Two nuclear missiles
This story is written well, has a distinctive main character, and makes good use of humor; I wouldn’t hesitate to read another story by the author. So, why didn’t I give it one of my top ratings? I would have preferred slightly more development of the plot, rather than a focus on the absurdness of the situation, even though events were quite funny at times.
The story begins when the main character’s Bluetooth headset breaks; as he’s a cheapskate, he ends up with a Chinese-made Redtooth as a replacement. Redtooths (I want to write Redteeth) have many of the attributes we have come to associate with made-in-China products: they are poorly designed, potentially fatal to their users, and have horrible customer service. When you put a Redtooth in your ear, it latches on and uses your blood as its power source. If you try to remove it, it will explode; the explosives can also be triggered remotely by ‘customer service’ which is presumably some kind of Chinese intelligence service.
Customer service sends the main character on some errands; this is where I think the author missed an opportunity. Rather than going on an interesting mission (which could have succeeded or failed in a humorous manner), the main character is sent to perform a series of what seem to be random tasks: running another car off the road with his clunker, looking menacing at a meeting, and trying to repeat a statement in a language he doesn’t speak. At the end of the story, it turns out these tasks were some sort of beta-test; the main character is rejected as an operative. When he returns home, he finds his wife wearing a Redtooth. I realize that humor is a large part of this story, but a slightly more detailed plot would have given me more of a ‘page-turning’ experience. I just didn’t really care whether or not the tasks were completed; a more explicit threat of the explosives being set off might have helped.
While I was reading the story, I couldn’t stop thinking about one of my favorite non-fiction books: Poorly Made in China.
This is a memoir by a consultant who helped US companies set up manufacturing in China. It primarily recounts various forms of dishonest behavior by Chinese subcontractors. You might be tempted to think the author is exaggerating in order to write a better story; based on my personal experiences with Chinese from non-democratic countries, I suspect he’s toning things down in case he ever wants to work in China again. I think this book should be required reading for any businessperson considering doing business with the Chinese, or any diplomats considering negotiating with them.