Chang-rae Lee's novel, On Such a Full Sea (Riverhead Books) takes place in a post-apocalyptic America strictly ruled by class. A young Asian immigrant girl becomes a legend by escaping her community which is based entirely on providing fresh fish for the wealthy class -- all the water outside the community's aquariums is toxic. The rumors, myths and romantic adventures surrounding this young heroine provide the basis for the novel. The book is written in a debased, bureaucratic language because in this world individuality, heroism, imagination and romance have been stamped out. We explore the possibility of a romantic adventure novel written in the repressive language of a dictatorship like China's. It would be entirely heartbreaking if it weren’t so funny, it would be very funny if it weren’t so heartbreaking.
Chang-rae Lee, novelist