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What Else Are You Reading? > Looking for books set in Asia

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message 1: by Dara (new)

Dara (cmdrdara) | 2674 comments I recently finished reading Nexus and Crux by Ramez Naam. I loved the story but it was really the setting that elevated the plot for me. Most of the story takes place in Southeast Asia - Bangkok, Phuket, Saigon, Shanghai, Burma. I'm looking for more books set in Asia (doesn't have to be Southeast Asia), particularly sci-fi but I won't say no to a good fantasy story with a similar setting. Can you guys help me out?


message 3: by Natalie (new)

Natalie Mintz | 5 comments Not set in Asia, but the Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. The narrative of the story is a series of short stories spanning over a thousand years. The premise is this: What if there was Eastern expansion instead of Western expansion? What would the New World look like then and how would civilization evolve? It's a dense book, but I found it hard to put down.


message 4: by Sanasai (new)

Sanasai | 82 comments The setting for The Drowning City was inspired in part by the author's time in Indonesia, but the city in question is not a modern city and there is also lots of action in the more rural areas outside the city, so if the bustling cityscape is a lot of the appeal it might not be quite what you want.


message 5: by Ben (new)

Ben Nash | 200 comments The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox is a great series. If I remember correctly, we read the first volume, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was, earlier this year. Maybe it was a different club. Anyway, the books are funny and have Chinese mythology. Good stuff.

The Years of Rice and Salt is on my to-read list.


message 6: by Lindsay (last edited Oct 27, 2014 03:39PM) (new)

Lindsay | 593 comments Kylie Chan has three series of fantasy martial arts books which are mostly set in Hong Kong. The first series starts with White Tiger.

Joel Shepherd's Cassandra Kresnov books are set on a planet that is a multicultural society of primarily Indian and Asian origin. The first one is Crossover.

Steve Bein has a series of police procedural novels following a female Tokyo detective with an ancient magical (cursed?) sword starting with Daughter of the Sword. I thought the first was great and the second is on my to-read list.

But the one I'm really excited about is Ken Liu's translation of Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem coming out next month. This is supposed to be a modern classic of Chinese SF which should be cool as SF is huge there.


message 7: by John (Nevets) (new)

John (Nevets) Nevets (nevets) | 1184 comments It's more modern spy thriller then science fiction, but a good chunk of Reamde took place in Asia. And it was a group read a while back.


message 8: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 3827 comments And Reamde was terrible. ;)

But Bridge of Birds, part of The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, was also a club pick. And was INFINITELY better. :P


message 9: by Daran (new)

Daran | 599 comments Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn I think there are five books in this series starting with this one. I really liked them.


message 10: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay | 593 comments A few more:

Guy Gavriel Kay has two books set in an alternate 8th century China: Under Heaven and River of Stars.

Jay Kristoff has the Lotus War series which is a seconday world fantasy based on feudal Japan. The first book is Stormdancer.

Elizabeth Bear has her brilliant Eternal Sky series which is a fantasy world based on the Mongolian Steppes. The first one is Range of Ghosts.

I believe the first two novels of Jacqueline Carey's Naamah trilogy in the same universe as the Kushiel's books is set in an alternate China. I didn't get that far in the series (I kind of bounced off the second trilogy).


message 11: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new)

Tassie Dave | 2794 comments Mod
terpkristin wrote: "And Reamde was terrible. ;)

But Bridge of Birds, part of The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, was also a club pick. And was INFINITELY better. :P"


I'd disagree. I'd rate them the exact opposite.
In my opinion, Reamde was a 4 star exciting action packed read and Bridge of Birds only 2 stars.


message 12: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 3827 comments Well you're wrong. ;)

Just kidding. Different strokes for different folks. Reamde was what sealed Neal Stephenson as more or less dead to me. Anathem was what started it (at least the 2nd book on).

Back on topic...I feel like a lot of distopian SF is set in Japan. But I think you lose the feel for being in Asia in those books. I'll have to bookmark that Len Liu translation. Given his translation interests (Chinese things that are hard to westernize), I'd bet that you could use him as a starting point--look for what he's translated. I believe his interview on the podcast had more suggestions, too, plus I think his forthcoming novel will have eastern things.


message 13: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 3827 comments Also things by Hideki Marukami (author of another pick, 1Q84, which I also loved)


message 14: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2363 comments Surprisingly, Americans aren't the only ones who write books set in Asia.

Edge by Koji Suzuki
Ring by Koji Suzuki
The Crimson Labyrinth by Yusuke Kishi
Rocket Girls by Housuke Nojiri
Harmony by Project Itoh
The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa
Mardock Scramble by Tow Ubukata
Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara
Usurper of the Sun by Housuke Nojiri
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nobaru Tanigawa
A Certain Magical Index by Kazuma Kamachi
Domesday by Kei Urahama
Queen of K'N-Yan Ken Asamatsu
Another by Yukito Ayatsuji


message 15: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 3827 comments Haha, Sean. I was hoping you'd chime in, I knew you knew a lot of Eastern authors.

Also, please forgive typos in this and above posts. I should not be posting from phone. :D

Sean, if you had to pick a top 3 Eastern-setting books for a Western person to try, what would you recommend? Like, out of your list above, what re the top 3 you suggest?


message 16: by Louie (new)

Louie (rmutt1914) | 748 comments The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke takes place mostly on the island country of Sri Lanka.


message 17: by Dara (new)

Dara (cmdrdara) | 2674 comments Wow, thanks for all the responses, guys! I'll gonna look into all of them. :-)

Sean, that's a hell of a list! I second TK's motion to pick your top 3 for a western reader.


message 18: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (last edited Oct 27, 2014 11:10PM) (new)

Tassie Dave | 2794 comments Mod
I would also add a couple we read as book club picks.

Neuromancer and 1Q84 (1Q84 was an alternate pick.)

Though Neuromancer could have been set in any future setting and not changed the story, it doesn't feel particularly Asian.

It is surprising how many of our book picks have at least a partial asian setting. I count at least 7. (Neuromancer, The Windup Girl, World War Z, 1Q84, Cloud Atlas, Bridge of Birds & Alif the Unseen)


message 19: by Daran (new)

Daran | 599 comments Kenneth wrote: "I really love the Tales of the Otori books by Lian Hearn. It's a fantasy series set during the rule of Shogunates in Japan. By narrative chronological order, Heaven's Net is Wide is t..."

The friend who gave me the books said I should start with the prequel, but I think going in chronological order is better with the Otori books.


message 20: by Trike (new)

Trike | 5885 comments MM9 takes place in Japan and is an interesting take on kaiju. It's by a Japanese author.

I've never read it, but I recall China Mountain Zhang made a big splash when it debuted.


message 21: by Michele (new)


message 22: by Robobobo (new)

Robobobo | 31 comments "River of Gods" by Ian McDonald takes place in India. It's been a while since I've read it, but I remember enjoying it.


message 23: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) The Man with the Compound Eyes read good reviews of this but not got round to reading it yet - its SF

For Fantasy Richard Parks often sets his stories in old Japan - the stories featuring Yamada was released last year and was a lot of fun. If you prefer novels his first novel with this character is released in a couple of weeks Yamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate.

Liz Williams' SF often has asian elements to it.

Although she is now a bit controversial post Requireshate revelations Scale-Bright looks interesting.

Strangers is worth a read (its more ghosts but its almost haloween)

Then there is Battle Royale for a more interesting if less accessible and version of a Hunger Games type set up.


message 24: by Eleanor (last edited Oct 28, 2014 05:17AM) (new)

Eleanor | 190 comments I came across this video about East Asian speculative fiction. Gets to the books at about 3 minutes in. There might be some books mentioned which people might find interesting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q51Xc...


message 25: by Dharmakirti (last edited Oct 28, 2014 06:45AM) (new)

Dharmakirti | 942 comments A couple books come to mind:

The 16th century classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. It is about a monk and other pilgrims who journey from China to India in order to obtain Buddhist scriputres and all the adventures they have on the way.

Also, Catherynne Valente's excellent and quite unique take on the Prester John myth, Habitation of the Blessed. The story takes place in Pentexore which is a fictional country in the Himalayas. Below is the Publisher's Weekly review.

In 1165, a letter ostensibly written by the distant Christian king Prester John describing a kingdom of wonders rocked medieval Europe. In this enchanting retelling of the legend, the first volume in a projected trilogy, Hugo nominee Valente (Palimpsest) imagines what might have been discovered by Rome's ambassadors if the letter had not been a hoax. Nothing is quite as fabulous as the pious priests had hoped. Prester John and St. Thomas the Twin married nonhuman women; the Fountain of Youth does not sparkle, but instead "oozes thick and oily, globbed with algae and the eggs of improbable mayflies." Three very different personalities narrate: the brooding Prester John himself; his carefree and openhearted wife, the blemmye Hagia; and maternal Imtithal of the elephant-eared panotii. Filled with lyrical prose and fabled creatures, this languorous fairy tale is as captivating as Prester John's original letter.



message 26: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2363 comments terpkristin wrote: "Sean, if you had to pick a top 3 Eastern-setting books for a Western person to try, what would you recommend? Like, out of your list above, what re the top 3 you suggest?"

Project Itoh's Harmony is easily the best science fiction novel to come out in the last decade, and probably the best dystopian novel since 1984.

Another would be a great introduction to Japanese "mystery" novels, which are very different from their Western counterparts in that it's perfectly acceptable to throw in supernatural elements, and for the narrator to cheat by leaving stuff out.

And The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a wonderful YA sword and laser book -- you get time travelers, alien robots, psychics, talking cats, all told by a snarky narrator who doesn't want to be there.


message 27: by Stephanie (last edited Oct 28, 2014 01:06PM) (new)

Stephanie Griffin | 49 comments Lindsay wrote: "A few more:

Jay Kristoff has the Lotus War series which is a seconday world fantasy based on feudal Japan. The first book is Stormdancer.


I recommend the Lotus War series too!


message 28: by Aaron (last edited Oct 28, 2014 01:24PM) (new)

Aaron Nagy | 379 comments Warning about Haruhi, I feel the series falls off in the later books. It does neat things but sometimes I just want the series to get a damn move on.

Harmony is great, really great.

Another I would agree is a good introduction to Japanese "mystery" novels, even though Higurashi is far far better...the 80 hour length and being a Visual Novel with ummm not the best art makes it a bit harder to get people to read.



黒雪姫の帰還 / Return of Princess Snow Black
Is a really good YA/MG series it's really more about the upcoming singularity and how growing up always being uplinked to the internet will affect the next generation...but in many ways we are all still the same.


騎士基本理論 Legend of the Sun Knight is a fantastic western style fantasy written by an eastern author. It's a great blend of comedy and legimately good plot. Fan translation only on princerevolution but it's a better translation then most professional translations of works which is saying a lot about how much work the group puts in. Not really eastern setting but more eastern mannerism and thought patterns in a western fantasy setting, this must be what it looks like when someone from the east reads an eastern fantasy book written by a westerner.


message 29: by Dharmakirti (new)

Dharmakirti | 942 comments terpkristin wrote: "Also things by Hideki Marukami (author of another pick, 1Q84, which I also loved)"

I've always seen the name as Haruki Murakami. Does he also go by Hideki?

Regardless, great author. Other than the excellent 1Q84 (for what it's worth, 1Q84 does have a plot element that involves a cult leader who molests young girls), I would recommend his novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.


message 30: by Dara (new)

Dara (cmdrdara) | 2674 comments I actually have 1Q84! It's been on my shelf for a while and I forgot that I had it...


message 31: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 3827 comments Dharmakirti wrote: "terpkristin wrote: "Also things by Hideki Marukami (author of another pick, 1Q84, which I also loved)"

I've always seen the name as Haruki Murakami. Does he also go by Hideki?

Re..."


No. I was on my phone typing. And didn't use the lookup. And was listening to a video game podcast talking about Hideki Kamiya. And typed wrong. :D


message 32: by Ed (new)

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments The Dervish House by Ian McDonald is set in Istanbul, which straddles the border between Asia and Europe. The setting really comes alive in that book. Highly recommended.


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

There's a series called The Asian Saga. It's a series of historical epics set in various eras and areas of Asia.


message 34: by James (new)

James  Love (jim_love) | 3 comments Dara wrote: "I recently finished reading Nexus and Crux by Ramez Naam. I loved the story but it was really the setting that elevated the plot for me. Most of the ..."


The Nicholas Linnear series (The Ninja, The Miko, White Ninja, The Kaisho, Floating City & Second Skin), The China Maroc series (Jian & Shan) by Eric Van Lustbader. The Sunset Warrior cycle also by Lustbader.


message 35: by Ally (last edited Oct 29, 2014 02:09PM) (new)

Ally (leopardqueen) Ok so I don't have any sci-fi suggestions, and maybe I don't even have any good suggestions, but a couple books came to mind when thinking about books that I enjoyed reading due to the setting and reading about the culture. One, which is a YA, something I don't lean towards reading anymore, I found pretty good and the descriptions of the culture and customs stick out in my mind.. it's Eon: Dragoneye Reborn and sequel (liked the first one better). The second one isn't a fantasy or sci-fi, but I love it all the same, is Memoirs of a Geisha. I'm a total sucker for this book and movie both, and think I read it 3 times.


message 36: by David (new)

David (dbigwood) Kai Lung's Golden Hours and the other books in the series are set in China. Fantasy.

Khaled is a fantasy set in Arabia.


message 37: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2363 comments Ally wrote: "The second one isn't a fantasy or sci-fi, but I love it all the same, is Memoirs of a Geisha."

Don't put too much stock into the book. One of the women he allegedly based the story upon sued him over the gross inaccuracies. You're better off picking up her own autobiography. If you want fiction on the subject, go with Moyoco Anno's Sakuran.


message 38: by Ally (new)

Ally (leopardqueen) Sean wrote: "Ally wrote: "The second one isn't a fantasy or sci-fi, but I love it all the same, is Memoirs of a Geisha."

Don't put too much stock into the book. One of the women he allegedly based the story up..."


Well if indeed it was inaccurate, I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless, and would have enjoyed it even if I had read it as a fiction.


message 39: by Warren (new)

Warren | 1556 comments The Fat Years: A Novel by Koonchung Chan
Awards winning and banned in china.
Its sort of an extreme case of daylight saving time.


message 40: by Nathan (new)

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments There seems to be more Japanese works than Chinese works translated into English. The fantasy genre equivalent in Chinese lit is Wuxia (think martial arts and magic of a sort), but the genre is often difficult to translate into English and is often a little bit clunky in translation.

The grandmaster of the genre, Jin Yung, who, perhaps, is equivalent to Tolken, has only 3 works that I know of in English, Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain, which is one of his weaker works IMHO (Demigods and Half Demons is my personal favorite), The Book and The Sword, and The Deer and the Cauldron.


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