The stories Peter Tieryas Liu’s Watering Heaven move at a sharp clip, propelled by realistic dialogue set against a surreal backdrop. “Every time I have sex, I lay an egg,” one character tells another in the opening scene of “Chronology of an Egg.” The strange romance culminates in a fantastic punchline to this magical set-up. The protagonist of “The Wolf’s Choice,” facing an existential crisis, transforms his outward appearance by extensive plastic surgery. And in “Rodenticide”—well, let me just share a paragraph of Liu’s prose:
He dreamed of rats. One named Zhucheng lost her tail—a pink, gnarled tube with a texture like a gizzard. She was crying a shrill homily and there were flags with emblems of rat ears. He realized all rats were psychics with more understanding of humans than humans themselves—a homeopathic conglomeration of half-defunct diseases. Telepathy is my disease, Zhucheng screamed, I know you’re planning our mass extermination!
“Rodenticide” is just one example of Liu’s strange mix of absurdity, realism, and magic. The stories of Watering Heaven suggest a world where comedy and romance might tip over dramatically into horror or despair at any moment. Good stuff.