Son of heaven by David Wingrove
#1 in the Chung Kuoseries
A thin layer of mist wreathed the meadows all the way to reeds that traced the meandering path of the river.
It is the year 2064, twenty years or so since The Collapse, which saw society almost wiped out. People are living subsistence lives. In England Jake has learned to get by without technology, and his son, Peter, never knew of such things as the internet or even radio. But during the collapse those who survived learned quickly not to trust strangers. And now there are reports or refugees and bandits on the move. No one knows why, but prices are on the rise, as are tensions.
This is the first book in a series of twnety, but from what little I’ve read about the series, this is one of the latest books to be written. Originally the
series, which first made an appearance in the 1980s , was only 8 books or so. But this re-imagining, or re-marketing, has seen the expansion and exploration of this world.
I didn’t like it. In fact, I was tempted not to finish the book at all. But then I wouldn’t have allowed myself to give out about it. So I persevered.
First of all the plot is quite slow. Which is understandable in a story that will span 20 books, and maybe for people who have read the original series this is a fascinating look at the ‘verse’s origins. But to me, it was boring. And I didn’t like any of the characters. Although to use the word any is to go too far. We only ever really get to know Jake, and later on, maybe a little bit of Jiang Lei. And Jake comes across as a racist sexist pig. Or at least that is my reading of him.
Not one woman has a character of her own. They all seem to exist only as attachments to their menfolk. And the way Jake takes away any decision-making ability of any of them by not telling them what is going on is just astounding. I wanted to slap him. This whole not telling people the truth because it’d only hurt them, or worry them? Well, finding out the truth the hard way is never fun either is it.
My claims of racism may be me reading too much into the use of the word “oriental” when describing a face. But it is hard for me to see that word used without thinking of all the negative connotations. It calls to mind the “othering” of all those various cultures into one lump of “not us-ness”. And when your next word is “brutal”, well I think you can see my point.
As you may have guessed I won’t be reading any further in this series.