I ran the gamut of perceptions on this book. It started really slow. Then it got interesting and sort of mystical. Then it got weird. It got weirder and ended somewhat abruptly, oddly and in a disappointing manner.
The story is about Mr. Muo, a forty year old Chinaman who obsessively studied Freud in France. He returns to China to try and rescue his long-time high school crush/obsession, a woman who goes by the name Volcano of the Old Moon. She is now a political prisoner and Muo goes to the presiding judge to try and have her released.
The judge tells Muo that he will release Volcano if Muo brings him a virgin for him to deflower. Muo goes on a hunt for such a rare creature and struggles mightily. He finally discovers that an old neighbor and friend of his, an embalmer called The Embalmer, is, like Muo, a virgin in her forties (because her husband to be throws himself off of a six story building on their wedding night because he is a closet homosexual). She agrees to help Muo but when she arrives to sleep with the judge, she finds the judge is dead. In an odd twist, the judge is sent to The Embalmer for embalming but springs to life once again. She and Muo flee to the safety of The Embalmer's apartment where they have sex with one another. The Embalmer and Mr. Muo are accused of plotting to kill the judge. The Embalmer is imprisoned and Muo flees, only to encounter a teenage virgin who he manages to convince to sleep with the judge.
This plan also goes awry. Detailing any more would pretty much tell the whole story which I don't want to do.
I can't say that I really enjoyed this book. It was different. There are dream sequences that make things a little confusing. Muo is an extremely selfish person with warped ideas about the importance of love and sex (he has maintained his virginity because of his love for Volcano which, if she is aware of (which is uncertain), is unrequited. The ending isn't satisfying and because Muo is so messed up, I don't really care anyway.
Because it is odd and it gives a sense of life in China and is written by a Chinese author (exposure to other cultures is never a bad thing) I'm not not recommending it.