Bald New World by Peter Tieryas Liu, Book Review: Impressive

Longlisted for the 2015 Folio Prize, Bald New World is a dark exploration of human vanity in a hairless world, and one of our Best Books of 2014.

Bald New World Synopsis

Bald New World Peter Tieryas Liu

What if you woke up one morning and everyone in the world lost their hair?

In Bald New World, that very event happens and overnight, religion, politics, and fashion undergo dramatic shifts. Nick Guan and his friend Larry Chao are a pair of eccentric filmmakers who choose to explore the existential angst of their balding world through cinema. Larry is heir to one of the most lucrative wig companies in the world. Nick is a man who’s trying to make sense of the tatters of his American Dream. Taking place throughout China and America, the pair set off on a series of misadventures involving North Korean spies, veterans of an African War, and digital cricket fighters. Their journey leads them to discover some of the darkest secrets behind wig-making and hair in a hairless world. 

(Perfect Edge)

Genre: Literature, Drama, Sci-Fi-Fantasy, Action-Adventure, Thriller

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I picked up Peter Tieryas Liu’s debut novel Bald New World with very high expectations. Having read his avante garde short story collection Watering Heaven, I knew he had important things to say and a powerful command of language to convey them, but wondered how this creative intensity would work in the longer form.

The answer was, I read Bald New World in a single day. I could not put it down.

Tieryas Liu’s writing style and his subject matter will not be for everyone – often dark and violent, in both the physical and psychological sense. It is confronting on many levels, but that in turn makes it such gripping reading.

The very obvious title reference to Aldous Huxley’s work is just the start of countless references to pop culture and literature. Bald New World is a treasure trove for the vigilant reader.

A United Nations agency was set up to regulate domestic security and while some jokingly referred to them as Big Brother (an arcane reference to an ancient writer who couldn’t understand how crucial surveillance was to the survival of the individual), most just knew them as the Vid Coppers.

The detail with which Tieryas Liu paints the picture of this dystopian future is impressive. The back stories and linkages with current day are multi-layered and plausible. Issues of today such as escalating gun crime in America, pollution in Asia and the spectre of North Korean dictatorship have matured.

At a deeper level, this novel considers many different forms of control – familial, corporate, political and religious – and the pervasiveness of advertising and propaganda.

Waiting here in the lobby, I was half-awake, half-asleep. More advertisements played and I tried to shut them off but was kindly told, “If you opt out of advertisements, there is an hourly fee for waiting in the lobby.”

… I slept in the lobby, drowning out the ads. They used subcortical rays to invade my dreams. I was alright with that even if I dreamt of surgeries I didn’t need just as long as I could sleep.

Bald New World is so many things – dystopian thriller, globe-trotting action-adventure, and dark social satire. It is farcical and clever in equal measure.

But for all its cleverness and literary flair, what really struck me was how deeply personal this story is. This is a ‘very adult’ coming of age story and it is clear the author presents much of himself on the pages of Bald New World.

If you enjoy being surprised and challenged in your reading like I do, then I wholeheartedly recommend the work of Peter Tieryas Liu. It just might invade your dreams…

UPDATE: We have since read Peter Tieryas’ next novel United States of Japan, one of our Top International Reads of 2016.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5

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UPDATE: We have since read Peter Tieryas’ next novel United States of Japan, one of our Top International Reads of 2016.

About the Author, Peter Tieryas Liu

Peter Tieryas Liu is the author of Watering Heaven (Signal 8 Press), Dr. 2, and Bald New World (Perfect Edge Books). He has almost 300 publications in magazines and journals including the Adirondack Review, anderbo, Bitter Oleander, Camera Obscura Journal, decomP, Evergreen Review, Gargoyle, Hobart, HTMLGiant Indiana Review, Kartika Review, New Letters, New Orleans Review, Prism Review, Toad Suck Review, Word Riot, and ZYZZYVA, and was the recipient of the 2012 Fiction Award from Mojo, the magazine run by Wichita State University. He has also worked as a technical writer for LucasArts, the gaming division of LucasFilm. You can find him blogging at his website… as well as traveling the world with his wife.

* My receiving a ebook copy of Bald New World from the author for review purposes in no way hindered the expression of my honest opinions in the above.