Maggie Shen King. Ball and Chain. (Asimovs February 2014)

asimovs201402A couple of issues ago I railed somewhat about Henry Lien’s ‘Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters’ from Asimovs Dec 2013 issue (review here), for its focus on teenage angst, and my lack of connection with that, due to the four decades since I was in that territory.

Here we have a story with the same setting (China) and some of the mannered culture of that society. But the story features adults, and it’s much more to my liking. King looks at the impact of the one-child policy and the consequences of men outnumbering women, with a society whereby it has become the norm for women to have multiple husbands. Pity then the male suitor, in this case Wei-guo, in his forties, and as fit as a fiddle, but only just getting his chance to present his wares to a putative bride, via her two existing husbands.

The first half entertainingly portrays the interplay between the pair being matchmaked, her two husbands, and Wei-guo’s two fathers. They are all well-drawn, and the dialogue flows smoothly.

The second half of the story features what was intended to be a clandestine meeting between the two potential lovers, which goes far from plan as far as Wei-guo is concerned, but King brings in a very human element into the story, counterbalancing the nuances and formal processes of the first half.

More from this issue of Asimov’s here, recent issues of Asimov’s here, and an issue by issue index of Asimov’s from 2000 here.

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