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Aug 30, 2012 11:36AM
Want to be picked up and dropped in the middle of a bloody civil war? Want to get stuck on a sandbar and battle a small fleet of pirates, while armed with only a six pound cannon and a few obsolete rifles? If this doesn't quench your adventurous thirst, then how about attacking a city guarded by blood-thirsty rebels and a four mile wall--yards thick, with less than a hundred intoxicated, undertrained, and rogue mercenaries and deserters?
Or maybe you are in more of a social mood. How about mingling with rich merchants and their noble families, decorated military leaders, and dignitaries and consuls at a palace by the Shanghai harbor?
If you find yourself suffocating or intimidated by the extravagant dress and arrogant behavior of the British, French, and Americans who are well-off and well connected, simply walk down a short way and enter one of the less formal establishments; where the conversation, alcohol, and women are much easier to come by.
When you wake up the following morning, if your hangover allows it, take a trip to inland China on the Whangpoo River and tour a medieval landscape of ancient, walled towns and primitive farmers and their huts along the waterway. You might as well get bullied by a petty king of the rebels. Don't worry, he'll let you go if you pay him an extortion fee of a small fortune. By now, you should have had a full day and be ready for your bunk in the bowels of a side-paddle river steamer that is assigned to suppress murdering pirates up and down the Yangzte.
Of course, if your blood's hot, and chasing pirates in their own familiar territory just doesn't scratch that itch for adventure, you can always join that mercenary, bull-headed American opportunist Fletcher Wood. This will give you the official Chinese seal of approval to jump right into the bloodiest civil war in history. You can shoot and kill, or get shot and killed. And if you need more risk, just to add spice, just remember it is poosible that you can go to jail for all this fun if the British or American powers-that-be decide you are violating their politics.
Anyone that likes historical novels with a little action, or action novels with a little history, should definitely try Lande on for size. The first chapters are a little awkward for me, because I know very little of China's history. However, Lande does a very good job of introducing the 19th century culture of the Yangtze Dela to the ignorant (in laymen's terms). It really was a good 101 lesson on some of the customs and the politcal structure of that ancient nation.
If you like Shogun, you'll like this novel. If you like Master and Commander, or similar maritime tales, you'll like this book. My only surprise is that we don't see it on the New York Times' bestseller list. I'm serious.
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