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4.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read, but worth the effort, 26 Jun 2003
Neal C. Reynolds (Indianapolis, Indiana) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The City Trilogy: "Five Jade Disks", "Defenders of the Dragon City", "Tale of a Feather" (Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan) (Hardcover)
While the translator's forward might lead us to expect this to bear heavy influences of Asimov, Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clark, these three short novels are unmistakably Chinese. The cultural and historical backgrounds along with snatches of Taoism and a self-mocking attitude lend a quirkiness we of the Western hemisphere are not used to. One may well need to have read through the entire story told in the three tales before understanding many of the points of the narrative.
The city here is Sunlon City. We're told in an early footnote that the name is generally considered merely joining sun (the Hui-Hui's planet has a purple one) with "lon" from Babylon. However, as the footnote also tells us, Sun also means man and lon eat, thus Sunlon City can also be interpreted as "man-eating city".
In the prologue, we're told about the huge bronze statue that long predominated the city square, a statue that appeared to grow larger and more formidable with time, but which is ultimately destroyed. Yet many believe that the spirit of the statue persists, and such belief is encouraged by the Bronze Statue Cult.
The Hui-Huis share the planet with other races, especially the Serpent People, the Leopard People, and the lesser mentioned Feathered People. In addition, the city itself has several conflicting societies. All these are ruled by the Shan, invaders from another planet.
Miss Qi is a central figure as the city prepares for revolution. Through the three stories, we see the city torn by strife and the rise of a dictator. There are many battles and the question arises as to who is the true enemy of Sunlon City.
The story here obviously is allegorical, quite applicable to our times. But again, be prepared for Oriental thinking which is indeed not what most of us are used to. The various races may well seem outlandish, especially the chus whose faces are on the top of their heads. And there's a continual strange humor, one which often does appear to be self-mocking.
This book is well worth reading, but I didn't tell you it would be easy. (and it isn't)
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and quite gripping read, 10 Oct 2003
Kurt A. Johnson (Marseilles, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The City Trilogy: "Five Jade Disks", "Defenders of the Dragon City", "Tale of a Feather" (Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan) (Hardcover)
Through millennia of cultural advancement, the Huhui people built one of the greatest of intergalactic empires, but when their power grows to an extreme, the Huhui are overthrown and their home-world is occupied. After many years of suffering under the yoke of foreign occupation, the time has come for the Huhui to overthrow the hated Shan and regain their freedom. But, defeating the Shan is only the first step, and in the chaos that follows liberation, there arises one who would be dictator.
The author of this wonderful book (really three books combined into one) is Chang Hsi-kuo, a Taiwanese scientist and author of realistic Chinese literature. Mr. Chang began to write science fiction, as it gave him more scope in exploring issues that could not be addressed in realistic fiction. This trilogy is rightly considered Mr. Chang's greatest work.
If you are familiar with traditional Chinese literature, this book will resonate with you. If you are familiar with modern, Western science fiction, this book will treat you to a world that is alien, with a fascinating culture and history. If you are familiar with Chinese history, you will quite quickly grasp the story being retold, and reanalyzed. Overall, I found this to be a fascinating and quite gripping read. I highly recommend this book to you!
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