Son of Heaven

Son of Heaven by David Wingrove Chung Kuo Recast #1

The year is 2065, two decades after the great economic collapse that destroyed 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, Jakes was a rich, young futures broker immersed in the datscape 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 Jake 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 dominates the horizon. Under the rule of the mighty Tsao Ch’un, a resurgent Chine 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 hear of the struggle for the future

David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo series was originally published in between 1988 and 1999. In February of 2011 Corvus decided to breath new life into the Chung Kuo series, publishing the new series as the “recast” version, adding a bunch of new material to the already existing book and featuring not one but two prequel to the series. In total the re-release is scheduled to be a whopping twenty volumes!

The first new prequel to the Chung Kuo Recast is called Son of Heaven. I am not familiar with the original series, so I won’t be able to relate any of the events that happen in the original series, I do think it puts me in somewhat of an advantage being fully new to the series and judging this book, not only by its cover (which is quite luring I might say so).

The cover of Son of Heaven depicts some oriental inspiration, so I was putting my mind to wards that. However this isn’t the case (just yet). The book is divided in three parts and Son of Heaven starts of in The United Kingdom of 2065, where you follow the footsteps of the main protagonist Jake Reed. Already you see the effects of the collapse of the world early on. Money is scarce but foodstuffs and other things are even scarcer and their prices only continue you to rise. This first focus is on the more day-to-day dealing of Jake and his friends, how they now survive the world, how stranger are frowned upon. And even though you have a narrow focus on building the world, there are a few hints of Jake’s characters past that make you wonder how it was when the world was still blooming. Another thing that does fall to notice is the pacing of the story. It is slow, however I do think that it was with the intention of David Wingrove to keep the story moving this way. He really took the time to develop early on a great sense of the collapsed and rough world that is surrounding Jake and his friend in Dorset. The pacing of the book doesn’t really take off on the whole but there are a few entries in Son of Heaven that are really stunning to read about.

It is by the transition from the first part to the second part of the book, which focuses on Jakes history, that Son of Heaven really took of. You got the threat of the Chinese at the end of the first part, and I hoped that I would get a lot of explanations in the second part of Son of Heaven, and yes! I was right. It was actually quite hard to imagine the world as it was in 2043 after having had to deal with such a destroyed world in the future. Jake was a prosperous businessman; he had everything, the money, the friends, the beautiful girlfriend. It seemed that his life couldn’t fail. However by the intervention of the Chinese everything collapsed. What I really liked about this part is that it starts you off clueless as to where the story would go and more importantly how it would finish. In this second part of the book there is emphasis on the technology that was and only later when you have learned more about this and how prosperous the west was, David Wingrove pushes the story into the final direction, the Collapse and how it was partially brought on.

In the third and final part of the book, Jake’s past seems to be catching up with him. In here both worlds, that of the Chinese and the English, start to collide. For the first time in the book you get to see more of the faces and in particular the details that brought on the Collapse. The paragraphs in these final chapters start to alternate between the viewpoints of Jake and that of a Chinese general Jiang Lei, a Han general that works for Tsao Ch’un, the Chinese Emperor behind the collapse. This last part really gave a good grip of the story, especially making the intentions partly clear of the Chinese, revealing a bit of their rich history and how they possibly plan to take everything further into total world domination. In the end of the book you are left with a great entrance to be used in the second prequel of the series, setting Jake and his family into something totally new.

Though Son of Heaven is a prequel in the series, I haven’t read the original series, so I will just put this down as a kick-off in the Chung Kuo Recast series. It might by that once I read the third book, the original first book in the series that something might fall into place, and I am actually quite curious about that! But for now, Son of Heaven is a solid introduction into the Chung Kuo Recast, showing enough of the destroyed world and how people inhabit it now. With Jake Reed’s personal story being laid down to you, and how tough he and his family have it, it actually kept me quite glued to the pages of the force behind the Collapse and what their motivation would be, and also a bit on how they would have brought on the Collapse. Son of Heaven is written in a way that it both highlights the world of 2043 and that of 2065 and it just seems that a big plan is being laid ahead already on how this series will unfold further, it just feels like its gearing up towards something big.

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