Son of Heaven (Chung Kuo #01) – David Wingrove (2011)
Wingrove’s original eight volume epic of ‘Chung Kuo’ was planned as a nine volume work but it appears that the publishers – for no clear reason – requested Wingrove to round everything off in volume eight, a book that was indeed unsatisfactory as the denouement to a masterly piece of work, both in scope and execution, by anyone’s standards.
Wingrove has now revised and expanded his magnum opus with a proposed radically different ending. This, the first of a posited twenty volume series (each, I would estimate, about half the length of the original volumes) begins before the Chinese have constructed their all-encompassing enclosed cities, and centres around Jake Reed, a login. His job is to interface with virtual computer landscapes and in particular the Datscape which manifests the stock markets as a form of biosphere.
The narrative takes a while to get into its stride. There’s some post-apocalyptic scene setting to be done in a Cornwall where the residents’ social level has been pushed back to pre-technology levels following a devastating worldwide economic collapse twenty years before.
We are subsequently taken to an earlier time and – with Jake – live through the series of events that bring the world to chaos.
Even then, the Chinese were prime suspects in the sabotage of the Western economy, although China herself also collapsed and burned along with the rest of the world.
I’m not convinced it was ever necessary to provide such extensive additions to this series although given that ‘Son of Heaven’ is, as already pointed out, about half the length of a ‘classic’ Chung Kuo novel the additional material will only comprise of about four volumes of this size. I will be interested to read Wingrove’s originally intended ending but will – with the rest of Wingrove’s Chung Kuo fans – have to wait and go through the full reloaded, revamped Chung Kuo experience.