I didn't finish China Underground by Zachary Mexico. I read six of the book's sixteen chapters/vignettes. It's been the only book in recent months that I haven't finished.
In those first six chapters, I read profiles of gangsters in Qingdao blowing ketamine and partying hard with corrupt police officers, prostitutes working at a KTV parlor, and a virtuosic Uyghur guitar player trying to make it in Shanghai (who Mexico smokes hash with).
Now that I'm writing this post, those stories sound pretty cool (except for the prostitute profile which is a played-out topic for me at this point having already read similar accounts in China Road and Factory Girls). The reviews I've read of China Underground - both on Amazon and the internet at large - have been overwhelmingly positive as well. Despite thinking that I should like China Underground, this book didn't do it for me.
I appreciate Mexico's language skills and ability to document a segment of China's population that has been largely elusive to western writers. But I just found China Underground too over-the-top. The stories seemed superficial and the characters didn't resonate with me. I didn't feel as though I gained perspective or learned anything particularly noteworthy from the sections that I read.
I concede that my inability to get into the book may very well derive from me being too big of a square at this point in my life.