Reading Group Discussion Guide


1.     The One Child Policy was adopted in 1979 to help China reduce its population to an “ideal” 700 million in order to limit the demand for water and other resources and alleviate social, economic and environmental problems. What other forms of social engineering were carried out in this book for the public good? Who is valued under a government that espouses China First?

2.     By the year 2030, China’s One Child Policy and its cultural preference for male heirs will have created a society overrun by 30 million unmarriageable men. More than 25% of men in their late thirties will never have married. Is it more immoral to violate the traditional notion of marriage or to deny tens of millions of men the comforts of family and home? What might be another solution to this problem?

3.     In a society where marriageable men outnumbered women in the millions, it seems logical that the scarcity of women would elevate their social status and role in society. What went wrong for women in this book? Were Compatibility Tests advantageous for them? Can you think of an example where women heavily outnumbered men? How did that affect the balance of power?

4.     During the 18th and 19th century, polyandry (marriage where wife has more than one husband) was practiced in rural China to help impoverished families pool resources and avoid breakup of property. The elites of the Qing Dynasty considered the practice immoral, yet emperors kept concubines and wealthy men had multiple wives and mistresses. Why do you think polyandry garnered such opposition?

5.     Hann was forced to live contrary to his most fundamental nature. How do you feel about him lying to May-ling and creating a sexual outlet in his badminton team?

6.     By requiring him to marry and become a parent, XX’s family also forced him to live against his nature and his wishes. Was Hann right to interfere with so many details of XX’s day-to-day life? Was it for XX’s own good when Hann tried to encourage him to conform to social norms? To what extent should families of productive and independent adults like XX intrude upon their lives?

7.     How do you think polyandry affects BeiBei and other children in such a family unit?

8.     Privacy was of the utmost importance to XX. He insisted that his new spouse maintain a discreet digital footprint, yet he felt no compunction in planting a bug on Wei-guo, training cameras on his family in their apartment, or developing mind-reading algorithms that could be used on the public at large. Is he amoral, mercenary, or a modern-day hero?

9.     What devices did the author use to build this fictional world? Did you find the world believable?

10.     An Excess Male was narrated from four alternating points of view. Whose story was it? How would the story change if it was told only from Wei-guo’s or May-ling’s point of view?