Middle-aged reporter Brough arrives in China to film a documentary, only to plunge into a dizzying adventure filled with arrests, attempted assassinations, kidnappings, wild chases, and sex. Despite the frenzied and entertaining plot, Paul Mason - a respected Channel 4 and former BBC2 broadcaster - describes China's fervently patriotic political culture, secretive media, and environmental problems with keen yet colorful insight. James Chen has a wonderfully wry style that turns chameleonic when giving voice to Mason's characters, from the grizzled Brough to the chirpy Chinese interpreter and Brough's harried producer, turning an entertaining, nearly parodic, thriller into a real hoot.
A washed up T.V. reporter stumbles onto a corruption scandal in Western China. Pursued through the desert by a psychotic spin-doctor and a world-weary cop, he discovers the real China: illegal metal mines, a fashion-crazed gang of girl bikers, a whole commune of Tiananmen Square survivors and the up-market sleaze-joints of Beijing. En route, he clashes with a stellar cast of people - traffickers, prostitutes and T.V. execs. But then the unquiet dead begin to intervene: ghosts from his own past and the past of Chinese Communism; the "spirits that hover three feet above our heads" of Chinese folklore.
Rare Earth is a story about love, journalism, ghosts, metallurgy, vintage militaria and large motorcycles set in the badlands of Inner Mongolia and Ningxia. It is about the west's inability to understand the East; one man's epic journey across a dying landscape, where "thousands of pairs of eyes peer beyond grimy windowpanes into the moonless sky, looking for something better.