* 2023 Taiwan Literature Award
When the brightest star within a cohort of elite engineering students leaps from the twenty-third floor of a Las Vegas hotel, his peers are left in confusion and doubt. These nine stories reveal the dark struggles and twisted motives behind the façade of competence projected by these gifted students.
The standout within an elite cohort of engineering students, Chieh-Heng is both admired and hated by his peers, who inevitably find themselves struggling to keep pace with his genius. At his best, Chieh-Heng is the bright star that lights the way ahead. At his worst, he is the darkness that swallows up the light of those around him.
When Chieh-Heng jumps from the twenty-third floor of a Las Vegas hotel, his peers are left to wrestle with their grief, envy, resentment, ambivalence, shame, and powerlessness. Why would a genius who could achieve whatever he wanted – without ever breaking a sweat – end his life? When the model of success you’ve exhausted yourself trying to emulate suddenly exits the stage, what is there left to strive for?
With these nine stories, Terao Tetsuya lays bare the dilemma of success faced by students at the top of the academic pyramid. From their teen years to early adulthood, from the top universities of Taiwan to the information technology giants of Silicon Valley, unrelenting pressure and intense competition are the name of the game, even at the risk of pushing oneself to the edge of sanity and the brink of despair.