Chung Kuo Revisited

Back in the late 20th century, David Wingrove wrote a series of novels set on a future Earth that was covered in a mile-high city, ruled by the Chinese, and where history as we know it had been erased in favour of a story that entirely omitted western civilisation…

Over eight books published from 1989 to 1997, Wingrove weaved an intricate story which told of the ultimate collapse of this society. The only problem was that he’d intended to write nine books, but the publisher at the time cancelled the last volume, leading to  a squeezed in rushed ending. I enjoyed the books at the time, and when I re-read them a few years ago, but never expected this…

Another publisher has acquired the rights, and the books are being reissued. Due to the economics of publishing, the original eight books are each being split in two. They’ll be followed by the two volumes that should have been the original ninth book, and preceded by two new books which take things back to the origins of Chung Kuo – what happened in the 21st century that allowed the world city to be created and to sweep away all that came before it. Yes, there are going to be a quite impressive twenty books in the revised version of the series, which is quite a lot.

Quite apart from this being a welcome expansion of a series of books that didn’t deserve the obscurity of being out of print, it’s interesting to see this happening. It’s not unknown for successful authors to issue “no, this is the version I wanted” editions of successful books[1], or for popular series to be continued after the death of the author, and of course J R R Tolkien never stopped revising his books. But I think it’s quite unusual for an author to return to his work, revise it, expand it, and get it published.

Having read the first volume (review thingy to follow in the usual way), I’m inclined to think that this is a Good Thing indeed. And yes, I do plan to get all twenty of them. Electronic versions, of course. Otherwise I’d need a load more shelves…

[1] Stephen King comes to mind