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China Mountain Zhang Paperback – April 15, 1997

49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

When talking about this book you have to list the awards it's won--the Hugo, the Tiptree, the Lambda, the Locus, a Nebula nomination--after that you can skip the effusive praise from the New York Times and get to the heart of things: This is a book about a future many don't agree with. It's set in a 22nd century dominated by Communist China and the protagonist is a gay man. These aren't the usual tropes of science fiction, and they aren't written in the usual way. But, wow, it's one heck of a story.


A first novel this good gives every reader a chance to share in the pleasure of discovery; to my mind, Ms. McHugh's achievement recalls the best work of Delany and Robinson without being in the least derivative. (The New York Times)

It's a rare writer who produces a novel this good....I can't think of a book that offers a more lived-in future. The people are impulsive, changeable, and very real. Lovers of fine fiction, SF, and otherwise, will treasure this deeply humane book. Five stars. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; Reprint edition (April 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312860986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312860981
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #545,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Maureen F. McHugh has spent most of her life in Ohio, but has lived in New York City and, for a year, in Shijiazhuang, China. She is the author of four novels. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang, won the Tiptree Award and her latest novel, Nekropolis, was a Book Sense 76 pick and a New York Times Editor's Choice. McHugh is working on two novels, BabyGoth and Coming of Age in America. BabyGoth is a mother-daughter story: the Ya-Ya Sisterhood meets Alcoholics Anonymous. Coming of Age in America is a near future coming of age story -- and a romance. Chloe is a trailer park girl at a nice college. Derek is a rejuvenated 72-year-old returning student. McHugh teaches writing at the John Carroll University in Cleveland and at the Imagination and Clarion workshops. She and her husband and two dogs used to live next to a dairy farm. Sometimes, in the summer, black and white Holsteins looked over the fence at them. Now she lives in Austin, Texas.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Michael Bulger on September 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
A number of the reviewers of this book on this site have commented on this novel's lack of plot. This is unfair. It has plot to spare, just not the sort of simple, follow-the-numbers plotline most of today's TV-raised readers seem to need. As a novel, it reads more as a slice of life (or lives) than a self-contained story, and from the perspective of a science fiction reader, this can serve (and does so here) to make the singular impact of this book one of total immersion in a well-thought-out, self-consistent future world. As an example of science fiction as extrapolation from the present, I can think of few works as good as this. As for this novel being an example of "gay and lesbian" fiction, one of the main characters happens to be gay. It is certainly a defining characteristic, especially in the future presented here, where homosexuality is again driven underground. I think we can gain some perspective on comments like this, however, from the fact that although most of the major characters are Chinese, no one has thought to characterize this novel as "Chinese fiction." All in all, China Mountain Zhang is a fine novel, with a narrative voice startlingly well-developed for a first-time novelist. I give this my highest recommendation--not the stuff of science-fiction adventure, but rewarding for those who care about finely crafted fiction.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. Ryckborst on September 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
"China Mountain Zhang" is not another scifi adventure book (which definitely have a place when I want mindless entertainment). It's speculative fiction at its best. The author asks "What if the world were like this...?" and answers the question in such an interesting and believable way.
Other readers posting reviews have objected to the plot, to the society and politics, to the various relationships. I found this book like a series of biographies. What this book lacks is not plot but length. (I want more.) I found the politics, a blended world of socialism, capitalism, and racism, to be very interesting. I found the relationships interesting. A couple deals with homosexuality in their relationship. A single woman deals with disfigurement, internalised self-hatred, and date rape. A couple on Mars have to get past economic issues to further their relationship. Through it all, the author speculates some imaginative technology.
I loved this book when I first read it, and loved it when I re-read it ten years later. Whereas I usually donate my used science fiction to the local library, this is a book that I have hung onto. I hope to reread it in another ten years, or so.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By flying-monkey on January 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
China Mountain Zhang is about ordinary people in an extraordinary world. It's all too easy in fiction to concentrate on the unnusual, on the heroes, on the 'big' picture. What is harder is to get inside the lives of those at the bottom, the ordinary people for whom life is not adventurous, but dull, slow and difficult. Zhang is human, not superhuman; his dilemma is not how to change the world or how to save civilization as we know it, but how to find a place for himself. There is plot, and there is resolution (contrary to what some seem to think), but the plot is subtle, and the resolution emotional, not only for Zhang, but also for the reader. This is a book that works as much by getting us to understand Zhang as by inspiring questions and emotions in ourselves. It's political, but the politics are personal, micro-level, those things that impact on everyone. As an evocation of the mundane sadness and suffering, hope and resolution in daily life, this book is not only unequalled in sci-fi, but is also up there with the best writing in any genre.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 10, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book had been on my "to read" list for some time, but it moved to the top of the list after a co-worker, a rabid right-winger, read it and then fulminated against the notion that the U.S. could ever become a socialist state. The First Amendment doesn't protect anti-Americanism, he said, and the book should be banned and the author arrested. Actually, I believe he would have been quite comfortable in the authoritarian future America in which Zhong Shan Zhang lives and works. "Zhong Shan" translates to "China Mountain," but it's also the Mandarin version of the Cantonese name "Sun Yat Sen." It's like an American being named "George Washington Jones." Zhang is an ABC -- an American-born Chinese -- who gets by, barely, as a Construction Tech in New York. More important, he's only half-Chinese; his mother was Hispanic, but his genetic inheritance from his Chinese father was enhanced by gene-splicing. Since all the best jobs and top corporate positions go to Chinese (the most racist people in the world), every little bit helps. But even more important than his problematical background, Zhang is set apart by being gay -- in a world in which deviance is dealt with by exile to the Mars colony or by a bullet in the back of the head.Read more ›
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