The book is set in 1930's hina and deals with social inequities, banditry and the Japanese invasion. It ontrasts the natural beauty of the landscape with scenes of horific violence.
I have a hard time deciding what I think about this novel. I don't think that its relentless violence works as well as Blood Meridian by McCarthy. It bounces around in time a lot and that is not as well done as by some other authors who use this technique. I don't really know Chinese literature, but I did notice that it is informed by the Water Margin. There are lyrical parts to it. There are some very good bits. Certain scenes such as the whole sequence of war with the dogs are the kind of thing that burrows into your head, but it seems also only partly formed.
I'm going to have to read more of Mo Yan to decide what I think of him. It may be that I just don't have enough of a basis in Chinese literature yet.