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Old 03-16-2012, 12:08 PM   #1
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'90s hit SF series "Chung Kuo" by David Wingrove re-releasing as 20 volume set!

In the '90s, my favourite series of science fiction/speculative fiction books was "Chung Kuo" by David Wingrove. At the time the premise seemed preposterous to some people, but it's gone on to arguably be prescient: a slow economic and political decline over a couple of generations leads to an energy poor society in the West that's dropped to subsistence level. China steps into the midst and, though a few fight to stop them, many welcome the stability, comfort, and safety they offer.

It was originally intended as a 9 book epic, and the first 7 books were created on schedule and were absolutely awesome. The final two were merged into one horrific mess of a final volume in the series, so bad that many fans have never read it, and simply ended the series in their mind at the end of the 7th volume.

Now David Wingrove is re-releasing Chung Kuo as a 20 book set, with two new prequel novels, a completely new ending novel that replaces the original ending entirely, and the remaining 7 books reformatted and rewritten with new content added. The 20 new volumes share 500K new words in total.

Vol. 1 is out now on Kobo (http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Son-o...JWA/page1.html) and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Store/s...wingrove&ajr=0).

Note that this is from non-agency publisher Corvus, and is eligible for Kobo discount codes, including this 35% off Kobo code, "thankyou2012", and if you've used that one then this new 20% off code, "mar16ca20".

I can't recommend this more highly. I've read a significant chunk of the first of the two new prequel novels, and it's been up to David Wingrove's normal, high standards. Here is the series description by David himself (it appears to be the description of the classic 8 volume set):

Quote:
Chung Kuo means ‘Middle Kingdom’, and since 221 bc, when the first emperor Ch’in Shih Huang Ti, unified the seven Warring States, it is what the Han, or Chinese, have called their great country.

For them Chung Kuo was the whole world; a world bounded by insurmountable mountain chains to the north and west, by the sea to east and south. Beyond lay only desert and barbarism.

And so it was for two thousand years, through sixteen great dynasties.

But then, from the far west came young, aggressive nations with superior weaponry and an unshakable belief in progress and change. It was, to the surprise of the Han, an unequal contest and China’s myth of supreme strength and self-sufficiency was shattered.

By the early twentieth century, China was the sick old man of the East, the future, it was assumed, belonged to the West. But from the disastrous ravages of the century grew a giant of a nation, capable of competing with the West from a position of incomparable strength.

The twenty-first century, ‘the Pacific Century’ as it was known even before it began, saw China become once more a world unto itself, but this time its only boundary was space.

This is the story of what happens next...

Life will revolve around the ‘World of Levels’: a rigidly hierarchical society where success and prestige is measured by how far above the ground one lives. Some – in the Above – live in ornate comfort, basing their lives on the customs of imperial China. Others – in the Lowers – live in crowded squalor, and beneath them – Below the Net – lie the basement levels where the luckless and the criminal have been cast down and left to rot. Yet worse still, beneath the City lie the ruins of old Earth, ‘the Clay’, built over by the Han – a lightless, stygian hell in which, astonishingly, humans still exist.

Skirting the cities are vast plantations manned with indentured labourers, huge pens of genetically engineered, grub-like meat animals – while in Earth’s few remaining mountain fastnesses dissidents and rebels build their fortresses...

Far above all this, in geostationary orbit, float the palaces of the Seven – the planet’s hereditary rulers. Beyond their exquisite finery lie the commercial research bases of Mars, and in deep space, the industrial outer colonies, and, perhaps, mankind’s destiny...

Spanning nearly 200 years, CHUNG KUO is a monumental history of the future told through the eyes of a cast of hundreds, drawn from all levels of society: triad bosses and assassins, emperors and artists, courtesans and soldiers, scientists and thieves, terrorists and princes.

At the very heart of their stories lies the ‘War of Two Directions’ – a struggle for the destiny of mankind. For the Seven the goal is stability and security – at the expense of individual freedoms if necessary – while a commercially-orientated faction desires change and the uncharted challenge of the new – even though loosening constraints on a overpopulated planet could be lethal. Political tensions between the two factions will lead to assassination, biological and nano-technological terrorism, and ultimately to war.

The War of Two Directions is much more than the simple clash of East and West. The world will have to choose between Change or Stasis. The safety of the Past or the uncertainty of the Future? Inwardness or Outwardness? Darkness or Light? Connection or Separation? These choices, like the perpetual yin and yang of the Tao itself, form the mighty threads from which the epic tapestry of CHUNG KUO has been woven.

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Old 03-16-2012, 12:19 PM   #2
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I was strongly disappointed by these books - because they start out great, but the ending is utter rubish. I regret reading the last 2-3 books. He basically threw away all the carefully constructed elements.
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Old 03-16-2012, 12:32 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by b0rsuk
I was strongly disappointed by these books - because they start out great, but the ending is an utter rubish. I regret reading the last 2-3 books. He basically threw away all the carefully constructed elements.
I agree. But I'm willing to make an exception here because Wingrove was basically forced by his publisher to; "wrap the series up now because we're not paying for anymore books" way back when. He had more books planned for the series.

But regardless of all that... the first two brand-new "prequels" haven't impressed me enough to want to check out a re-worked ending (when they finally get that far). Plus I find the idea of splitting a 7,8,9-book series into a new 20-book series a rather repulsive money-grab.

Ultimately, I loved the majority of the original series, but reading the new prequels has convinced me that either he or I am incapable of rekindling the magic I felt in these books at the time of their original publication. But perhaps new readers will gobble it up?
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Old 03-16-2012, 12:39 PM   #4
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It's sad. It seems the same thing is happening with George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire. I've read the released books except the last one (A Dance With Dragons), and I think the last 2 books were stretched too much. I went to a website just to see the number of stars the last part gets, and it's 3/5. I will still read it. I really hope the last 2 are going to save the serries from mediocrity.

At least Jack Vance is still alive. So is Gene Wolfe, and I unknowingly started by reading his worst (or, at least, questionable) books: Castleview, Soldier of Mists, Arete. It should only get better from now.

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Old 03-17-2012, 02:09 AM   #5
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I was strongly disappointed by these books - because they start out great, but the ending is utter rubish. I regret reading the last 2-3 books. He basically threw away all the carefully constructed elements.
Pretty much at gun point, with a publisher telling him to wrap it up in fewer volumes than he planned.

But isn't that the point? Now he has a publisher willing to let him finish it the way he originally envisioned it, meaning an entirely different ending to the series.
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Old 03-17-2012, 06:32 AM   #6
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I didn't read them the first time round, and I have the first one of the new set, so it could work out quite well for me.
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Old 03-17-2012, 10:22 AM   #7
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I loved this series until he introduced the Kennedy (yes, one of those Kennedys) character. That made me roll my eyes and quit reading. Heh.
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Old 03-17-2012, 11:26 AM   #8
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This was a great idea- a China- dominated future history-but the execution was poor. Oh well , he gets a do over.

There were flashes of greatnessm in the first series, but I gave up after book 4. Yet again proof that most series aren't worth reading after book 3- they lose their way or the author loses focus.
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Old 03-17-2012, 12:47 PM   #9
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The new ending sounds promising. I'd be very interested in hearing from people who know what it's like (no, I don't like spoilers). I'm a bit worried about the prequels though - the serries are long enough as it is, and I think there was no need to change the beginning. Prequels are practically prolonging the beginning.
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Old 03-17-2012, 01:46 PM   #10
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The new ending sounds promising. I'd be very interested in hearing from people who know what it's like (no, I don't like spoilers). I'm a bit worried about the prequels though - the serries are long enough as it is, and I think there was no need to change the beginning. Prequels are practically prolonging the beginning.
I thought the prequels were huge spoilers, myself (if read first). But apparently he couldn't resist (and many fans were clamoring for) some back-story on how things got to where they were in The Middle Kingdom.

For those who've read the originals:
Spoiler:
The Middle Kingdom starts out with the assumption that the Han had been in control for thousands and thousands of years (Alternate History, more or less). It's only later revealed that that was all a lie, and a huge cover-up (not to mention a closely guarded secret). It's actually "our" world. That "bait and switch" is completely spoiled if a reader reads the prequels first (and why wouldn't they since the new renumbered release has them listed as #1 and #2).

The first two prequels just didn't do anything for me (a fan), actually. Pretty lack-luster. And as much as I enjoyed the early books (and I certainly hope that new readers do get a better ending), I'm of the opinion that you just can't unring the bell. I don't like do-overs. Regardless of the reason. I wish Wingrove the best of luck, though. He deserves another shot. I just wish it had been with brand-new material.

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Old 03-17-2012, 02:12 PM   #11
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So they're the curious kind of prequel that are best read after the serries ? A paradox, but I think it's typical.
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Old 03-17-2012, 02:30 PM   #12
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So they're the curious kind of prequel that are best read after the serries ? A paradox, but I think it's typical.
I find most prequels to be this way, myself. I dislike spoilers more than I like linear chronology. It's always "published order" for this reader.
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Old 03-17-2012, 04:15 PM   #13
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I did not know the second prequel was out yet. Must have missed it.

I never read the originals but when I heard about the re-release I thought I'd check it all out. Read the first prequel and enjoyed it but didn't think it was awesome or anything. Was a bit let down by the writing but thought the story was ok.

I will give the second one a go soon and see how it goes.
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Old 03-17-2012, 05:17 PM   #14
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I did not know the second prequel was out yet. Must have missed it.
There's currently no American publisher for the series. No US ebook right now, either, but there was at the end of last year (that's when I got it)... I don't know what they're doing ebook-wise. Seems a bit of a mess.
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Old 03-17-2012, 08:19 PM   #15
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Bummer but as my TBR list is pretty long I guess I can wait a while and see if it gets worked out.
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