January 8th, 2009


Chung Kuo

Painting the office recently meant that I moved the books around. I figured this was probably a necessary evil, because the books had spread across the floor, left the shelves, and were trying to escape, or so it seemed. They had to be captured, returned, kept, caged... and in doing so, I have discovered a lot of things that I have just not seen for a while. One of them was the Chung Kuo series written by David Wingrove in the 90s. I've no idea how many of you read it, or have heard of it, but it was this huge sprawling science fiction series wherein China had become the world power, and rewrote history to remove the West.

It was, from memory, pretty fucking cool. The last two books, in the eight book series, were complete ratshit, but the first six were more than enough to cover me for how it ended. It was a sprawling, generational saga, one in which desire, greed, responsibility, friendship, sweet city scape designs, interesting social designs, and history played amongst each of the characters and plot, and I seriously dug it. Maybe if I went back to it, it wouldn't be so cool. Books can be like that, after all, and in truth, I don't plan to go back to it. Still, out of curiosity, I did a google search on Wingrove, to see what he had done since then. I knew he'd written a few Myst novels, but there seemed to be nothing those work for hire pieces, until it is that I read this:

Quercus has bought world rights (excluding France) in David Wingrove's monumental Chung Kuo future history from Diana Tyler at MBA.

Nicolas Cheetham, Editorial Director of Quercus, said ‘Chung Kuo is a two-million-word, nineteen-book epic that brilliantly fuses Shogun and Blade Runner to rival the scope of Frank Herbert's Dune or Isaac Asimov's Foundation. In a genre of big ideas and even bigger books, this is the biggest and most ambitious of them all.’

Set 200 years in the future, the Chung Kuo sequence introduces a world dominated by China. History has been rewritten and the West forgotten. There is no official record of Shakespeare, Mozart or Einstein and any reminders of the past are literally buried under mile-high, continent-spanning cities. An ornate, hierarchical society of 34 billion souls is maintained only by unremitting repression. Revolution seems inevitable but in such an overpopulated world any change could spell the end of humanity.

Chung Kuo has been over twenty years in the making. Eight books were published between 1988 and 1998, with rights sold in fourteen different territories. In 1988, the idea of a world dominated by China seemed outlandish, but two decades later, Chung Kuo's vision of the future seems all too plausible. The series has been recast in nineteen volumes, including a new prequel and a new final volume. After a series launch in May 2009, Quercus will embark on an ambitious publishing programme that will see all nineteen volumes available by the end of 2012.

Reprinted in nineteen volumes, and with a new start and a new end... makes you just want to cry, doesn't it?