Immortal longings by Chloe Gong

Trash is the leitmotif of Chloe Gong’s Immortal Longings. It is everywhere, adding to the sense of claustrophobia that comes from too many people in too small a space, and is representative of how the constant struggle for survival in such conditions could lead to a society that doesn’t have the space, or the resources, or the ability to value things like cleanliness. Or human life.

Reminiscent of the world of The Hunger Games, San-Er is a fin-de-siècle society where watching fellow citizens kill each other is sport. In the futuristic city of San-Er, desperate people apply to be one of the 88 chosen for the annual games, where contestants slaughter each other for the sake of untold wealth. The deaths are recorded by the omnipresent surveillance cameras, whose footage is edited into sensational reels for the public’s amusement.

It is understood that in order to win this game one must have an ability to jump bodies – to take one’s qi from one physical entity to another. The fact that this practice has been outlawed is inconsequential – many have the ability and will use it to win.

August, a prince who’s tired of waiting for his father the king to die, has rigged this year’s games by choosing as a contestant Princess Calla Tuoleimi, who spent her childhood learning to fight – and who was reported to have died after killing her own royal family. Calla has joined the games expressly to kill the king when he hands her the prize – and despite her own unwillingness to jump bodies, she has no doubt she’ll win.

Other wild cards in this year’s games include an exiled aristocrat who’s Calla’s equal in a fight, and an underworld group that has discovered a way to jump bodies without telegraphing it, which makes them especially deadly.

It is difficult not to draw comparisons to books like The Hunger Games – both feature a tyrannical government, a jaded populace that steps aside and watches avidly as contestants slaughter each other, a general sense of desperation and a heroine determined to change the way the game is played.

In Immortal Longings, however, there is no decadent city at the centre, there is only the palace, the king and the council, throwing a sop to the citizens who live in impossible conditions because the alternative – life outside the city – is worse; who lack the energy to produce the empathy to care. Everything awful feels inexorable, inevitable.

In spite of the dreary setting, the action in Immortal Longings is fast-paced and engaging. And the twist at the end is just tempting enough to make you wish the second book in the planned Flesh and False Gods trilogy was already available.

Chloe Gong is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Secret Shanghai novels, as well as the Flesh and False Gods trilogy. Her books have been published in over twenty countries and have been featured in The New York TimesPeopleForbes, and more. She is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she double-majored in English and international relations. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Chloe is now located in New York City, pretending to be a real adult.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Gallery / Saga Press (July 18 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1668000229
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1668000229

Originally from Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, K.S. Covert lives and works in Ottawa. She is a former journalist whose work has appeared in nearly every newspaper in the country. She published her first novel, The Petting Zoos (Dundurn Press) in 2022, and is plugging away at her second.