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The Middle Kingdom (Chung Kuo #1)

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  1,099 ratings  ·  53 reviews
The world is City Earth, ruled by the Seven, China's new kings. Beautiful, controlled, sensual, this high-tech society is rushing toward war between the forces of West and East, between the rebels who hunger for change and the overlords who demand stability, between the very powers of darkness and light. It will be an era of violent conflagration destined to expose the bas ...more
726 pages
Published September 2nd 1993 by New English Library (first published 1989)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,953)
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Peter
Jul 08, 2010 Peter rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: morons and mental defectives
Shelves: science-fiction
This was, hands down, one of the three most vile books I've ever read in my life. It's not science fiction or Chinoiserie, as it pretends to be; it's torture-porn of the very nastiest sort. Apart from that, it's quite poorly written, and as science fiction it's grade "Z" at best.

An absolutely disgusting book. I feel as if the author tried to molest me. I've never burned or destroyed a book in my life, and I can't bring myself to start now, but I will not continue reading it and I will never open
...more
Beth
Contains an excellent future world, ruled by the Chinese. But the story also contains more sex and brutality than I would have liked. The characters are flat, as if the author had too many to flesh out and could not give enough space (even in 600 pages) to any of them. None of the few female characters have important roles; they are like items at a banquet: described well but having no part to play.
Andrew
this is going to serve as my review for the entire "chung kuo" series. in brief, the first book is excellent (an "i can't put it down but i don't want it to end" kind of excellent) and the first half of the series is very good. after that, my interest waned. setting, plot, characters, etc. can be found here, so i'll just give my impressions.

wingrove successfully sketches a complex, interesting earth of two hundred years from now and sets up an epic conflict between forces pushing for change and
...more
Alison
Wow, science fiction is known for being dismissive of women but this one takes the cake. Page 70 and the few (very few) women characters have ALL been whores, except one who dies in childbirth in a flashback. This is the future ... spare me.
Ty
If only the other books in the series lived up to the promise of this one....
Conor
Chung Kuo: The Middle Kingdom (1989) is the first volume of David Wingrove's massive Chung Kuo science fiction series. I read most of the series a long time ago and recently decided to revisit the novel(s). After reading it the first time, I was fairly amazed that the series as a whole has gotten so little attention from scifi readers. After this read, I find it to be nearly as good as I remember--not a literary novel by any means, just solid, shoot-from-the-hip adventure and intrigue.

The novel
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Becca
I have no idea why this book isn't at the top of the list of sci fic canon. I was a little skeptical starting out- a future ruled by dynastic China? But man, it blew me away. The cultural stuff is a little shaky, possibly based more on orientalist style ideas of oldschool China than real history. But the writing was elegant bordering on beautiful, the world constructed was complex, thorough, at least passingly realistic, and interesting. the characters were human and believable. And there were a ...more
Anthony Ryan
The beginning of David Wingrove's eight volume saga charting the collapse of a future earth civilisation where China has become the dominant power. The scope of the story is staggering, taking in the inherent oppression and tyranny of authoritarian rule and the destructive nature of revolution. Also, Wingrove creates an all time great villain in the deliciously unredeemed form of Major Devore. One of the most ambitious epics in sci-fi history and a remarkable feat of storytelling.
Dev Null
Meh?

Look, he creates an interesting - if fairly unbelievable - world, but then he fills it with about half a billion characters many of whom never do anything interesting. The series has some fairly brutally violent sexual scenes in it, which I can cope with (barely) if they serve an integral part of the story being told, but here they seemed irrelevant, arbitrary, and gratuitous. And they did turn my stomach.

And it does not go unnoticed that the author claims that 90% of the earth has been cove
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David
This is the first doorstopper of a book in a multi-volume epic; I believe I read the first three or so, years ago. The basic premise is that the world is dominated in the future by a global Chinese empire. The setting is a high-tech futuristic one with a culture that has inexplicably reverted to dynastic China in its political structure. So there is lots of betrayal and treachery and the world is as violent, ugly, and brutal as it was in the middle ages, except soldiers have high tech weapons wi ...more
Seth
I hate no-one enough to let them read this. When I finally threw the book down in disgust and dismay I called the friend who had loaned it to me to ask why he had done this thing. He replied that he had warned me not to read past page 200 or so; he just wanted me to see a small bit at the beginnning.

Don't even read those first 200 pages. There is nothing new or interesting in the setup, the characters are flat and undifferentiated, and you might make it up to the explicit, disgusting, and horrib
...more
Booknerd Fraser
A friend of mine recently told me he didn't like dystopias because they're too depressing, and I have to agree about this one. Not only is the world miserable, there isn't a single sympathetic character in the whole 600 pages.

I also wasn't thrilled with this guy's take on the Chinese; he indulges in a number of "exotic" stereotypes, and he insists (for reasons of "elegance") on using Wade-Giles romanization, and he's not even consistent about it. I barely finished this.
Rebekah
Nov 27, 2007 Rebekah rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes polticial / sci fi
This is one of the best series I have ever read. Once I finally located all of the books, which are out of print, I couldn't put them down!
Roddy Williams
‘How many billions lived in the City that filled the great northern plains of Europe? The two men crab-scuttling across the dome that roofed the city neither knew nor cared. They thought only of the assassination that was their task.

Chung Kuo. For three thousand years the world-encompassing Empire of the Han had endured. War and famine long banished, the Council of Seven ruled with absolute authority. Their boast: that the Great Wheel of Change itself had ceased to turn.

Yet at that moment of sup
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Michele (Mikecas)
Da: http://www.webalice.it/michele.castel... Questo e' il primo di una serie di otto romanzi, ognuno di circa 600 pagine, che sono uno il seguito dell'altro, e devono quindi essere letti sequenzialmente. E' una storia sola, ma in realta' e' l'intreccio di decine e decine di storie, perche' e' la cronaca di un intero mondo e della sua crisi. In Italia credo siano stati pubblicati solo i primi tre volumi, agli inizi degli anni 90, e sono ormai esauriti. Non sono nemmeno riuscito a trovare in rete ...more
Salimbol
I'm really torn over how to review this book. It's certainly an intriguing concept - a future world in which the Chinese reign supreme, and in which they've constructed an elaborate false history to make it seem that things have always been that way - and the author's imagining of this strange, beehive-like world, positively seething and close to bursting at the seams, is definitely interesting. However, almost everything about his version of "future Han" culture feels off in some fashion, both ...more
Graveydice
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sam Reader





Okay, so the rundown is as follows. Chung Kuo is a future history on an epic, operatic scale. The book traces the start of the "War of Two Directions", a conflict between the Confucianist stasis of the ruling Chinese empire and the upper-class Europeans who wish for progress, change, and to take back their birthright. The book features a huge cast of characters and a scope that, for the first book in a seven-book series, shows remarkable restraint and control while still spanning slight
...more
Hank
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Frans Karlsson
I like the world building in this book. A world where the chinese have become the ruling power of the whole earth and made it in their own image of how it should be. The story is good full of intrigue, betrayals, love and action. On the negative side the book in it self is only a first taste of the rest, there are so many characters that have only started to be developed and left hanging. But overall it is a good story.
Brian R. Mcdonald
Go references: Intro, pp. 85,103-107,136,554-5,556,576-583,632-636,670,713-716. [UK paperback:]

The game of wei chi (better known in the US and most of the world by its Japanese name, Go) is used as a metaphor throughout the series. The early volumes are a political struggle for the future of the world between advocates of change and stability; analogies between their political moves and the game abound. In addition, characters' playing strengths and styles are used to define them. In one instanc
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John Pedersen
First in a great series -- Wingrove creates a fully realized (if somewhat depressing) sci-fi universe. If you don't like this first one you obviously won't like the rest of them, but I loved the whole series. Wingrove's "China ascendant" scenario was probably a bigger stretch when he wrote these books in the late 80s and early 90s, but his dystopian vision still fascinates. His knowledge of Chinese culture allows him to project a very unusual vision for the future, and his characters are extreme ...more
Jay
I thought the first 60% of this book was pretty good. Wingrove build a really interesting world where the Chinese rule the future. I love alternative histories with a futuristic twist, and it drew me in right away.

But Wingrove also introduces WAY too many characters, and it bogs the novel down to the point where you really don't care much about any of them.

I wanted to love this book, but I'm done with the series. I have to connect to at least one character, and with Chung Kuo, I felt like the a
...more
Sharon Epperson
At the end of the 22nd century, Earth has become one vast city, governed by the Han (Chinese). There has been two hundred years of peace and stability. But a faction within the city/world is agitating for change, reopening the space program. After all there are between 30 and 40 billion people populating the planet.

Is peace and stability ... stagnation? Is change for change's sake good for humanity? Are there room for dreams anymore? This book is epic in scope, and is only the beginning.

I recomm
...more
Norman Howe
Science-Fiction
George
The Chung Ko series is a fascinating speculative ‘what if?’ series that paints a grim, but believable, future of the Earth filled with humanity – and dominated by the Chinese culture. I have read all 3,000 or so books in this series twice – but shall never start it again (because I can’t put them down when I start, and there are just too many books in the series.)

If you have not read them yet, do so. You will not regret it. Plan on getting a lot less sleep when you start.
Johnn
I'm 1/3 of the way through this book. I'm nearly all the way to the dog-eared page that marks my last beachhead. This time around though, I'm thoroughly enjoying the read.

Though set in the future, the sci-fi could be tossed aside, as the story is all plot and a bit of character so far.

The setting is great for GM inspiration, though not much more has been revealed about it after the first few dozen pages.

Check out its entry on Wikipedia for the full scoop.
Lea
I do not recommend this book. It has all of the ingredients of a great epic science fiction novel, but falls flat. It goes on and on, and I kept waiting for a revelation within one of the many characters or within his future world society that would account for and explain away the entrenched sexism of it all. I almost stopped reading it a couple of times, but I did finally push through- ever hopeful- only to be disappointed in the end.
Traveller
May 25, 2012 Traveller marked it as unread-owned
Ouch, this will teach me to grab books at the used bookstore without checking it out properly first, especially on Goodreads!

Quite excited about my 'find', thinking I had bought a speculative fiction novel set in medieval era China, I searched the ISBN # only to find from the reviews that it is apparently nothing of the kind, and actually set in the future...

Bah.
liirogue
I wanted to like this. It involves Asia, dystopia, the future - I should have been all over this. But I couldn't last a hundred pages. It was way too sci-fi for me, and I felt like I couldn't get down to the story, down to the characters, because the author was too busy throwing these made-up words and concepts and landscapes into things just because he could.
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David Wingrove (born September 1954 in North Battersea, London) is a British science fiction writer. He is well-known as the author of the "Chung Kuo" novels (eight in total). He is also the co-author (with Rand and Robyn Miller) of the three "Myst" novels.

Wingrove worked in the banking industry for 7 years until he became fed up with it. He then attended the University of Kent, Canterbury, where
...more
More about David Wingrove...

Other Books in the Series

Chung Kuo (8 books)
  • The Broken Wheel  (Chung Kuo, #2)
  • The White Mountain (Chung Kuo, #3)
  • The Stone Within (Chung Kuo, #4)
  • Beneath the Tree of Heaven (Chung Kuo, #5)
  • White Moon, Red Dragon (Chung Kuo, #6)
  • Days of Bitter Strength (Chung Kuo, #7)
  • The Marriage of the Living Dark (Chung Kuo, #8)
The Broken Wheel  (Chung Kuo, #2) The White Mountain (Chung Kuo, #3) The Stone Within (Chung Kuo, #4) Beneath the Tree of Heaven (Chung Kuo, #5) Son Of Heaven (Chung Kuo Recast, #1)

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