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Five Star Billionaire

Review

Five Star Billionaire

The young men and women of China today have embraced the heady atmosphere of democracy, choices, free trade and capitalism as if the centuries of feudalism and recent past bondage of the Mao Revolution never existed. The journey through this unfamiliar territory can be hazardous as they reach for the promise of instant riches, success and fame that was once available only to the privileged few. Their world today closely resembles the Roaring Twenties of America --- the wild parties and  the promise of instant riches, along with the disregard for ancient tradition and history.

FIVE STAR BILLIONAIRE features five youthful and motivated men and women who have approached the ladder to success. One has made it to the top. Another struggles to gain a foothold, while another has thrown it all away. One relishes the challenges, and one has fallen.

"FIVE STAR BILLIONAIRE is a brilliantly written novel of intrigue featuring four characters who are drawn inexorably into Walter Chao’s web of deceit."

Walter Chao, the five star billionaire of the story, has clawed his way to the very top from wretchedly poor beginnings to build a giant development empire, but not without scars. Chao narrates the tale by offering worldly yet almost Confucian advice to the hopeful youth who, with their dreams of success, cannot imagine the pitfalls that await them.

Phoebe, a country-bred factory girl from the south, is prepared to gain success by any means. Quick-witted and eager to please, she is adept at the many languages spoken in China. She is a beautiful chameleon who deftly casts herself in any image that will help her achieve her goals of style, class and respect. She would be content to land a wealthy man or attain a responsible position, but most of all she wants acceptance. 

Justin is the reluctant heir to a family business and its vast wealth amassed by his father and grandfather during the post-revolutionary era. His innate genius for numbers and organizational skills collide with his appreciation of the symbolic artifacts of thousands of years of Chinese culture. Enormously wealthy, he finds himself at an emotional crossroads of having it all and wanting none of it.

Yinghui is lauded as China’s leading young female entrepreneur --- the epitome of every career woman’s dream. She owns a chain of successful businesses and hobnobs with the CEOs of every important Asian corporation. 

Gary is a teenage idol pop star, living the life, enjoying the instant recognition and female adulation. His name and face appear on magazine covers and gigantic neon billboards throughout China. He has it all until he makes a nearly fatal mistake and falls from grace. 

Each of these young hopefuls becomes involved with billionaire Walter Chao in differing ways.  Chao is like a puppet master who controls the events that will affect each of them in ways they can never imagine or even suspect.

Tash Aw, winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award for MAP OF THE INVISIBLE WORLD, seductively draws us into the sixth character of the book: Shanghai, the Far Eastern, 21st-century version of El Dorado. Epitomized by the glitter and glass in all its allure, grandeur, and excesses of wealth and modern culture, Aw also shows us the dark underbelly with its corruption, debauchery and abject poverty. FIVE STAR BILLIONAIRE is a brilliantly written novel of intrigue featuring four characters who are drawn inexorably into Walter Chao’s web of deceit.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on July 11, 2013

Five Star Billionaire
by Tash Aw

  • Publication Date: July 2, 2013
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
  • ISBN-10: 0812994345
  • ISBN-13: 9780812994346