Maggie Shen King’s debut novel An Excess Male is a thrilling ride through a dystopia future where there is many more than one excess male. Some time in the not so distant future, China has so many men, that families include multiple husbands–husbands who must compete in an ultra-competitive, dowry-driven market to ever get married at all.
The novel follows four main characters, shifting perspectives with each chapter. The first is Wei-guo, a bachelor who has finally saved up enough to wed, but only as a third husband. The other three are the family of Hann, his brother XX, and their wife May-Ling. All four are caught up in the regulations governing society: the Willfully Sterile (registered homosexuals who are forbidden from marriage and other relationships), the Lost Boys (men with developmental disabilities who are also forbidden from marriage), detailed marriage contracts, a system where families pay doctors under the table to have girls so they can make money–a particular breed of social engineering that feels within the realm of possibility. The novel slowly unfolds the facets of this uneasy society as tensions mount and each of the four must make life-changing decisions about their futures, either together or apart. An Excess Male provokes questions of morality and rights, liberty and love, family and loyalty, but in a fast-paced drama. It’s quick, enjoyable read that dives into a smartly-conceived and imaginative future where all is not as it seems.