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The Tiger Flu

The Tiger Flu

By Larissa Lai
Categories: Women's Literature, LGBTQ+, Lesbian Literature, Fiction, BIPOC, Asian Literature
Paperback : 9781551527314, 334 pages, 2018


WINNER, Lambda Literary Award

In this visionary novel by Larissa Lai -- her first in sixteen years -- a community of parthenogenic women, sent into exile by patriarchal and corporate Salt Water City, go to war against disease, technology, and an economic system that threatens them with extinction.

Kirilow is a doctor apprentice whose lover, Peristrophe, is a "starfish," a woman who can regenerate her own limbs and organs, which she uses to help her clone sisters whose organs are failing. When a denizen from Salt Water City suffering from a mysterious flu comes into their midst, Peristrophe becomes infected and dies, prompting Kirilow to travel to the city, where the flu is now a pandemic, to find a new starfish who will help save her sisters. There, Kirilow meets Kora, a girl-woman desperate to save her family from the epidemic. Kora has everything Kirilow is looking for, except the will to abandon her own family. But before Kirilow can convince her, both are kidnapped by a mysterious group of men to serve as test subjects for a new technology that can cure the mind of the body.

Bold, beautiful, and wildly imaginative, The Tiger Flu is at once a saga of two women heroes, a cyberpunk thriller, and a convention-breaking cautionary tale -- a striking metaphor for our complicated times.


  • Short-listed, City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Award 2019
  • Long-listed, Sunburst Award 2019
  • Winner, Lambda Literary Award 2019
  • Winner, James Tiptree Jr. Honor List 2019


This novel is a dazzling singularity. Larissa Lai has conjured a future so darkly brilliant and believable, it feels like now, magnified. No other writer could bring us these vital, enduring dreams. There is so much here to marvel at, to savour and to ponder deeply. -Warren Cariou, author of Lake of the Prairies

Larissa Lai's imagination is both scintillating and dark, and somewhere in this intersection lies her genius. Orwell said that writing a dystopian novel, such as 1984, was like surviving a long illness. Reading The Tiger Flu -- Lai's 2145 and onward -- is itself a fever dream, a shivering premonition, a familiar and strange future. This is the sort of fiction we will all need to contract if we are to find a way to live on this side of the point of no return. -Wayde Compton, author of The Outer Harbour

After disease and environmental destruction reorder the world, Larissa Lai's rebel clones and flu-ridden survivors inhabit a future both wildly imaginative and shockingly cruel. Blending the surreal and the entirely possible, The Tiger Flu is majestically compelling. A must-read. -Eden Robinson, author of Son of a Trickster

This is an ambitious work and Lai is wonderfully successful in her effort to mash up cinematic science fiction, magical realism elements and fascinating characters with a fierce concern for gender and racial justice to produce an impressive text. -Vancouver Sun

A compelling read about ostracization, disease, technology, tolerance, and survival in a society facing extinction from a horrific pandemic. -The Advocate ("Best Books of the Year")

A tantalizing novel, replete with the kind of detail that recalls the world of Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy yet belongs to another territory entirely, thrillingly its own. With Atwood you're in a world that's odd but recognizable, whereas with Lai, you're in a world that's completely strange -- until it shocks you with a flash of the familiar. -Quill and Quire

The world Lai has created feels immense - I could imagine it reaching far beyond the scope of the novel, far past the four quarantine rings. The novel nearly vibrates with ideas, and its centering of Asian, Indigenous and queer voices (among others) is refreshing and necessary. -EVENT

Life - fierce, painful, unyielding, complicated - bursts from every page of The Tiger Flu . .. Lai inventively and provocatively centres the archetypes of the exile, the monster, and the dispossessed, fleshing out her characters with ferocity, genius, and vulnerability all at once. -Autostraddle ("Best Books of the Year")

A compelling cyberpunk thriller . .. Lai draws inspiration from the feminist science fiction of Marge Piercy and Joanna Russ, exploring questions of reproduction, lesbian separatism, and biopolitics in the often absurdist and even surrealist world of Saltwater City. -Booklist

Lush and detailed . .. The novel's genre itself revels in the technology of hybridity. The Tiger Flu is unnerving and epic in its scope as Lai entwines an intersectional eco-feminist critique with exhilarating action. -Room

Starting with an atmospheric opening page, in The Tiger Flu, Larissa Lai goes wholly maximalist in her world-building . .. A surprisingly enchanting vision of post-Peak Oil dystopia. -Toronto Star