A New Beginning

For many years now we’ve had people come into the store and ask after the Chung Kuo books by David Wingrove. Nearly as many people ask after them as they do Patrick Tilley’s (also Out-of-Print) Amtrak Wars books.

Well Wingrove’s epic is returning to print as of February this year.

Chung Kuo Book 1
David Wingrove
2065, two decades after the great economic collapse that destroyed Western civilization, life continues only in scattered communities.
In rural Dorset Jake Reed lives with his 14-year-old son and memories of the Fall. Back in ’43, Jake was a dynamic young futures broker, immersed in the datascape of the world’s financial markets. He saw what was coming – and who was behind it. Forewarned, he was one of the few to escape.
For 22 years he has lived in fear of the future, and finally it is coming – quite literally – across the plain towards him. Chinese airships are in the skies and a strange, glacial structure looms on the horizon.
Jake finds himself forcibly incorporated into the ever-expanding ‘World of Levels’: a global city of some 40 billion souls, where social status is reflected by how far above the ground you live.
Here, under the rule of the mighty Tsao Ch’un, a resurgent China is seeking to abolish the past and bring about world peace through rigidly enforced order. But civil war looms, and Jake will find himself at the heart of the struggle for the future.

Here’s the press release:

‘This is a major publishing event. Over twenty years in the making, the Chung Kuo series is a 2.5 million word, 20-book epic that brilliantly fuses Shogun and Blade Runner to rival the scope of Frank Herbert’s Dune or Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. In a genre of big ideas and even bigger books, this is one of the biggest and most ambitious of them all – we’re all going to need bigger bookshelves.’

Set 200 years in the future, the Chung Kuo sequence introduces a world dominated by China. History has been rewritten, the West’s great four-century-long experiment of Enlightenment erased and utterly forgotten. There is no official record of Shakespeare or Mozart, DaVinci or Einstein, any reminders of the past having been quite literally buried beneath the Han’s mile-high, continent-spanning cities. Within those cities, an ornate, hierarchical society of 34 billion souls is maintained only by unremitting repression. Revolution seems inevitable but in such an overpopulated world any change could spell the end of humanity.

Chung Kuo has been in development for over two decades. Eight books were published between 1988 and 1998, and the series was hailed as ‘one of the masterpieces of the decade’ [Washington Post]. The series is now being recast in nineteen volumes, including a new prequel and an entirely different ending, with over 500,000 additional words of new story. David Wingrove said ‘This is no Director’s Cut, but a total revision, giving the last few volumes the power and breadth of vision they were always meant to have. In the prequel I depict a world in the throes of violent change, a world in which all that is now familiar is about to pass. As the two great empires of our age clash there can only be one winner, that victory effectively ending the centuries-long rule of the West.’

Corvus will publish the new series prequel, Son of Heaven, in September 2010 and embark on an ambitious, multi-format (including special collector’s editions and e-books) publishing programme that will see all twenty volumes available by 2014.

[ this schedule seems to have been amended since it was first released, here’s an update from the author:  In late-autumn 2011, Corvus will publish volume 2, Daylight on Iron Mountain, before beginning a sixbook-a-year publication programme in 2012 that will see all remaining 18 volumes available by June 2015]
I tried the Chung Kuo books many years ago and just couldn’t get into them. But my awesome rep from Allen & Unwin (who are distributing Corvus in Australia) sent me a reading copy of Son of Heaven: Chung Kuo Book 1 and having started it last ight I am now 2/3 of the the way through it.
Its not bad at all. I think – and this is all a vague memory – that I never liked the technology (or what I felt was it’s lack) in the original books. Thats not to say it isn’t there, but whereas authors like Peter F Hamilton and Hannu Rajaniemi infuse their story telling with it I didn’t feel that Wingrove used it much at all and I was unhappy with the lack because the story didn’t grab me as it was – and I was sorry to say that I thought this new book was heading in the same direction.
I really enjoyed his work in the second part of the book (the story is told over 3 parts) where he goes back to tell the story of the Collapse, and how he used technology in it. As I said it was many years ago (nearly 20 I guess) that I first tried the original book one and my memories of it are vague and most likely uninformed. I am pleased to say that this time around I am very much looking forward to what is to come  – and should be finished Book one tomorrow.

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