Sunday, 15 May 2011

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Chung Kuo 1: Son of Heaven - David Wingrove

Release Date: 01/03/11


The year is 2085, two decades after the great economic collapse that destroyed Western civilization. With its power broken and its cities ruined, life in the West continues in scattered communities. In rural Dorset Jake Reed lives with his 14-year-old son and memories of the great collapse. Back in '43, Jake was a rich, young futures broker, immersed in the datascape of the world's financial markets. He saw what was coming - and who was behind it. Forewarned, he was one of the few to escape the fall. For 22 years he has lived in fear of the future, and finally it is coming - quite literally - across the plain towards him. Chinese airships are in the skies and a strange, glacial structure has begun to dominate the horizon. Jake finds himself forcibly incorporated into the ever-expanding 'World of Levels' a global city of some 34 billion souls, where social status is reflected by how far above the ground you live. Here, under the rule of the mighty Tsao Ch'un, a resurgent China is seeking to abolish the past and bring about world peace through rigidly enforced order. But a civil war looms, and Jake will find himself at the heart of the struggle for the future.


With Steven Erikson’s current Malazan series having finished I was looking for something new to not only step into but a world that would take me far away to an environment of danger, of adventure and perhaps best of all great character building. Whilst I’ve not read David’s work before I was aware of this series previous incarnation of the series from 1989-97 and whilst it had a lot going for it, it lost its way and fizzled.

Now with Corvus at the helm, the series has been brought back to life and knowing what a top notch job they’ve done with bringing some new talent to the fore I felt that it was probably time that I gave this series a go. What unfurls within is a story that has some serious world building, some pretty decent characters and a whole lot to play with. Unfortunately to get to the start of the title a hell of a lot has had to go wrong with the rest of the world for China to take over as well as a lot of improbably far-fetched possibilities to help make this even believable. That said, once you gloss over that, the tale has a lot of potential especially when you take the characters into consideration who are starting to find out exactly what they’ve let themselves in for. It is cleverly done, the prose is reasonable and when taken into account with the sheer scope of the project I only hope that the author can maintain not only the pace but the overall arc without it fizzling out. I suppose I’ll have to wait and see but for a first novel in a series it was pretty hard to put down.

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