Sunday, November 17, 2013
Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
The foreground of the story is a loosely interconnected web of five characters, all of who have come to Shanghai to either make or extend their fortunes. They are an interesting cast of five characters. They range from the shady five star millionaire of the book's title, Walter Chao, to the lowly Phoebe, a factory girl from a small village who uses counterfeit documents to obtain a job. In between these extremes are Justin, who is ostensibly in Shanghai to expand his family's already successful business but finding that to be a struggle and Yinghui, who is one of the rising business superstars of China, a young woman who is largely self made and looking to rise further. The most interesting character is Gary, a pop star who struggles with several demons, alcohol and a modd disorder to name a couple, and whose fame and fortune are dependent on both his image and his behavior.
The background of the story against which these increasingly interconnected lives play out is the new China. There is a subtle satire here, depicting the rising superpower with increasingly neo-Capitalist mores that have spread across the continent. China is drawing people seeking personal wealth and power from all over Asia and there are few rules and regulations, much less morals and ethics to guide them, and the results are all to evident in this wonderful and very vibrant book.