One of The Washington Post's 5 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels of 2017
James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award
One of Barnes and Noble's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017
A Kirkus "Best of the Best!" of 2017 Honorable Mention
Lambda Literary Award Finalist
“The Handmaid's Tale of a new generation. This is a stark and fantastic view of an almost inevitable future.”
— Peter Clines, author of Paradox Bound and The Fold
"An intelligent, incisive commentary on how love survives—or doesn’t—under the heel of the State."
— Kirkus Reviews
"King writes distinctive and sympathetic characters, and her vision of a not-so-far future is unnerving and thought-provoking.”
— Everdeen Mason, The Washington Post
"An Excess Male is distinguished not only by interesting cultural extrapolation, but also by exceptional characterization. . . . King has challenged herself with particularly difficult writing gymnastics . . . it's a beautifully executed aerial."
— Rachel Swirsky, Locus
"In King’s thoughtful, heartbreaking debut . . . [she] expertly explores the myriad routes to family, hope, and love in a repressive country."
— Publishers Weekly
"Disturbing, funny, suspenseful and keenly observed, An Excess Male demonstrates the toll exerted on individuals when the government takes too deep an interest in love and marriage."
— Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle
“Maggie Shen King has a great gift not only for creating a complicated, futuristic world but also for creating characters who win our hearts and minds. An Excess Male is a wonderfully inventive and wonderfully funny novel.”
— Margot Livesey, author of Mercury and The Flight of Gemma Hardy
"A novel of exquisitely deep, nuanced characterization . . . . beginning as a contemplative study of family that gradually accelerates to the pace of a techno-thriller."
— James Tiptree Jr. Literary Award
"King’s scarily good debut does what SFF [science fiction and fantasy] does best, extrapolating from a real-world scenario."
— Corrina Lawson, Barnes and Noble Booksellers
"An extraordinary first novel—an incisive, dryly funny examination of masculinity in a near-future China, where a gender imbalance in the population has resulted in some startling social changes. An Excess Male is a nuanced, meticulously structured character study that builds to a thrilling conclusion."
— Dexter Palmer, author of Version Control
“A latter-day, exquisitely jig-sawed companion piece to Atwood’s classic, Maggie King’s An Excess Male derives its power from the qualities that drive all great speculative fiction: a clear eye for the world we live in, an equally clear vision for unintended consequences of the choices we make, and the artistry and the imagination to realize that vision with the authority of the best literary fiction. Funny, human, and frightening, An Excess Male is a winning debut.”
—Brooks Hansen, author of The Chess Garden and The Monsters of St. Helena
"What Maggie Shen King does so skillfully—with a light, deft, even comedic, touch—is to limn the human heart, with all its unruly urges and desires. . . . An Excess Male is a winner—a romance, captivating family drama, and sobering view of totalitarian power."
— Philip J. Adler, LitLovers Review
“King imagines a frightening reality, in which forced cultural norms run counter to basic human rights, leaving readers exceedingly uncomfortable with its feasibility.”
“Maggie Shen King not only constructs a dystopian world one step removed from current headlines, but plumbs the real center of political reality, the human heart. She explores the toll of totalitarian social engineering on a family that is complicated, offbeat, and utterly familiar. An Excess Male is both a vision of the future and a reflection of who we are today.”
— Thomas H. McNeely, author of Ghost Horse and former Stanford University Stegner Fellow
“I found An Excess Male eerie and riveting. This brilliantly crafted dystopia brings to mind Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but with its dire situation more probable and imminent. An Excess Male is a wonderful read, horrifying and humorous and bringing with it a warning.”
— Heather Stallings, author of Click City, a novel serialized by the San Francisco Chronicle and False Alarm
“In a remarkable debut, Maggie Shen King has brought to life an indelible dystopia that prefigures a looming future—one in which gender imbalance harnesses both men and women into roles that imprison them. Evocative and compelling, An Excess Male stands as a prescient, searing tale of the family in an imperative battle for sovereignty against totalitarian rule.”
— Lane von Herzen, author of Copper Crown and The Unfastened Heart
"I’m so impressed by the abundance and brilliance of King’s imagination. I was instantly caught up in the love stories at the heart of this book. King writes beautifully, with restrained passion, as her story broaches sensitive territory in its insistence on the basic civil rights of every individual."
— Kate Phillips, author of “Springtime in Tiananmen Square, 1989,” The Atlantic and White Rabbit
“Boldly original, An Excess Male envisions a dark future for a China that has avoided collapse through absolute control of society, technology, and the human heart. Narrated by four people forced into an unlikely love affair, the members of this “advanced family” struggle to navigate the bonds of the heart and stay alive in a country that punishes those who don’t fall in line. King’s electric prose, rich characters, and nightmare future that could easily be next year—or even tomorrow—produce a breathtaking novel by a fresh new voice.”
— M.P. Cooley, author of Ice Shear and Flame Out
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China’s One Child Policy and its cultural preference for male heirs have created a society overrun by 40 million unmarriageable men. Set in the near future, An Excess Male is one such man's quest for love and family under a State that seeks to glorify its past mistakes and impose order through authoritarian measures, reinvigorated Communist ideals, and social engineering.
Lee Wei-guo holds fast to the belief that as long as he continues to improve himself, his small business, and in turn, his country, his chance at love will come. At age 42, he finally saves up the dowry required to enter matchmaking talks at the lowest rung as a third husband—the maximum allowed by law. Only one family, one harboring an illegal spouse, shows interest, yet with May-ling and her two husbands, Wei-guo feels seen, heard, and connected to like never before. But the walls, not to mention the streetlights, trees, and garbage cans, all have ears and eyes, and men, excess or not, are dispensable to the State. Wei-guo must reach a new understanding of patriotism and test the limits of his love and his resolve in order to save himself and this family he has come to hold dear.
An Excess Male explores the marriage plot in a dystopian future and follows in the footsteps of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It is the story of one excess male, the less-than-perfect family he seeks to join, and the fight for their version of home, for the freedom to be their true selves, and for the country they have lost to a totalitarian regime that aims to control sex and define the boundaries of marriage in the name of the public good.
The premise of this story is based on actual statistics. Initially conceived to control overpopulation, China’s One Child Policy will by the year 2030 unintentionally create a society in which more than 25% of men in their late thirties will never have married.
The idea for this novel was first published as a short story in Asimov's Science Fiction.