The Hell Screens

The Hell Screens

3.5 (24 ratings by Goodreads)
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Cheng-Ming, a Taiwanese American, rummages through the used-book stalls and market bins of Taipei. His object is no ordinary one; he's searching obsessively for accounts of ghosts and spirits, suicides and murders in a city plagued by a rapist-killer and less tangible forces. Cheng-Ming is an outsider trying to unmask both the fugitive criminal and the otherworld of spiritual forces that are inexorably taking control of the city. Things get complicated when the fetid island atmosphere begins to melt his contact lenses and his worsening sight paradoxically opens up the teeming world of ghosts and chimeras that surround him. Vengeful and anonymous spirits commandeer Cheng-Ming's sight, so that he cannot distinguish past from present, himself from another. Images from modern and colonial Taiwan - an island of restless spirits - assail Cheng-Ming even as they captivate the reader.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 194 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 11mm | 254g
  • English
  • 1788691741
  • 9781788691741

Review quote

"Written with precise elegance, and populated by ghosts, mediums, and criminals, Alvin Lu's The Hell Screens is surrealist noir set in a shadow version of Taipei that exposes the spirits and superstitions of Taiwan's complex past lurking beneath its modern cityscapes. Alvin Lu has a singular imagination accompanied by the gift of enviably gorgeous prose. "Haunting" is the right word for this work--encountering The Hell Screens again, I realize I have been carrying the voice and images of this astounding novel in my mind as ghostly dream fragments for the last two decades."
--Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Green Island

"A hypnotic venture into the uncertain reality of liminal existences. Sophisticated readers will relish Lu's ambitious debut."
--Publishers Weekly

"Will appeal to anyone who loves the cat-and-mouse games of Nabokov, the playful elegance of Borges or the rarefied dreamscapes of Calvino."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Magical realism doesn't capture the character of this poetic and intelligent novel: its blurring of current events and myth is more subtle, more realistically grounded." --Steve Tomasula, Review of Contemporary Fiction

"Anyone with experience in a Chinese community will be struck by how apt yet original Lu's observations are, of the ways in which Chinese culture interweaves spiritual and material beings."
--South China Morning Post

"Agreeably deranged ... likably stylish and amusing"
--Kirkus Reviews
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Rating details

24 ratings
3.5 out of 5 stars
5 17% (4)
4 33% (8)
3 38% (9)
2 8% (2)
1 4% (1)
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