Ng and Blumberg-Kason defy the fates by presenting a collection of 14 stories—by Chinese tradition, an ominous number—illustrating their city’s dark side.
Very few of these stories document actual crimes. The police are conspicuously absent apart from a brief cameo in Charles Philipp Martin’s “Ticket Home,” the one true caper tale. Sadness and desperation, on the other hand, are in ready supply. In “This Quintessence of Dust,” Marshall Moore chronicles a young man’s sojourn on Cheung Chau, the suicide capital of Hong Kong, a visit that doesn’t end well. Sexual exploitation is a frequent motif, notably in Xu Xi’s moody “TST” and James Tam’s shocking “Phoenix Moon,” although Feng Chi-shun points out that the exploitation works in many directions in “Expensive Tissue Paper.” Ghost stories like editor Ng’s “Ghost of Yulan Past” and Carmen Suen’s “Fourteen” remind readers of the East’s traditional connections with the spiritual. So do dream stories, including Brittani Sonnenberg’s “The Kamikaze Caves” and Ysabelle Cheung’s “Big Hotel.” But Hong Kong’s ultramodern material side is showcased in Tiffany Hawk’s “You Deserve More,” Christina Liang’s “A View to Die For,” and Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang’s “One Marriage, Two People,” where Hong Kong’s privileged wait in twitchy anticipation of China’s final takeover.
Ng and Blumberg-Kason’s Hong Kong is a city on the brink, haunted by its past but facing an uncertain future. Readers can feel lucky to have such a collection.