UFO in Her Eyes
First published in: 2009
This edition: Chatto & Windus, Random House, 2009
Cover illustrations by Graham Carter. Cover design by Michael Salu. Cover photograph by Alamy Images.
It's 2012. Kwok Yun is biking alongside the rice field Silver Hill Village (China), when she spots a UFO and has to help a very wounded, very blond foreigner (where did he come from?) only moments after she herself has blacked out. Kwok Yun, a plain peasant girl, becomes somewhat of a celebrity all of the sudden. Soon, the National Security and Intelligence Agency catches wind of the event, and heads out to Silver Hill, bombarding the entire town with questions about what has happened. Soon, Silver Hill as it used to be vanishes behind men in suits and UFO hotels… and for the villagers, everything they have ever known and cared for vanishes before their eyes.
UFO in Her Eyes is funny and original (written in 'interview-document' form), and interactive to boot. It starts off quirky enough, but it turns out to be a bit more moody quickly, and even slightly scary later on. Xiaolu Guo paints an eerily recognizable picture with her new novel, which focuses on (enforced) change and its side-effects. Through her characters, Guo speaks of powerlessness against losing everything you worked your entire life for. Government control is a theme here too, I think, as they decide the course of events, how one lives, what one owns.
UFO in Her Eyes is the second book by the young Chinese writer and film-maker that I have read. The other is A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers. Both books are so extremely different from one and other; this shows Xiaolu Guo's versatility as a writer. (I am definitely going to be reading 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth; I wonder what else she has up her sleeve.) Both books, though, are centered around some facet of Chinese culture and/or society.
In the case of UFO in her Eyes, there's small town China, up against the big hats in Beijing. With the sighting of a UFO, it seems aliens have really invaded Silver Hill: they're the suits, the bureaucrats – taking over the world as the villagers knew it. As far as the villagers are concerned, the UFO has landed, anyway.
In ways, this book reminds me of Douglas Coupland's work – for example Girlfriend in a Coma, a prophetic novel in a way as it speaks of the consequences of mankind's self-destructive tendencies. Consequences that are likely to occur if we keep this shit up.
UFO in Her Eyes has a similar message: when there's just the slightest taste of having more, we want it, and then we want more, and more… and who cares what happens to other people, or animals, or heck – and this is where it truly gets recognizable in this day and age – the economy? The greed of some brings ruin for all.
I was expecting a light read, I actually got a lot of food for thought wrapped in a sassy novel – which is pretty much excellent. The world today is Silver Hill Village, in my eyes. Our UFO has been sighted.
Let's get a few copies of this book to every banker who wanted more, and more, and decided his bonus was more important than other people, or animals, or heck. The economy.
(…if only then the book would actually get through to them…)
R&R series © Karin E. Lips 2008, 2009 and beyond