over his present life as a government official. That is on ...more
Jennifer Pletcher
May 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is the story of Ma Daode. He has been put in charge of a program called China Dream which will overwrite people's private dreams. He is got a great job, a wife, and several mistresses and thinks he has it all.

As the program comes together, Ma suddenly finds himself plagued with flashbacks of his past. He flashes to his time in the Cultural Revolution, his parent's suicide, and the downfall of his family. He seeks out a legendary recipe for an amnesia potion to erase these thoughts, thinking
China Dream, by the exiled Chinese writer Ma Jian, and translated by Flora Drew, is a satirical, and sometimes fantastical, exploration of China's totalitarian regime and a look back at the time of China's Cultural Revolution, a period of history where Mao Zedong intentionally set opposing parties against each other in what was often deadly conflict to maintain his influence and rule over the Chinese people.

There is so much to say about this novel, which is centered around Communist Party member
Morgan McComb
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In a not-too-unfamiliar dystopic China, Ma Deode is appointed head of the China Dream Bureau, a government agency who erases civilians dreams and replaces them with the Presidents authoritarian propaganda for a better China. In a series of dream sequences, Ma Deode plans an epic golden wedding anniversary for him and his wife but is simultaneously plagued by his own violent and tragic memories of the Cultural Revolution. As Ma Deodes past bubbles to the surface, threatening his inner peace and ...more
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In China Dream, Ma Jin has written a harsh and biting satire of the ruling regime of Xi Jingping and his "China Dream", a dream that calls for the rejuvenation of China and for it's taking it's place on the world's stage as its dominant superpower. The novel's main character Ma Daode is a self-important government official whose great ambition is to create a China Dream Device. It would be implanted in the mind of every citizen, replacing all their private and independent thoughts with Xi's ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I appreciated this book while I was reading it, but it wasn't until I got more context through the author's note at the end that I really could say that I got a deeper understanding enough to truly appreciate what the author did with this story.

The main character, a former Mao supporter during the Cultural Revolution is desperate to introduce his China Dream mind-erasing chips into the heads of the Chinese population. Is it because he really believes in President Xi's united propaganda vision,
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Ma Jian was born in Qingdao,China on the 18th of August 1953. In 1986, Ma moved to Hong Kong after a clampdown by the Chinese government in which most of his works were banned.

He moved again in 1997 to Germany, but only stayed for two years; moving to England in 1999 where he now lives with his partner and translator Flora Drew.

Ma came to the attention of the English-speaking world with his story

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