Friday, August 7, 2015

Folding Beijing, by Hao Jingfang (author), KenLiu (translator)

Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2015

http://uncannymagazine.com/article/folding-beijing-2/

The science fictional concept at the core of this story is very interesting. China is coping with the high population of Beijing, both in space demands and the need to keep people employed while technological progress makes workers less necessary, by "folding" the city. Literally. The same geographical territory is divided into three "spaces," with two of them folded up, collapsed, underground, with its residents cocooned and unaware at any given time. Five million, the richest, highest ranking, and/or most skilled, live in First Space.Twenty-five million, the middle class more or less, live in Second Space. Fifty million, the workers at the grubbiest, most physically demanding and distasteful jobs, live in Third Space.

Lao Dao is a sanitation worker, living in Third Space. He wants his little girl to go to a good kindergarten, and have a chance at a more prosperous life, but that takes money he doesn't have, and can't really save on his sanitation worker salary. So he takes an under-the-table job taking a message from a man in Second Space to a woman in First Space whom he is courting.

This is a fascinating exploration of some of the effects and ramifications of this organization of society. Lao Dao is likable, engaging, well-intentioned, and flawed. Those he encounters are likewise human, understandable, and imperfect.

I'll be interested to see more from Hao, if and when more is available.

Recommended.