Critics' Reviews - Freehand Books

Critics’ Reviews

“Nine Dash Line is a riveting page-turner, part thriller and nail-biting tale of survival as well as a deft exploration of U.S. and Chinese covert operations for dominance in the South China Sea. While the true historical events are re-imagined, they are rooted in Saso’s astute psychological studies of actual institutions and public figures. Saso’s background in international relations and security studies shines on the page. The result is a smart, engrossing and darkly entertaining novel for our times.” JOANNA CHIU author of China Unbound, winner of the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing

“Emily Saso’s thriller fuses Tiananmen, sexual harassment, and the global struggle for hegemony in the South China Seas. By turns lyrical and mystical, Nine Dash Line brings geopolitics to a human level through two protagonists in parallel hostile environments: Jess Toth, the only woman on an US naval destroyer, and Zi Shan, the only man building an islet foothold for China in disputed territory.” JAN WONG author of Red China Blues

“Saso plunges the reader into a sun-bleached arena of international espionage, emotional ensnarement and the unnavigable trajectories of atonement. Disquieting in its meditations on fate, Nine Dash Line explores, in ways both grand and intimate, the perils of centering the mercurial needs of our homeland within our less anchored selves.” MATT CAHILL author of The Society of Experience and Radioland

“Set in the South China Sea, Nine Dash Line is a complex, exotic novel with exploding whales, a small boy climbing a mountain, surveillance turtles and the myth of Sisyphus in the 21st century. I was immediately reminded of the Japanese New Wave film Woman in the Dunes, and comparisons to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and the insanities of war, are also warranted—except in Nine Dash Line, Emily Saso ups the stakes; she rips away the veil on China, Tiananmen Square, Mao, and life under the Chinese Communist Party.

Saso, who pulls no punches when it comes to shining a light on sexism in the US military and elsewhere, has crafted a captivating page turner that is part geopolitical thriller, and part love story. Jess and Zi Shan are trapped on an atoll in the South China Sea, torn between two ideologies, and yearning for so much more than this omnipresent battle. There is a desolate longing throughout this novel that is embodied beautifully by its two main characters as they search for love, family, forgiveness, freedom, and understanding. Emily Saso is a hell of a fine storyteller and a writer to watch.” THOMAS TROFIMUK author of Waiting for Columbus and This is All a Lie

“Emily Saso’s Nine Dash Line is a fast-paced historical thriller deepened with flashes of beauty.” CARRIE SNYDER author of Girl Runner and The Juliet Stories

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