Review: Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge


I’m not sure how long have I had this on my TBR. But I have long enjoyed books that are off the beaten track, and this fit my type to a T. Strange, certainly, and melancholic, and unsettling and beautiful, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fresh and surreal read.

Although each chapter opens and closes the same way and each follows a different beast, they are all connected by the story of the unnamed writer researching them and writing their stories. And, perhaps, discovering a few secrets about herself and her family in the process. It’s a wonderfully layered structure for a story and I adored it.

Death began sprouting in every baby’s body, and took a human lifetime to reach maturity. By the time it flowered, all its energy was spent.

The beasts themselves are eerie in the way of “almost human-looking but not really human” and a lot of them turn out to be quite dangerous. I’m not entirely sure I’d categorise the book as horror, but at some points it at least approached it. There’s certainly more than one body horror scene. Still, it was interesting, and I eagerly awaited the twist of each chapter.

As with most literary SFF, it’s heavy on vibes, relatively light on plot. One thing I wasn’t a huge fan of how poorly everyone treated the narrator, especially in the first few chapters, but in the end, it was not a dealbreaker.

Highly recommended to fellow enjoyers of weird stories.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 5/5

Recommended to: anyone looking for something surreal and unsettling
Not recommended to: those who don’t like books that are light on plot

Content warnings: body horror, suicide

2 thoughts on “Review: Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge”

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