bigWOWO Rating: Mystery Gold
This book had been sitting on my shelf for the longest time, and I finally picked it up. Ed Lin’s Snakes Can’t Run is a sequel to his second novel This Is A Bust, a continuation of the story of his protagonist, Robert Chow, a New York City cop and Vietnam War vet. In this novel, Chow is hunting snakeheads who smuggle illegal immigrants into the U.S. Along the way, he discovers secrets of his own family past and the issues faced by his childhood friends.
You’ve gotta love Ed Lin for his honest and straight-forward writing. There’s something absolutely cool and fascinating about his ability to keep you turning the pages. Robert Chow’s character is a full character with no pretension, a man who is truly trying his best to understand how he fits into society after coming back from Vietnam, a man who is trying his best to reconcile his ancestral culture with that of the dominant culture. This story was also a huge dive into Chinese culture. Some reviewers have said that it’s more of a sociological study than a mystery, which is indicative, in my opinion, of Lin’s willingness to put his culture in front for the reader to see, something that was refreshing to read.
I did have one question, and it’s actually one that I had in This Is A Bust (but didn’t think it important enough to mention). It’s this: I wondered whether the factions and infighting that Lin describes are generally as problematic as they are in the novel. For example, I know Chinese face discrimination in some parts of SE Asia, but in Vietnam? I thought anti-Chinese resentment was a trend that mostly takes place in Islamic countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. I don’t remember writers like Lac Su (whose father is Chinese) ever writing about this. Or the differences between, for example, Fukkien and Toisan people–I was under the impression that Chinese people recognized differences but really didn’t care unless it was the difference between Taiwanese and Mainlanders (which Lin also shows in detail). In other words, I thought these lines mostly existed along the lines of religion or government. I could be wrong though, and I’m sure it may depend on who you are. It’s great that this book encourages us to pose these questions.
Snakes Can’t Run is a good read, highly entertaining and fun. I will say that the domesticated (you’ll understand if you read both books) Robert Chow is probably a lot more tame than his former self, but it’s still a fun story. Check it out!
By the way, Ed Lin has a new book coming out: One Red Bastard. ORB will be the next sequel in the Robert Chow series. Hopefully this time I won’t wait so long to review!