A novel follows the fortunes of young people in Shanghai and New York City who seek status, wealth, and sex against the backdrop of dynastic reincarnation.
In Butterflies: The Strange Metamorphosis of Fact & Fiction In Today’s World (2015), Harrison wrote about an exclusive Shanghai sorority and the young men in its circle, while other chapters described a Creator and something called the Logos Simulation. In this outing, set around the turn of the millennium, the author mixes up a similar brew. A foreword explains that a new leader will arise. Jews call him the Messiah; the Mongols (i.e., the Chinese) call him a Mandate. By the volume’s end, the latest Mandate “had firmly ensconced himself in the place of the world’s next powerful elite,” who would reign over the globe’s most powerful country, constituting “a reincarnation of dynastic proportions.” The work explores this ensconcing in a narrative with several main themes: a man’s guilt over a car accident that kills his daughter and her friend; the sorority; young men whose lives encompass high finance, nightclubs, and business deals; sex, romance, and political intrigue, including blackmail and bribery; and overlapping versions of the same characters and events. Some readers may enjoy the meta-ness, as well as Harrison’s brash confidence in the privileged, fast-moving world he describes. But the author’s presentation of girls as young as 14 and their sexuality make for uncomfortable reading. Just plain odd is the tale’s breathless fascination with young, beautiful, rich Asian/Eurasian girls (Harrison constantly mentions their race) and their sorority. The sorority, which mainly seems to exist as an excuse for masturbation scenes, is said to embody China’s deep respect for cultivating female leadership. The book’s self-importance also becomes a turnoff, for example with its appendix, “Understanding The Millennial Reincarnations.” Here a supposed “Professor of Millennial Literature” (obviously, the author himself) compares the book favorably with Joyce’s Ulysses and provides a short essay explaining the novel’s themes and symbolism, the better to grasp its “true brilliance.”
While ambitious and high-flying, this millennial tale remains bedazzled by the elite.