Following on from The Middle Kingdom, the fourth volume in David Wingrove’s expanded Chung Kuo series takes the story further.
The hostility between the rulers (The Seven) and their Dispersionist opponents turns into a more open war. And we get the first hint (which I don’t recall from my previous readings of the books) that there might be more to the renegade Major Howard DeVore than just the vicious sadist he appears to be.
But what makes the series most interesting is that, leaving aside DeVore, who is a seriously nasty piece of work, neither side can be defined as wholly right or wholly wrong. While the Seven’s rule can be brutal, it does hold billions of people in a state of peace, and at least some of the individuals on their side are sincere, decent people, doing what they believe is best for everyone. And while the Disperstionists have a rather nasty and creative line in assassination, it’s easy to sympathises with the desire for change, development. Though even they are tied to the hierarchical ways of Chung Kuo, with its levels and ritualised politeness that often hides contempt and hatred.
At this stage, we’re beginning to see the development of characters who will play major roles in the future – children wise beyond the years of their parents who will become very important indeed. And cracks are beginning to show in the invented past. Will the true history of the world become more generally known? Will the war become more violent?
As I’ve said before, this series is seriously worth reading.