I'm giving up on The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung. I'm more than halfway through the book, but after a week of trying to read this relatively not-long novel, I'm done. The story isn't going anywhere, the writing is stiff and awkward, and none of the characters exactly evoke sympathy on my part.
Normally after passing the halfway mark, it might make more sense to plod on through. The problem with The Fat Years is that I can see exactly where it's going to go. Not only does the summary completely and utterly break the 10% rule of back-cover spoilers (if I'm 60% in and still haven't reached what the synopsis describes, something's wrong), the writing is clearly not going to suddenly improve and I highly doubt that the clumsy character development is going to magically turn around.
The synopsis promises that the ultimate message of the novel will "astound the world". I won't doubt that. The Fat Years isn't really a novel - it's a message badly wrapped with fictional characters. The writing is often blog-style-exposition which could theoretically work in another story, but here it fails. There's also the bluntness of a Chinese-to-English translation - I have yet to encounter a book translated from Chinese* that doesn't have an awkward taste in the other language (my case studies being English and Hebrew). This leads me to believe that the Chinese writing style is inherently different from the English, and in this regard I cannot fault any translator. I can, however, point fingers at the author for having melodramatic sentences and writing unbelievable dialogue. I can fault the author for flat characters and dull storytelling.
So yes. I'm giving up on The Fat Years. It's a bad book. And I'll have no problem adding it to my list of books I've read. I've read enough to understand that this book is a mess on a multitude of levels. I will happily let this library eBook expire a few days early.
* I wish I could specify what dialect it is originally, yet every Chinese translation I've read until now has only divulged the "Translated from the Chinese" aspect, not the specific dialect... I seriously don't get the reasoning behind this.