The Sentinel - - BOOKSHELF -

CHINA DREAM by Ma Jian, Vin­tage, £12.99 (ebook £7.99)

MA Jian, a writer banned in his na­tive coun­try, who has been hailed as ‘China’s Solzhen­it­syn’, launches an­other blis­ter­ing at­tack on the cur­rent ide­ol­ogy and po­lit­i­cal prac­tice of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic.

Ma Diode, a man of back­han­ders and end­less mis­tresses, is di­rec­tor of the China Dream Bureau, a real body tasked with rolling out pro­pa­ganda for the China Dream ini­tia­tive of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping.

In the fic­tional ver­sion of the Bureau, Ma Diode plans to de­velop a mi­crochip to be in­serted into all Chi­nese brains to ex­punge the night­mares of re­cent Chi­nese his­tory, al­low­ing ci­ti­zens to fo­cus only on the Dream of the fu­ture. But his mind can­not hold back the hor­rors of his own past, and grad­u­ally the flash­backs, grip­ping and un­flinch­ingly told, take hold. It’s a won­der­fully well-paced nar­ra­tive, ab­sorb­ing, darkly satir­i­cal and even funny at times.

PAST TENSE by Lee Child, Ban­tam Press, £20 (ebook £9.99)

JACK Reacher is the world’s dead­li­est Boy Scout: Prac­ti­cal, moral, knows the lie of the land and how to make do. Usu­ally with his mas­sive fists, al­though el­bows may be used, too.

Past Tense is back-to-ba­sics Reacher, fu­elled by those fists. He sets out on an epic road trip but gets no fur­ther than the small New Eng­land town where his fa­ther was born.

A twin plot sees a young Cana­dian cou­ple break down near the spook­i­est mo­tel since Psycho. Their ‘hosts’ turn jail­ers: But why are they hold­ing them and who are the mys­te­ri­ous guests with the strange cases? Soon the cou­ple are in deep trou­ble.

Lee writes a bru­tal sort of po­etry, aided by swigs from the adren­a­line bot­tle. But don’t ask his hero to ex­plain. Reacher says noth­ing, as usual. A rat­tling good read.

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