Book Reviews

Review: Waste Tide by Chen Quifan and translated by Ken Liu

When one of your favorite authors recommends a book to you, you read it. That’s the reason I started this 12 Authors 12 Books project. And R.F. Kuang recommended me Waste Tide in our author conversation. So you know I immediately bought it! Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


She’s a ‘waste girl’, a scavenger picking through towering heaps of hazardous electronic detritus. Along with thousands of other migrant workers, she was lured to Silicon Isle, off the southern coast of China, by the promise of steady work and a better life.

But Silicon Isle is where the rotten fruits of capitalism and consumer culture come to their toxic end. The land is hopelessly polluted, the workers utterly at the mercy of those in power. And now a storm is gathering, as ruthless local gangs skirmish for control, eco-terrorists conspire, investors hunger for profit, and a Chinese-American interpreter searches for his roots.

As these forces collide, conflict erupts – a war between rich and poor, a battle between past and future. Mimi must decide if she will remain a pawn… or change the rules of the game altogether.


TW: torture, gore

Waste Tide is one of those books where I felt like I needed more brain cells. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, but it’s one of those books that are so intelligent. There are all these plot threads weaving in and out of each other. And I can see them, but I feel like I lack the skill to truly appreciate them? It’s one of those books where I finished it and immediately thought, “I now need to read this again”. From the get go, there’s this climate fiction and futuristic feeling to it. It builds on this premise of our world which we knows and speeds up the clock.

What we’re left with is this setting of waste and also exploitation. Of a country and people who are processing the worlds electronic waste – something that will only increase – while also holding their desires for wealth and escape. A knowledge of holding the products, the waste, of technology and status, while it also kills them. Do you get what I mean? It’s so clever and well thought out and my brain kind of explodes a bit.

On one level, Waste Tide is a story about technology and traditions. About the contrast in this world of superstition and science. It’s also about the people we exploit that fuel our worlds being sacrifices for us. Their lives and overflowing homes becoming a tool for our livelihood. On another level, Waste Tide is about a tipping point. A girl becoming a symbol. A tide turning. These pieces of history and the past in the making, unfolding, colliding, and blooming.

There’s so much to process even days after finishing. And I honestly feel like I didn’t even scratch the surface. If you love SF worlds and stories that make you think and that revolve around agency and choice, then pick up Waste Tide. Find Waste Tide on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What’s the last book you wanted to re-read after finishing?

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