Friday, September 19, 2014

Bald New World

In the prologue of Bald New World by Peter Tieryas Liu, the thirty-six-year-old protagonist, Nicholas Guan, recalls that he woke up one day when he was eleven and found that his hair had inexplicably fallen out.  His parents are away, but he finds his older sister, Kelly, sobbing on the floor of the bathroom; she has also lost her hair, and he can't help but stare at her scalp, "an oddly-shaped oval with protrusions jutting out".  When Kelly runs out of the apartment, Nick follows and tries to find her.  He doesn't see his sister, but he discovers a startling new reality: everyone has lost their hair.

"Instead, a sea of bald people confronted me--everyone on the street had lost their hair. There was a frenzied madness in their eyes, confusion causing many of them to walk in a daze. "
~ Bald New World, Peter Tieryas Liu

No, this is not a bad dream.  This is beginning of Peter Tieras Liu's new, short dystopian novel, Bald New World, published in 2014.  Having read his collection of short stories, Watering Heaven (2012), I was eager to read his new book, even though it took me a long time to act on that eagerness.

"Hair is the most precious luxury in the world."
~ Bald New World, Peter Tieryas Liu

Like Brave New World (1932) by Aldous HuxleyBald New World is also dystopian science fiction.  It's set in the future, after the Great Baldification.

"I don't want to blame everything bad that happened on the Great Baldification as it came to be known.  But it was the beginning of a lot of social change in the world."
~ Bald New World, Peter Tieryas Liu 

The changes include much higher divorce and unemployment rates, as well as constant warfare.  The main character, Nicholas, has survived an abusive, impoverished childhood, and is recovering from a divorce from Linda, the love of his life.  Nick is in the army, and works in the media department because of his passion for photography.  He also works as a cinematographer for his army friend, filmmaker Larry Chao (who's featured in some of the stories in the author's earlier work, Watering Heaven), who has inherited a wig factory from his father and is now super rich.

Nick considers Larry to be his best friend, his "family".  They live in a hairless world which is seething with danger, and life is sometimes a brutal battle for survival.  Nick struggles to know what's really going on; as a reader, I experienced some of that confusion and ambiguity as well.  As things went from bad to worse in the story, I wanted Nick to discover that he was just having a bad dream.

Bald New World is not for the faint of heart.  It's fast-paced, dizzying, unsettling, and violent at times.  It's  also humorous and clever.  Some of the characters are named after famous authors, such as Kafka, Beauvoir, Voltaire, and Austen.  Although dystopian fiction is not my usual reading choice, I found this book to be entertaining and exciting.  I was captivated by the ideas and events in this "bald new world", and I rooted for Nick's survival (I also liked good-natured Larry).

Warning:  Reading this book may entice you to grab your favorite bottles of shampoo and conditioner, head for the shower, and give thanks for the hair on your head.

Special thanks to Peter for sending me a copy of his new book to review.


  1. It sounds really scary, for one because my hair is my favorite thing about my looks, and for another it's so easy to take for granted that which we have and love.

  2. This sounds really good. Great review.

  3. I tend to like challenging reads if they are not too disturbing. I also like serious dystopian fiction. This one sounds intriguing.

  4. This isn't a book I'd have picked up on my own, but since you liked it and it's a short book, I'd be more inclined to give it a chance!

  5. Bald New World sounds like a unique read! I surely am grateful for the hair on my head!
    Great review.

  6. I have read this and Peter's collection of short stories.,,I have done a and a with him on my blog. He is very talented writer I see a big future for him.

  7. A bald world sounds like a creative and interesting premiss. I can imagine that it would be unsettling. I'm glad you enjoyed this book Suko. Thanks for your great review.

  8. I rarely read dystopia. Glad you enjoyed this one with the unusual plot!


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