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The Past | The Previous

Son of Heaven

I am currently reading David Wingrove's Son of Heaven, the first of twenty--yes, twenty--books in the Chung Kuo series, originally published as eight books in the nineties.

I was a big fan of the original six books, the final two being fairly bad, though reportedly rushed and jammed to a finish after Wingrove's publisher shortened the series by a book, and stopped paying him. It's a strange thing, really, when you think about such a series ending the way it did financially that another publisher, two decades after the first book was published, would sign on for turning an eight book series into twenty, providing prequels and a new ending. Whoever organised that deal desires bowls of ice cold milk.

Still, I enjoyed the original series enough that I was quite interested in this revamp, and I picked up the first of the new books, Son of Heaven, a couple of weeks back. I'm about half way through it at the moment and... I don't know. I am having doubts. The writing in the book could be better, but I've read worse, and I am interested in this book for its ideas, its concepts, so prose isn't the first thing I want. But the ideas. The ideas, that is where the problem lies. Firstly, Wingrove is arguing that the decline of current world has risen out of financial issues very similar to what is happening in the real world, but it lacks any real depth and excitement. Still, it's not a huge issue. The book isn't about the financial part. Instead, it's about culture, and about race, and that is where the problem lies.

Wingrove has positioned this novel in the UK, with a white protagonist, Jake, who was a future's broker when the world crumbled. This, perhaps, will not be a problem if you have not read the original publications, but since I have, it is having a slightly unfortunate air of making the series appear as if it is nothing but a huge, massive undertaking to present the yellow peril, for which we should all fear.

I'm holding out that it won't--in this day and age, surely such a book could not be published in one volume, much less twenty--but so far, I find myself uncomfortable. The first mention of the Chinese is done some hundred pages in with the words 'the fucking Chinese', for example, and I find myself desperately hoping that the book isn't going to go down the path it appears to be, but...

Well, I'll see.

Half way through, plenty of room to move.