Renrou (人肉) is the Chinese word for human flesh, the subject of this sequel to Isham Cook’s second novel Xiyu (in progress) and the third in this series. Here the term is employed in the wholly literal sense of “human meat.” China has taken over large swaths of the world, including all of the Americas (now American Special Administrative Region or AMSAR) and Africa (African Special Administrative Region or AFSAR), which have been turned into vast slave colonies, their former nation states dissolved. China is now the richest and most opulent nation the world has ever known.
Our familiar protagonist Isham Cook, haplessly teleported into the future, has been apprehended as an escaped slave, even as his lack of embedded electronic identification utterly flabbergasts the authorities. Captured slaves forfeit their right to life and are shipped in barges to China to be processed as food for the culinary establishments of Canton (formerly Guangzhou), now the most advanced gastronomical center in the world, where cuisine is the national art form and human flesh in particular the most prized of meats. They make no bones about it: the Confucian canon, restored to its rightful place as the only suitable ethical system for China, has a place for slaves too on the dinner plate in the intricately class-based society of future China.
The novel is narrated during Isham’s sea journey to Canton as he contemplates his curious if highly unpleasant fate, while being steadily fattened up and massaged for the purpose of tenderizing his flesh.