On Such a Full Sea

  • by Chang-rae Lee
  • Narrated by B. D. Wong
  • 11 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the beloved award-winning author of Native Speaker and The Surrendered, a highly provocative, deeply affecting story of one woman's legendary quest in a shocking, future America.
On Such a Full Sea takes Chang-rae Lee's elegance of prose, his masterly storytelling, and his long-standing interests in identity, culture, work, and love, and lifts them to a new plane. Stepping from the realistic and historical territories of his previous work, Lee brings us into a world created from scratch. Against a vividly imagined future America, Lee tells a stunning, surprising, and riveting story that will change the way listeners think about the world they live in.
In a future, long-declining America, society is strictly stratified by class. Long-abandoned urban neighborhoods have been repurposed as highwalled, self-contained labor colonies. And the members of the labor class - descendants of those brought over en masse many years earlier from environmentally ruined provincial China - find purpose and identity in their work to provide pristine produce and fish to the small, elite, satellite charter villages that ring the labor settlement.
In this world lives Fan, a female fish-tank diver, who leaves her home in the B-Mor settlement (once known as Baltimore), when the man she loves mysteriously disappears. Fan's journey to find him takes her out of the safety of B-Mor, through the anarchic Open Counties, where crime is rampant with scant governmental oversight, and to a faraway charter village, in a quest that will soon become legend to those she left behind.


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Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Chang-rae Lee's "On Such a Full Sea" (Sea) received very strong reviews from the New York Times and The Guardian. I was less than impressed. Sea has an imaginative premise, but lacks a solid story to maintain the reader's engagement. Throughout Sea the reader never feels a sense of conclusion as so many questions and issues are unresolved. At points Sea seems like a series of unconnected short stories with only a single familiar character. References to dystopia science fiction theme are overblown (one reviewer comparing Sea to Brave New World). Chang-rae Lee leaves you in dark relative to the development or history of the dystopia society.

I will pay Chang-rae Lee his due respect as a writing of prose. He is the master of describing what others are feeling, observing, or experiencing. Ultimately, despite the technical perfection of the writing the reader just doesn't care about the characters.

I have read 56 books in the last two years, where Sea ranks in 44th position (21%).

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- DaWoolf "I'm just a dumb troglodyte who like reading. Me feel good after I read book."

Inventive, Engaging, & Surprising

Lee has created a new world where charter villages, facilities, and counties people try to cope with a post apocalyptic world that has forced them to adapt and to find meaning. Each of these different groups must also struggle to survive (easily if you are a charter person, with a lot of hard work if you live in a facility, and with great difficulty if you live in the counties).

Lee's story follows the life of Fan, a young woman who lives in a facility, BMore (formerly Baltimore). Due to events that are never totally clear, she leaves home and travels through the counties and eventually a charter village. Very engaging and repeatedly surprising - right up to the end- Fan - and the reader - are confronted by the struggle to survive, life and death decisions of who to trust, and the existential need to define a sense of purpose and meaning in life.

I highly recommend this very original work. I was never bored and I always looked forward to listening. Although it is never clear who the narrator is and there is very little first person dialog, I hope Lee will follow up with more work that explores what it means to be fully human while facing an uncertain future.
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- Dr.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-07-2014
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio