Son of Heaven (Chung Kuo 1) – David Wingrove

I briefly mentioned the return of David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo series yesterday, but didn’t go into details of the first book. I’ll do that now.

The story opens in southern England. The year is 2065, and it’s just over twenty years since the collapse of civilisation. Small communities are surviving in rural areas, growing what food they can, and trading for what they can’t. Jake Reed is one of these survivors, living with his son Peter.

But this fragile existence is about to be brought to an end – the first sign of this is the appearance of an advanced aircraft with dragon markings, which Jake recognises as Chinese.

We’re then taken back to 2043, when Jake was working as a login – using a sophisticated full-body VR environment to deal in “the Market”, a descendant of today’s stock trading. Jake’s one of the best at what he does, but even he can’t do anything when an attack is launched on the market, an attack which, by means that aren’t entirely clear, wipes out the global economy.[1]

Jake goes on the run after people close to him are killed, and eventually finds a home, where he settles down, marries, has a son, loses his wife to disease, and generally carries on with life, doing the best he can.

But then, everything changes. In the distance, a white wall can be seen, growing steadily closer. And then the Chinese arrive, dividing the population up into those suitable to become citizens of their new city, and those to be killed…

It’s all a lot more complicated than that, of course. There’s some good background to the pre-collapse society[2], some interesting characters, and the first indication of how the huge city of the original books came to be.

As this book just sets the scene for what is to follow, there’s not a lot more to say at this point. I enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to the next one, Daylight on Iron Mountain, due out later this year.

In contrast to the dodgy agency dealings I mentioned recently, David Wingrove’s publisher seems to be taking a more reader-friendly approach. Not only was the Kindle version out earlier than the hardcover, it was also a lot cheaper – I paid just £2.99, and at the time of writing, it’s available for just £1, which is a really good deal. If you’re curious about the series, I’d get that – if you don’t have a Kindle, there’s a free application from Amazon for Windows, Mac OS X and assorted mobile devices. Worth a try if you like a bit of large scale future history thinginess.

[1] Any similarities to recent events are probably not coincidental
[2] TV adaptations of Philip K Dick are in, apparently

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  1. Pingback: The Middle Kingdom (Chung Kuo 3) – David Wingrove : Losing it

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