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China Mountain Zhang

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  3,881 ratings  ·  446 reviews
With this groundbreaking novel, Maureen F. McHugh established herself as one of the decade's best science fiction writers. In its pages, we enter a post-revolution America, moving from the hyper-urbanized eastern seaboard to the Arctic bleakness of Baffin Island; from the new Imperial City to an agricultural commune on Mars. The overlapping lives of cyber-kite fliers, lone ...more
Paperback, 321 pages
Published April 15th 1997 by Orb Books (first published March 1992)
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Tasula 5 POVs- title character China Mountain Zhang/Rafael, flier Angel, Alexi Dormov, Martine, San-xiang. About half the book is Zhang's POV. I thought the …more5 POVs- title character China Mountain Zhang/Rafael, flier Angel, Alexi Dormov, Martine, San-xiang. About half the book is Zhang's POV. I thought the Angel and San-xiang characters and POVs were irrelevant, and I didn't find them very interesting. Martine and Alexi were the most interesting to me, as well as a minor character (Haitao).(less)
J.M. Hushour Sadly no, though according to the novel's Wikipedia page, one of McHugh's short stories, "Protection", takes place in the same fictional universe.…moreSadly no, though according to the novel's Wikipedia page, one of McHugh's short stories, "Protection", takes place in the same fictional universe.(less)

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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: dystopia fans
China Mountain Zhang is an impressive work, well deserving of its Hugo and Nebula nominations and its Tiptree and Lambda awards. Thoughtful, precise writing and Zhang’s fully developed characterization make this a stand-out read, with only overall structure and the subject of one point of view preventing me from awarding a full five stars.

Setting is thoughtfully built; information about society is shared indirectly through character experience. China appears to be the dominant world power after
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is one that's brilliant on multiple levels, but first, you have to manage your expectations. What do I mean?

This came out in 1990 but it resembles the more modern trend of literary SF in that most of the focus is on characterization and social interactions but in my opinion, it is superior to those because McHugh's wild worldbuilding is detailed, pervasive, and devoted to a fundamental conclusion. Or several conclusions. Interesting ones. In this respect, it's more like Samuel Delany's
Manuel Antão
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

“Dao ke dao, fei chang dao” = “The way that can be spoken is not the way” (page 220).

This simple aphorism exemplifies the tone of this novel. Lots of things left unsaid, but at the same time, because of that, conveying lots of meaning.

I’ve just finished this astonishing novel and I’m still trying to deal how it made feel.

One of the things that impressed me the most was McHugh’s refusal to let her secondary characters remain two dimensi
Lit Bug
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it

In the 22nd century, China has replaced America as the world’s dominant political, economic and cultural capital, following a political revolution in America that has displaced its capitalistic economy and brought in an era of socialism.

It is an immensely well-imagined and portrayed account of a plausible future where China takes precedence over the States – the latter becomes akin to a third-world dump following a financial crisis, while China rises in economic importance, and consequentl
The brilliance of China Mountain Zhang lies in the lack of complexity of this well drawn near future world. McHugh delivers on a slice of life journey with some very smart and clever extrapolations on the ordinariness of life. This book is a scifi version of humorless but culturally observant Seinfeld. The mundane becomes fascinating in this novel where nothing much happens.

McHugh puts us on a life journey with "everymen" who are unmistakably human. (view spoiler)
***WARNING*** This is a reading journal rather than a review, so it will be riddled with unmarked spoilers. You have been warned.

China Mountain -- Zhang:- So far, Zhang is nothing like I expected, neither the character nor the book. I expected a cyber-punky action thriller, and it may still become that, but this first chapter offers no signs that a change is going to come. At this point it is a study of two characters: Zhang and San-xiang; the former is our gay half-ABC (American Born Chinese)
Allison Hurd
McHugh told a story in the gaps between her words, about people who live in the gaps. A heartbreaking, compassionate, imaginative story that reminds us that people are people, no matter how far into the future, or from home we get, and that exhorts us to remember that unity is not the same as similarity.

CONTENT WARNING: (view spoiler)

Things to love:

A lovely, subtle, humane, intelligent, sensitively detailed novel about the interior lives of a diverse and deeply interesting cast of characters. There were moments of incredible pathos and humanity, and a wonderful sense of self-discovery that flowed through the narrative. In its best moments, it deeply moved me.
Aug 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: scifi fans
I feel pretty confident in saying that this is the best book you've never read. I had the joy of discovering this book when it first came out, almost a decade and a half later, I still feel it is one of the best SF novels I've ever read. The novel is made up of several stories loosely intertwined.

McHugh draws upon her experiences living in China to craft future in which China has become the dominant power, and America has been reduced to a third-world country controlled by China. Chinese-born Ch
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi-club-read
These are the slices of "normal" life that I like. Usually when I read non sci-fi literature relating to the human condition and pieces of everyday life, is either too much like what I see all the time and I am bored or I can't actually relate at all. For some reason the blend with clearly fantastical backdrops give me enough interest or wonder to keep me engaged.

China Mountain Zhang is really just a glimpse of an everyday life, someone who is trying to figure out where he fits in the world, alo
Alexis Hall
I have complicated feelings about this book. It’s something I’ve meaning to read for a while so, um, thank you pandemic? And while I was reading it, I was pretty enamoured of it—that kind of disconnected-but-maybe-connected-oh-how-does-it-fit-together-what-does-it-mean structure really really tickles my pickles. I was disproportionately into Cloud Atlas for the same reasons, although that is much more aggressively constructed than this – since the chapters not directly following the protagonist ...more
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The GR-default cover (red & black, vibe of a pyramid) is much better than the mm pb I read (military vibe). This is not an adventure, much less a military one. It is world-building, it is philosophy, it is character development and interaction. How does one young man, a gay "half-breed," stumble up from being an ordinary construction worker to being a professor of organic engineering? From being uncomfortable with his identity to realizing that he can bring beauty and joy to the worlds?

I do reco
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, sci-fi
Loved it, I think I’m even going to have put this in my top-10 list of favourite sci-fi novels. I can’t believe this was written almost 30 years ago. It felt so current and eerily plausible in many ways. In essence, it’s a book about ordinary people just trying to get by in a tightly regimented socialist society. It describes an 'alternative future' in which the world is dominated by communist China, after the USA has undergone a proletarian revolution. Parts of the USA have become inhabitable f ...more
Mar 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sciencefiction
This book is one of those that sneak into your high regard. It's not flashy or sensational, it's just very real. The author has the knack of writing characters you care about. All the various subplots weave together, touching at points. You find that you care deeply about what happens to each of them, and the story of their struggles, their loves, and their accomplishments makes really good reading. The world is extremely well-built and realistic. I totally do think China will be the world's mai ...more
if the plot had been half as interesting as the characters were, or the world they inhabit is, this book would have been fantastic. as it is, only so-so.

basic concept summary: china has come out on top of the political/ideological dogpile, so the world is a (mostly) socialist sino-centric place. the good schools, the quality jobs, the big money, and all the envy & prestige are gazing toward china. enter zhang, who's chinese/hispanic - his parents had him gene spliced as a kiddo to look purely as
Scott  Hitchcock
Mar 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf, dystopian, sci-fi
DNF after 75 pages.

There was zero action and the interactions between the characters had a trite YA quality to them. I put the book down for a couple of days, after 45 pages, to see if a change in mood would help but it didn't. I was engaged in a few other reads and wanted to get back to those.
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I find it challenging to pinpoint exactly why this book is so remarkable, especially because the plot is not its strength, and I find that's what most people are looking for in a book (I see that many of the lukewarm reviews point to this). Part of my admiration is for the richness of the language. For a 300 pager, the language was dense enough to make me feel I was reading something epic (i.e. longer), and I found myself slowing down to savor every bit. There's no padding . . . every single wor ...more
When I was reading China Mountain Zhang, I was enthralled by the authenticity of the characters, the believability of their words and actions, and the credibility of the future that McHugh envisions. It was thoughtfully and elegantly written. I truly felt for, and felt with, the characters. I didn't have to suspend disbelief as the storyline was so plausible. It was easy to read. Not "easy" like Shoots and Ladders is easy to play, but easy in the way a beautiful painting (or a beautiful woman) i ...more
Sandi (Zorena)
Sep 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure what I expected from this book but considering all its awards and nominations I was hoping it was legitimately good. I got what I hoped for. While I love space opera and action styled science fiction, I also love a good character driven story. This falls into the latter category.

I gravitate towards the more specific genres of science fiction such as dystopian, post apoc and cyber punk because they are topics that I've put some thought into. So has McHugh. A Chinese dominated dystopi
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I quite enjoyed the mellow yet vivid scope of the plot. For a novel where not a whole lot happens, I couldn't put the book down whenever I picked it up. The world feels lived in, and the characters were relatably flawed, despite the massively different alternate history/geopolitical makeup of the world. It did feel like it ended rather abruptly,but for the life of me, I cannot imagine a better ending. ...more
Nick Imrie
A simple way to get to know about a town is to see how the people work, how they love and how they die – Albert Camus

China Mountain Zhang is the perfect protagonist for this subtle, under-stated book. Unambitious and introverted, Zhang is trying not to draw attention to himself, but his attempts to just get by end up with him posted to an Arctic scientific station, studying daoist engineering in Wuxi, tutoring Martian colonists and eventually coming back home to Brooklyn. Through the eyes of Chi
Jamie Collins
This is an elegant science fiction novel, set in a future where China has become the dominant world power. The cover blurb tries to impress you with the futuristic setting, but this is a strongly character-driven story, and only loosely plotted. It’s almost a series of related stories rather than one coherent novel. I found it a mesmerizing read.

Most of the book is about a young New Yorker named Zhang trying to make his way in this wonderfully realized future world. His career path is rocky beca
Aug 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
In which the titular character is a gay American man of Chinese descent living in a future post-collapse/revolution US that has become a state-capitalist satellite of the hegemonic People's Republic of China, starting off as a construction foreman and ending up as a kind of super-architect. I just spoiled the entire plot of this book for you, but if you're a plot-centric person this won't appeal to you anyway. This is getting a little too close to the dreaded bildungsroman for my taste, but McHu ...more
Daniel Roy
I always feel guilty when I quit a book halfway through, and I don't think I've ever felt guiltier than with this novel. Everything about it sounds like I would absolutely love it. But yet as I made my way through the pages, I found myself dreading my reading sessions more and more, until I just decided it was time to move on.

That's not to say I don't recognize the book's strengths, and there are many. The idea of a futuristic world where China has taken over the United States is brilliant, and
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
For me the great strength of this novel is the creation of the characters, especially the main character. It didn't give me the feeling of a construction with a certain target audience in mind, which I get with so many books. Flawed and not politically correct Zhang was such a real character, utterly believable and I could connect so deeply with his emotional state. His POV chapters I thoroughly enjoyed. Especially Baffin Island and Ghost were oustanding.

Another plus for me was the structure of
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
At first, I felt that this was rather aimless, and that I didn't like Zhang very much. Over time, yeah, this book never really solidified much of a plot, but regardless I was hooked. It was less of the queer sci-fi adventure that I was hoping for, and more of a general exploration of queer life on an alternate earth that just so happened to be mildly futuristic, but I really came around to it. Zhang grew on me - his aimlessness and general insecurity felt very familiar, and the ending felt real. ...more
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
I didn't quite know what to expect with this book, but I really liked it. (view spoiler)
The book turns dark and heavy in some places and with some things I wonder if they couldn't have been done di
Dawn C
I didn’t know what to expect but I was blown completely leftfield. Set in the 22nd century where Communist China now sets the political and social agenda, we follow the slightly unsympathetic titular character Zhang Zhong Shan through a series of interconnected events involving him and the people whose lives he somehow touches. This is a science fiction story that avoids all the usual tropes and instead gives the reader a microcosm of a personal journey. The writing is minimalistic and our view ...more
Alex Bright
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars

Don't even know where to start with a review.
Oleksandr Zholud
Dec 06, 2018 rated it liked it
This novel was nominated for Nebula award for year 1992. The author describes its genre as anti-SF, meaning that it lacks the usual trope of a protagonist trying to change/affect their world. It can be viewed as a contemporary fiction, just set in the future.

So, what the future brought? Due to some events (briefly outlined closer to the end of the book) the US and China changed their political and technological places: China is a rich (possibly post-scarcity) society with best tech and educatio
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Maureen F. McHugh (born 1959) is a science fiction and fantasy writer.

Her first published story appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 1989. Since then, she has written four novels and over twenty short stories. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang (1992), was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. In 1996 she won a Hugo Award for h

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“In my experience ideology is a lot like religion; it's a belief system and most people cling to it long after it becomes clear that their ideology doesn't describe the real world.” 19 likes
“Like I told you, I’m not interested. I think the party is mostly a means of advancing one’s career anyway.”

“Exactly, and your decision not to join is a political decision.”

“Well, then my political decision is to not be political."

“Exactly, that’s a political statement. You are expressing your opinion about current politics. Except you are political, everything we do is political…”

“It’s a practical decision, not a political one… We don’t have to analyze everyone’s lives for motives.”

“I wasn’t saying it’s wrong… I was just pointing out that your life says something about your politics whether you think about them or not. You can either just let that happen or you can think about the kind of choices you want to make.”

“I’d like to continue to make my choices because they fit my life rather than out of some sense of ideology… In my experience ideology is a lot like religion; it’s a belief system and most people cling to it long after it becomes clear that their ideology doesn’t describe the real world…”

“That’s as pure a description of an applied political theory as any I’ve ever heard.”
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