“Take a large bowl. Fill it with equal measures of fact, fantasy, history, mythology, science, superstition, logic, and lunacy. Darken the mixture with bitter tears, brighten it with howls of laughter, toss in three thousand years of civilization, bellow kan pei—which means ‘dry cup’—and drink to the dregs.”
“And I will be wise?”
“Better. You will be Chinese.”
“My surname is Li and my personal name is Kao, and there is a slight flaw in my character,” he said matter-of-factly. “You got a problem?”
I told him the whole story, and I was weeping at the end. He listened with interest, and had me go over it again, and then he pitched the empty bowl over his shoulder so that it smashed upon the rest of the crockery. When he hopped up from his mattress I was astonished to see that he was as spry as a goat.
“Number Ten Ox, eh? Muscles are highly overrated, but yours may come in handy,” he said. “We will have to hurry, and for a variety of reasons you may be required to twist somebody’s head off.”
I could scarcely believe my ears.
“Master Li, do you mean that you will come to my village and find out how a plague can learn to count?” I cried.
“I already know how your plague learned to count,” he said calmly. “Bend over.”
A story that thinks on its toes and laughs with its heart, I love love love it. My sole complaint is that this rollicking wonder is a first novel, and it’s just not fair that some bastards can hit it this far out of the park on the first try.