Massive rerelease of David Wingrove's CHUNG KUO series

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Werthead, Apr 24, 2010.

  1. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    Between 1989 and 1999, David Wingrove released eight volumes in his critically-acclaimed Chung Kuo series. This sequence is set two centuries in the future and depicts a world of 35 billion people ruled by the Chinese, who have come to dominate the world and built vast, continent-spanning cities consisting of hundreds of levels. Real history has been erased, particularly the achievements of the West, and a stratified, rigidly hierarchal society has come into being, enforced by the police and military. The books chronicle the fractures appearing in this society, eventually leading to war.

    The series was originally envisaged as a nine-book series, but the publishers dropped the final book, forcing Wingrove to hurriedly to rewrite the eighth book to conclude the series in a manner that did not satisfy himself or his fans. The publishers did minimal publicity for the final book and it quickly disappeared from view, followed by the rest of the series.

    However, the Chung Kuo series has now arisen, phoenix-like, from the dead. Corvus-Atlantic have picked up the series and will be reissuing it starting in September 2010. The series has been comprehensively re-edited and re-structured by the author, with five new novels' worth of material added to the saga. These take the form of a completely new prequel novel depicting the rise of China, named Son of Heaven, and a hugely expanded and revised concluding section, restoring the author's original intentions for the series. Over half a million words of new material was written for the new editions. In addition, the existing large books have been broken down into smaller, more economical volumes so that the entire series now spans a mind-boggling nineteen books of around 120,000-200,000 words apiece, somewhere well north of 2 million words and maybe closer to 3 (to put this another way, the 11 Jordan-authored Wheel of Time books come to about 3 million words).

    Corvus plan to release all nineteen books over a 44-month period starting on 1 September 2010 and concluding on 1 May 2014. Cover art for the first book:

    [​IMG]

    Cover blurb:

    Titles for the books:

    Son of Heaven, The Middle Kingdom, Ice and Fire, The Art of War, An Inch of Ashes, The Broken Wheel, The White Mountain, Monsters of the Deep, The Stone Within, Upon a Wheel of Fire, Beneath the Tree of Heaven, Song of the Bronze Statue, White Moon Red Dragon, China on the Rhine, Days of Bitter Strength, The Father of Lies, Blood and Iron, King of Infinite Space, The Marriage of the Living Dark.

    This is, quite possibly, the single most ambitious release schedule for a series of books from a single author I have ever seen. I suspect the breaking of the series into smaller books will be slightly controversial, although given the rising cost of paper and also Corvus' status as a smaller publisher (although it's hardly a small press) I can also see an argument for it.

    However, given that the series' original release is somewhat obscure to modern genre readers, this re-release is akin to Robert Jordan having completed the entire Wheel of Time saga before publication and then had the whole thing rushed out very quickly, something that hasn't been seen before (as far as I know) in the history of the genre. It's an ambitious scheme, and it'll be interesting to see how it goes. If Book 1 doesn't do well, it could be dead in the water before it starts, but given that the original series remains highly critically acclaimed, hopefully it will be a success.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2010
  2. phil_geo

    phil_geo Rat Thing

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    I loved this series, the first 5 books or so were awesome. The characters are some of the strongest in scifi, and the scope of the plot was fantastic. He managed to tell very personal tales about the characters over epic scope. This is one of the few epics where I was happy with whatever character he was currently writing - I didn't find any boring and I didn't find myself skimming to the best story lines. Certain scenes from that series stand out as some of my favorite scenes from fiction. As I think back, a half dozen or so popped into my head immediately.

    That said, the series definitely fell apart at the end. He had many (major) plot threads that he just never got back to, and it got really weird when he started bringing the Mars colonies into the picture. Although I appreciate the effort, it's hard to imagine he can fix the awkward Mars storyline, or satisfyingly wrap-up major plots that he let die in book 4 or 5 (like "The Shell"). I may reread the first 5 and then pick up the next few if they get strong reviews - thanks for the detailed update. No matter what, it's nice to see these in print. I strongly recommend the first few to anyone.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2010
  3. DurzoBlint

    DurzoBlint http://tinyurl.com/363ogv

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    I am definitely looking into grabbing this series, I was hoping that the release schedule was going to be a little bit quicker than stated above. Gotta take what you can get.
     
  4. DurzoBlint

    DurzoBlint http://tinyurl.com/363ogv

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    Anyone have the ISBN for the first novel? BD.com isn't showing the new book on the search? Wanted to price it out and see release schedule. Thanks in advance.
     
  5. Slack Bladder

    Slack Bladder Lost in translation

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    Hardback £17.99
    234 x 156mm, 608pp
    978 1 84887 524 1

    Export TPB £12.99
    978 1 84887 525 8
     
  6. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    Apparently there's been some changes to the set-up, with the decision made to reduce the size of the first novel and use that material as the basis of a second prequel, Daylight on Iron Mountain, that will become the new second novel in the sequence, making for 20 books overall.

    Publication dates are also now up in the air, and there may be a delay until Spring 2011. Apparently international sales rights to the books are being discussed but were delayed by the Icelandic ash cloud of doom preventing a foreign rights sales meeting from being held, so that's being rescheduled.
     
  7. Ash

    Ash Registered User

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    Loved this series and have all the original Hard Backs.

    It was a hugely ambitious and to my mind significant piece of work. It has its flaws, but i think most of those flaws were brought about by the pressure of his publishers.

    I really hope they dont mess this up for him again and David gets a legacy in print which i think he richly deserves.
     
  8. NYCfan

    NYCfan Registered User

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    When I read this as a kid back when it came out I loved the first few books and then felt the series started falling apart. I tried rereading it a couple years ago and I was bothered from the start by two factors. First of all the historical premise to stretch credibility to the breaking point - a resurgent China so triumphant that it eliminates all rivals to the point that even their memory and that of the war itself is mostly gone a century and a half or so after their final triumph even though substantial chunks of the white population survive. China also uses nukes extensively in that process, but doesn't suffer catastrophic losses of its own, which is rather unlikely.

    Secondly, there are some very creepy racial politics to this series, namely all dark skinned people seem to have been eliminated. This is partially explained by the destruction of Africa and South Asia. But non-whites elsewhere seem to have simply disappeared without any explanation. The historical backstory plays a major role in the books, so you can't simply say he didn't tell us, unless the explanation comes after book three which is as far a I read the second time around.
     
  9. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    Update.

    The current plan for the series is to release the first book, Son of Heaven, as a limited edition hardcover and an ebook at the start of February 2011. The second book, Daylight on Iron Mountain, will be issued in a similar format in the autumn of 2011.

    Starting in early 2012, the remaining eighteen books in the series will be released. Corvus's plan is to issue about six books a year, publishing the final volume in June 2015.

    There's a new website and author blog for the series here.
     
  10. Cigarist

    Cigarist New Member

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    So, there's no paperback for this?
     
  11. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    A year after the initial release as normal, I assume.
     
  12. ipeefreeli

    ipeefreeli New Member

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    Should I read the originals or wait for these?
     
  13. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    Wait for these. These versions superscede and replace the original ones.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2010
  14. k1w1taxi

    k1w1taxi Registered User

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    What a total waste of Trees.

    Cheers
    Lee
     
  15. Sparrow

    Sparrow Banned

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    The only thing I know of David Wingrove is his work on the Myst novels, which were not all that bad... especially for a video game spinoff.

    As for the Chung Kuo series, uhmmm, it's alternate history sf so I'm totally not interested.
     
  16. Ash

    Ash Registered User

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    You will be missing out on a treat if you don't at least give these a go.

    The main fault was massive over ambition, it all got away from him towards the end.

    That said, he can write rings round most of the dross out today
     
  17. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    Chung Kuo 1: Son of Heaven

    It isn't alternate history SF. It begins about sixty years from now and continues forward to about 300 years from now.

    The confusion may be because in the setting 'real' history has been deleted and replaced with a fanciful version in which China destroyed the Roman Empire and has ruled unchallenged ever since. I think I've seen some reviewers of the original books get confused and think it's an alt-history, but it's not. It's not very plausible (in fact, China's rise to economic supremacy has made the story Wingrove is telling even less plausible), but it's not alt-history.
     
  18. Sparrow

    Sparrow Banned

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    To me that would still qualify as Alternate History.:)

    If he's re-imagining real history, past or present, into a recognizable future turned on its head than I don't know how that differs so much from the numerous sf stories where the Nazis and Imperial Japan win WWII?
     
  19. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    Because the rediscovery of the real history is a major plotline in the books, as it inspires rebellion movements against the government.

    Also, whilst not remotely on the same scale, it's something that has happened before in real history, and today in places like North Korea. Rewriting the past to your design and raising generation after generation believing it. A fairly Orwellian idea which seems to work (although it requires generations and generations to fully be effective: even a lot of North Koreans don't really buy it after sixty years).
     
  20. Sparrow

    Sparrow Banned

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    Ahh, that makes more sense then.


    Though many Americans don't know their own real history, even recent history.