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Chung Kuo: The Middle Kingdom: Book 1 Mass Market Paperback – January 5, 1991

Book 1 of 8 in the Chung Kuo Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The first book in a projected series of seven is set 200 years in the future, when the world's 34 billion people are ruled by a sort of pre-Communist version of China. Monarchs have ruthlessly suppressed all knowledge of pre-Empire conditions and technology, hoping to maintain their fragile control as some Europeans push for the right to build a starship. Court intrigue, propriety and "face" count for more than talent or skill in this clearly evoked, decadent and threatened society. While this first novel from Wingrove, co-author of the Hugo Award-winning Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction , is easy to read, it suffers from cardboard characterizations, indecisive plotting and seemingly arbitrary closing. Major ad/promo.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

When a 600-page novel peopled by dozens of characters and complicated by complex layers of intrigue leaves one eager for more, then something very exciting has been created. Wingrove's novel of the 22nd century, in which China rules the world's 39 billion people, is an imaginative, fast-paced exploration of the future. As the Chinese ideals of harmony and order are challenged by the restive Europeans' thirst for change and progress, a rift forms that points the world toward a devastating war. Neatly dovetailed story lines, well-paced plotting, and exotic, intriguing characters are definite pluses. This first novel premieres a planned series of seven. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/88.
-Beth Ann Mills, New Rochelle P.L., N.Y.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Dell (January 5, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440207614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440207610
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 4.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,624,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Wingrove is a mediocre stylist, his characters are all unappealing and flat, and the plot is awkward at best.
P. Maranci
I read the Chung Kuo series a long time ago and thought they were great, but I lost them during a cross-country move a few years ago.
If you are a reader of science fiction or any sort of political intrigue, I implore you, find the book at your local library.
Alex Malinovich

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 55 people found the following review helpful By D. Reed on March 3, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This series is fantastic. It is compared to Herbert, Asimov, etc. Frankly, I think it's better. The plot is gripping, almost without exception, to the point that my heart races when I'm reading it. The characters are complex, varied, and believable. The setting is ingenious; the breadth of the author's understanding of Chinese culture mind-boggling. I have read the series once already, about eight years ago; and now I'm through book III again.
As I read the other reviews, I see that for the most part readers either love it or hate it. The negative criticism I see includes the following: it is too complex, with too many characters; it is too violent, and sex especially is mixed with violence too often; and it is racist and sexist.
My response: indeed, the story is complex, but it is equally tight. If you enjoy--and can hold in your mind--a richly textured world, you will savor its breadth. If you want something less meaty, you won't have to look far: water covers most of the earth.
Next: the book is violent--graphically so. If you have a weak stomach, don't read it. The story is not all sugar and spice. It's a story of social and political revolution, not romance. Some of the characters are really nasty, and do really nasty things, just like real-life historical and contemporary characters. But in contrast are numerous scenes and episodes which are quite touching and beautiful; they are expressions of the author's depth of soul and endearing sense of humanity.
And the sex...well, much of it is violent, as (like it or not) it is in real life; but what the critics fail to acknowledge is the many sweet, truly romantic and beautiful episodes of love-making that are portrayed.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Alex Malinovich on March 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Unlike the majority of the reviews present here, this one is being written after only having read the first book in the series. (Chung Kuo) As has been stated many times before, you will either LOVE this book or you will HATE it. The book is definitely not for the weak of heart (or stomach). I have seen many of the so-called "Death Videos" out there without too much trouble. However, the depiction of sado-masochistic sex left me nothing short of sick. I have no doubt that, had I not been reading the book on an empty stomach, I would have vomited as soon as finished that particular passage. This is one of those few times that I seriously wonder about the mental stability of the author. The passage in question is there in order to imbue you with a deep hatred for one of the major antagonists in the story which at least partially justifies the brutality of it.
The two biggest complaints I have seen (other than the violence) has been the plot/character structure and the stereotyping/racism/etc. In terms of plot twists, character depth, and other issues, you had better be prepared. The character list which was thoughtfully provided by the author is 4 pages long. (One name per line) I found myself flipping back to the list often, yet I found it rather engaging. It truly shows the breadth of thought of the author.
In adressing the issue of racism/sexism/etc, there is not much to be said. If you truly believe that ancient China was NOT racist and sexist, perhaps you should check out "The Little Engine That Could." For those who can view the world as it is, the book is a depiction of what would happen if (when?) ancient Chinese culture became the world norm as opposed to the current Americanized world culture.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Gamble on July 7, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Although Chung Kuo presents the reader with a fascinating view of a future dominated by Chinese culture, it does so at such a ponderous pace that it is hardly worth the voyage. The book is a saga of political intrigue which plays itself out in endless meetings filled with knowing looks and nods between more than 100 characters. Occasional scenes of brutal violence are completely out of balance with the rest of the narrative, and never make up for the generally slow pace.
It is nearly impossible to find a character that the reader will care about. Part of the problem is that Wingrove treats most of them as chess pieces: they are there only to serve a function in the big political game. As soon as they've played their part, they're gone. The next time something needs to happen, a new character is introduced. Another problem is that few characters have any admirable traits; they are all some kind of murderer, rapist, or political backstabber. Female characters are all either virgins or whores, and never of any consequence.
We never know which side we're supposed to hope will win the big struggle for control. Both sides have their relevant points and philosophies as well as their own despicable characters. It is hard to care when one side has the upper hand on the other. It's like watching two old men you don't know playing chess in the park. Who cares if the one with the blue hat wins?
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Tim Lieder on April 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I'm rather sad to find out that the rest of the books in this series are out of print, not that I won't track them down eventually, but this is a brilliant beginning.
It's two hundred years in the future and China rules the world. Not only do the Chinese dynasties rule everything, but they've changed history so that they've always ruled everything. Dispersionists fight to overthrow the system, but in many ways they are more corrupt and evil than the actual system itself.
Akin to Dune in that you can't completely side with anyone, this book depicts a world of cutthroats and diplomats. You'll find yourself siding with the people trying to uphold the system simply because they have honor and integrity while the rebels are vicious creeps. Ultimately the best character in this book is Chen, the trained assassin that helps expose DeVore's manipulations (but doesn't catch him). However, this is a large canvas and something that can't be taken in all at once. It's one of the best books about horrible people that you will read in a long time.
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