Wednesday, 18 July 2018

My Review of 'Cody Quan' by Louis Leung - sorry, it's a bit long!

I came across 'Cody Quan' by Louis Leung (available on Amazon Kindle) and was glad I read it. This post is rather long, but I think it needs to be, and it was originally posted in Goodreads.


This book gave me goosebumps in a good way. It is the mirror to 'Crazy Rich Asians', and I am glad that self-publishing exists because it has given underrated, underrepresented authors like Leung a much-deserved platform. Given its subject matter (the characters in this story are not filthy rich and are mostly Chinese American, there are a lot of extremely ugly, horrific discussions about religion and racism, and there is no constant oppression of Chinese/Asian women happening), this book would never have been published traditionally. Self-publication is its main strength, because it has allowed what I would say is a unique, unheard, Chinese-influenced, American storytelling voice to shine, even if this voice does not use the fanciest words or sentences to tell Cody's story.

'Cody Quan' and 'Crazy Rich Asians' are the only books in the English language which address the questions of being Asian and Chinese with a positive exuberance I can identify with. Like 'Crazy Rich Asians', and most unlike a typical English-language novel, Leung's 'Cody Quan' stars a huge, HUGE cast of distinctive, memorable, male and female characters who are three-dimensional (maybe at least 2.5-dimensional in some instances) and living incredibly fast-paced 21st century lives, in the 21st century, who are satirised in a genuinely funny way; it is so refreshing to read American books like 'Cody Quan' and 'Crazy Rich Asians' for this reason. Having said that, Leung's humour is surprisingly British; I laughed out loud at many of his introductions to his characters, and appreciated why the humour happened when some of these characters changed for the worse.

What makes this an American story, and a story which can only happen in the US, are Leung's Chinese characters having to live with this bizarre, stifling, authoritarian form of Confucianism that is unique to fictional Asian/Chinese Americans, as well as the race- and gun-based cultures surrounding Cody. All this left the third act, 'Karma', feeling very different from Act I and Act II: Mosaic Design Studios, and the ending was not believable for someone Chinese like me who was raised in the UK.

I do not think that 'Cody Quan' is solely for an Asian/Chinese market. Leung's hilarious, energetic descriptions of being in your 20s/30s and taking career-based risks of all sorts will resonate with a wider audience, and Leung's wry observations of the society Cody lives in will stick with me for a long time; I believe that Leung should continue with writing novels AND short stories which will allow his pithy observational skills to shine through. The relatively muted ending to Cody's story arc does leave the door open for sequels and spin-offs, and I am especially keen to see how Cody, Mr Quan, Kiki, Daphne, Maple and Mindy will fare in these. Keep up the good work, Louis; I hope to see a project manned by you and Kevin Kwan in the future.

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