Son of Heaven by David Wingrove is the first book in a whopping 20 of the Chung Kuo series set to be released through 2015. Know how they always say don’t judge a book by its cover? Well, I broke that sacred rule here. Upon glancing at Son of Heaven, I immediately was drawn in by the beautiful cover art and just knew it had to be something special. After a minute or two of research did I find that this series is going to be a re-release of the author’s previous work. In his original series written from 1989-1999, it consisted of just 8 books. The author felt it wasn’t enough to tell the whole story and so he decided to try again and this time, he made the series to spread over 20 books! I generally don’t read Science-Fiction works but again, the cover just had me mesmerized. Is this just a cheap trick by the author or does this book hold enough merit to make me follow through with 19 more books?
The story is simple yet frighteningly haunting: it’s the future and China has taken over the entire world. I’m sure anyone who pays attention to the news recently has got to know the state our world is in. To many people, they no longer feel that the United States possess the power they once did in the past. The balance of powers is shifting and guess whose right on the heels to take over? Yups, China. The Chung Kuo (literally translates to “China” in Mandarin) series hauntingly tells the tale of a future where China devises a plan to knock the United States and all other countries to their knees. Interestingly, China themselves are not spared. How? The stock market. I don’t want to spoil the story but that’s basically what happens. Of course this being a science fiction work, you’ll get elements such as virtual worlds and large air crafts that can engulf entire cities. Son of Heaven and the next in the series, Daylight on Iron Mountain, actually serves as prequels to the original works by the author.
Son of Heaven starts of real slow and you’ll need a whole lot of patience to see things through to the next section, which will get a lot better. In the beginning, you have no idea of what’s going on other than the fact that the world is not what it used to be. The author does not attempt to give any type of explanation into things until way further into the book. The problem is, some readers might not make it to that point.
My main disappointment with Son of Heaven is the cardboard characters. They’re just not that interesting to read about. Jake Reed, the main protagonist, is the typical guy who tries to do right in a world gone awry but wouldn’t hesitate to put a bullet in you if he found out you did something to hurt his clan of brothers and sisters. The most interesting character in the story doesn’t come until way later. Jiang Li, a general in the Chinese army, is an honest fellow in a dishonest world. He doesn’t like his job but knows that if not him, someone much more brutal will take his place. For some reason, it’s just much more intriguing to read about Jiang Li and his internal struggle for sanity than Jake Reed and the survival of his family. That feels wrong kind of wrong because this is a book about survival in a future world taken over by the Chinese and so I’m hoping something more interesting happens with Jake in the next book.
Like I said in the beginning, I’m not a huge fan of science fiction but Son of Heaven definitely is captivating even with the flaws I’ve written about. You really need to open your imagination a bit because some parts will definitely tax your mind. All in all, I think the author did a fairly good job with the writing, especially when retelling the story of Jake Reed prior to the Collapse because all hell breaks loose after that. I’m not sure how I really feel about reading a 20 book series but the good news is that it is projected to finish in 2015. In my opinion that’s not too bad. That’s about 4 books every year, give or take? However, only two books have been released so far in 2011. After reading Son of Heaven, I am definitely going to continue on with the series but I can’t guarantee that I am willing to see it to its end.