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The Middle Kingdom

(Chung Kuo #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,467 ratings  ·  72 reviews
The Year is 2190. China has once again become aworld unto itself and this time its only boundaryis space . . . The world is City Earth, ruled bythe Seven, China's new kings. Beautiful, controlled,sensual, this high-tech society is rushing towardwar between the forces of West and East, betweenthe rebels who hunger for change and the overlordswho demand stability, between ...more
Paperback, 700 pages
Published September 9th 2004 by Dell (first published 1989)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  1,467 ratings  ·  72 reviews

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Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My first attempt to read a SF series. I was innocent enough not to recognize any trope in fiction stories. It was indeed epic with many POV characters and at first I was overwhelmed. But now I cannot rate this book beyond two star because the story is overlong and I was confused with so many plots.

The background seems oversimplified, from present multi-nations Earth into single middle kingdom of Earth. The pace is slow and it doesn't help whenever the action scenes start, the author switch into
Nick T. Borrelli
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If anyone were to ask me what my favorite science-fiction series of all-time is, David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series would immediately be my answer without hesitation. This series was written in the early 90's and because of an issue with David's publishing company at the time, he was never able to finish it the way he wanted. As a result we have an absolutely tremendous series with a mediocre and rushed to press final book. Since then, David has hooked up with a new outfit and the Chung Kuo ...more
Nov 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.
Booknerd Fraser
May 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
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.
Nov 23, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
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.
Oct 07, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dev Null
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was ok

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
Feb 15, 2008 rated it liked it
If only the other books in the series lived up to the promise of this one....
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
May 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
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 ...more
Anthony Ryan
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves an EPIC!
Shelves: books-are-heaven
I read this a few years back and ordered it through Alibris last good as ever. This is a world encompassing epic adventure that is only getting started in book one. A world grown corrupt and creaking is threatened by seeming nihlistic hot heads who really do plan to tear the whole thing down. But are they really as nihlistic as we think? Is the old order all that bad with its safety and security? This dude can really pull you into a world as alien as if it were another planet.
Andre Chiasson
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
This series got missed from my import of books and that is a sad oversight. A great series of 8 books. Set in the future where China rules the world which has been transformed into a huge series of cities. The actual Earth is buried under these cities. Lots of intrigue, politics, violence, science, sex.... Great stories. I read the whole series in the early 90s and again when I retired as ebooks.
Thiago Marzagão
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Perfect plot, pacing, world building, character development.
Ian Prest
Mar 31, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
I only got to 33%.

I didn't get to the really misogynistic parts that everyone else complains about, but this book had already committed the gravest sin---it was *boring*.
Sam Reader
Dec 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing

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
This review is for the entire series, not just the first volume. I barely remember this series; it has been twenty-three years since I read it. I remember the basic premise, and that it was one of the more disturbing 'dystopian future' novels I had read. I probably have not read anything else in that particular vein since- I have always had a vivid imagination (and the last nineteen years of the cold war were also the first nineteen years of my life), hence I do not need any help to imagine a ...more
Paul Womack
Mar 19, 2019 rated it did not like it
This reads like an attempt at writing a book by a precocious but immature 17 year old boy, in his mom's basement.

The superficial amount of detail and information, the number of characters is sort of impressive, but there's no plausible depth to the world - literally billions of people are occasionally alluded to, but mainly ignored. a bit like a badly written"Quest" fantasy book where the path taken is the only thing that really seems to exist.

It's all about the leaders, who are all male, and
Jan 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
This started off really interesting; the idea of the Chinese culture taking over the world, then essentially building a world on top of Earth was cool. Having a group of essentially Emperors, one per continent, working as a council of rulers was neat, and then having the status quo challenged was in-depth and neat.

I got over halfway through the book when I got to a point where there was a rape/torture scene that was so vile, and so unnecessary, that I just stopped. It was disgusting, and wrong,
Michael Bernstein
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Started reading this series as it first appeared and ended up reading the first 6 to 7 books, 2 different times. Years apart. So many weak minded people commenting. A shame you can't open your minds and keep going. Nothing is flat. I lived these books as I read them. That's how masterful the author was at creating characters and keeping them going.
Alex Prestia
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
If you're looking for a Chinese epic, I would recommend Three Kingdoms. If you're looking for a sci-fi classic, I would recommend Dune. If you're looking for a mix of the two, I would recommend The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. But I'm struggling to find a situation when I would recommend this book.
Rob Markley
Sep 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: scifi
This is a powerful and dangerous series and in many ways it has brilliance about it. However the sadistic rape of the plantation woman by DeVore was one of the most horrible things I have ever encountered in literature and frankly it went too far
Randy French
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read ages now
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
Apr 20, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Samuel Settle
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ultraglib Summary: Dune, but set on Earth and everyone's Chinese. Awesome.

Serious Review: This is an extremely well-written, intricately plotted and morally complex novel. The premise is a bit hard to swallow, but ultimately engaging: China embraced Ming-dynasty-esque Confucianism and conquered a weakened West sometime in the 21st century. A few hundred years later, humanity numbers 34 billion almost all of whom live in a vast world-spanning arcology: City Earth.

Other reviewers have noted that
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. SF series with a Japanese-Samurai theme [s] 6 48 Jul 20, 2015 05:17AM  

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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

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)