*2016 Asia Weekly Top Ten Chinese Novel of the Year
Anyone who has ever run into a Tinder bot knows how frighteningly real internet scams can be. In For Real, young novelist Marula Liu takes us to the heart of that deception and beyond, into a world where stories and people composed out of thin air transform into reality.
Professional ghostwriter Chen Liang-Liang has just gotten an excellent gig: the well-known author Chung-Ling has hired her to write a novel about a woman who is swindled on an online dating site, someone who finds love, then discovers it’s all a fraud. Yet just as Chen Liang-Liang fills a fictional world with con games and scam artists, she discovers that she is a mark herself. Chung-Ling had been making online connections under Chen’s name and “writing” books through other people until sickness drove her into a coma, at which point her agent took over all her affairs.
If this weren’t enough, Chen Liang-Liang now begins to see characters from her story appearing in her own life. What is going on, she wonders – are these people real? Could she have been writing a true story all along? Marula Liu employs a wide variety of textual formats and plot transformations to achieve a stunning (and, given the story, disorienting) degree of verisimilitude, leaving us to wonder with the protagonist: What is real, and do I really want to know?