I jumped at the opportunity to read Tash Aw’s Booker longlisted Five Star Billionaire because it captures my feeling about China and Asia in general. The setting is Shanghai, China’s largest city and the foreground of wealth. It’s where the money flows—so much money that you don’t even fathom with American standard. The novel’s setting is Shanghai, circa right now. Mr. Aw’s five central characters are mostly insecure strivers from the outlands. They’re trying to shake their hick accents, their poor postures and their cheap shoes and to make it, by any means necessary, in the big sleek city. The New China never stands still; to pause for even a moment is to be left behind. “Every village, every city, everything is changing,” a young woman says. “It’s as if we are possessed by a spirit — like in a strange horror film.” People might not know who the US President is, but everyone knows Louis Vuitton. Rapacious capitalism has overthrown the old rules. Wealth brings respect, as well as the late-night heartburn of moral queasiness. I love this. I love the underlying sarcasm of Tash Aw. I’m gloating as I’m turning the pages. I’m feeling sad at how superficial these people are, who seek adulation and empty status.