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Telynor's Library, and then some

A woman of a certain age who has three cats underfoot, and has the dream of filling her passport with stamps. Books, classical music, tea, cats, movies, art, fancy needlework,  and anything else I can think of.

Relaunching the Chung Kuo series with Son of Heaven

Son of Heaven (Chung Kuo) - David Wingrove

In the last couple of decades I have become fascinated with Asia, reading whatever I can and hoping that one day I can go there. In the meantime, I read, watch what I can get, and even picking up a smattering of languages. Yep, it's that well-known method of scattershot study for me!

One series that caught my eye back in the 1980's was David Wingrove's series call Chung Kup, a science fiction series of books that envisions an Earth dominated by China, ruled by what are known as the Seven T'angs. The City covers most of the Earth, and the population is composed of nothing but Han Chinese and Western Europeans. While I tend to despite genocidal dystopias, I was fascinated by the world-building and the more subtle characters of the story.

Now Wingrove is relaunching his series, adding in two books at the very start, and filling in some of the blanks. The first book, Son of Heaven, tells the story of Jake Reed, a survivor of the Collapse, when financial markets crashed, and chaos erupted over North America and Europe. Jake barely made it through those awful days, finally finding some sanctuary at Corfe, England. Now twenty years have passed, and now there are strangers and raiders moving west, fleeing something that is following them. Jake thinks that he knows what is coming, but is too afraid to speak up. When he goes with the other men on a trading expedition to the nearby town, a journey of several days, not only are they attacked but Jake is wounded, and hears of something sinister coming from the east.

A hike to the nearby ruins and a pair of binoculars reveals something like a glacier coming. And this time, there is nowhere for Jake and his family to flee to...

I was of very mixed feelings about picking this book up and reading it., given that I'm not much of a fan of genocide, and knowing a bit of what was to come in later novels. But I was also curious, as so much science fiction these days is either drivel or just endless copying of someone else. So this book sat on the shelf for quite a few months (think years) and I finally decided that it was time to sit down and finally read it and make up my mind -- continue on or pull the trigger.

Son of Heaven has two viewpoints. The first was Jake Reed, a brilliant young internet designer who worked in the financial markets when it crashed, and the other is Jiang Lei, a general of one of the Emperor's armies and sometime poet. While Jake is focused on merely surviving and getting his family to safety, Jiang Lei is much more complex. The duty that he has from the Emperor, T'sao Ch'un, is much more difficult. Not only is he in command of men who are not much more than killers, he also has to assess those people who are not Han, and decide if they are worthy enough to live in the future, in the City that is advancing behind them. The ill, the elderly, drug users and 'ethnicities' are to be disposed of and forgotten, while the survivors are reeducated in camps..

Not that Jiang Lei has much choice. His wife and daughters are being held as hostages for his continued co-operation, and worse still, quite a few of his men are members of the secret police -- the Thousand Eyes -- who watch and report everything.

An interesting touch was the various bits of future culture -- one modern author constantly mentioned was Philip K. Dick and his novel Ubik. Many of the references were to music, and at times it did get pretty annoying. Not very many authors can pull it off successfully, and unfortunately Wingrove isn't one of them. While it was interesting, it wasn't that well handled. Pity.

Still, I was interested enough by the end of this one to go onto the second novel in the series, Daylight on Iron Mountain.

This novel gets three and half stars, rounded up to four, and a somewhat recommended. Not for everyone, but it's bearable if you like this sort of thing.