Book review: Ghost Cities

Book review

Ghost Cities

By Siang Lu

RRP $32.99

“You may look like a Chinese person, but you cannot speak or read Mandarin.

“You are monolingual!

“The worst thing in this special context.”

With these words a young man, Xiang, is sacked from his job as a translator at Sydney's Chinese Consulate after his employers discovered that he doesn't speak a word of Chinese and has been depending on Google Translate for his work!

Ghost Cities is a highly imaginative novel that cleverly draws on Chinese history to reflect on the absurdity of modern life and work.

Xiang's story is one of many multiple narratives.

After he's sacked from his job, he relocates to a ghost city.

Ghost cities are the vacant, uninhabited megacities of China and Xiang's relocation connects to a parallel odyssey in which an ancient emperor creates a thousand doubles of himself.

The book is a rollicking good read and the Sydney Morning Herald called it a “delicious satire … a blast,” while The West Australian said it's “smart, playful and often very funny.”

Author Siang Lu was named one of the Top 40 under 40 Asian-Australians at the Australian Leadership Awards in 2023.

He is also the author of The Whitewash and co-creator of The Beige Index.

He is based in Brisbane and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.