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:
Titles for the books:Britain 2085: two decades after the great economic collapse that destroyed Western civilization, life continues only in scattered communities. In rural Dorset Jake Reed lives with his 14-year-old son and memories of the Fall. Back in ’63, Jake was a dynamic 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. 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 looms on 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 civil war looms, and Jake will find himself at the heart of the struggle for the future.
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.