Son of Heaven (Chung Kuo 1) by David Wingrove [Book Review]

A man against the World …

This is the first book in a remake and republishing of David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo series. Corvus plans on releasing all 20 volumes between now and 2015.

The western world has been plunged back to farming after a great economic collapse some twenty years ago and the main character Jake Read is making his living in rural Dorset with his 14-year old son. He was a hot shot broker in futures before the collapse and he saw what was coming and who was behind it.

The main timeline is in the year 2065 22 years after the collapse and we follow Jake as he and the community that has taken him in goes through a period of change before the invasion. It is great to follow their everyday lives and the travels they make to the market town. The story is very much down to earth and the characters catch your interest. Life is different and far from easy for these survivors but they still have time for love and fun now and then.

The jacket story gives the impression we will see life in ‘World of levels’ and a civil war but that is far from the truth. One day Jake starts to see something growing along the horizon and before long the Chinese is there with their airships but we only experience the first few months of the occupation, long before they finishing building their city.

One thing we do get though is flashbacks back to the collapse and the time around it. That paints the picture of a believable futuristic society vulnerable to a collapse in global communication. That was a valuable part of the story as it explained where the characters came from.

I enjoyed the story a lot and it was a swift read and it remembers in some aspects on old classics like Buck Rogers but with a lot more food for thought. Son of Heaven is an entertaining start of a new series and the premise is believable if a bit twisted. It builds on the fear of the yellow danger once again perhaps current with China buying up Africa and becoming the engine of the world economy. But it is also up close and personal and the characters feel real. I think I will enjoy the next nineteen, the second novel Daylight on the Iron Mountain is planned for this Fall. This one gets a warm recommendation from me.


by David Wingrove – Corvus (2011) – Amazon US | UK – I bought my copy there

The year is 2085, two decades after the great economic collapse that destroyed Western civilization. With its power broken and its cities ruined, life in the West continues in scattered communities. In rural Dorset Jake Reed lives with his 14-year-old son and memories of the great collapse. Back in ’43, Jake was a rich, 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 the fall.

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 has begun to dominate the horizon. Jake finds himself forcibly incorporated into the ever-expanding ‘World of Levels’ a global city of some 34 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 a civil war looms, and Jake will find himself at the heart of the struggle for the future.