In the forgotten corner of the village of Silver Hill in Hunan province, the inhabitants, mostly illiterate peasants, have lived a compromised existence their whole lives. But their uneventful lives are about to be upended when, in September 2012, Kwok Fun spots a UFO as she makes her way across the rice fields on her heap of a bicycle. Shortly after, she saves the life of an American tourist. The Westerner, the first one Kwok Fun has ever seen, disappears as soon as he is revived. Investigators from the National Security and Intelligence Agency are dispatched to go over both events with a fine-tooth comb to discover the slightest strand of subversiveness or threat. As everyone involved with the UFO sighting is rigorously interviewed, a picture of the hard-bitten lives of the residents of Silver Hill emerges. Seizing the opportunity of the sighting and the attendant investigation, the village chief, Chang Lee, decides to drag Silver Hill forcefully into the 21st century. A new five-year plan is launched that will bring tourism, supermarkets, the internet, education, car parks, hotels, tennis courts and swimming pools to this backward corner of China. The results, of course, are disastrous.


Guo Xiaolu