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on 11 November 2011
Readers should be aware that the 2 previous reviews are for The Middle Kingdom, not Daylight On Iron Mountain. This book, DOIM, is the 2nd prequel volume to the original Chung Kuo epic, the 1st being Son of Heaven. David Wingrove has heavily revised the multi-threaded Chung Kuo story and each of the original 8 books will be published as two, making 16 from the original series plus the 2 prequels and 2 expansions/sequels, totalling 20 books in all. Yet for some reason, Amazon has decided to append 10-year old reviews onto the entry for the wrong book.

So, to the book itself. After the elegy for a lost world that was the overarching theme of book 1, Son of Heaven, DOIM shows us much more of the ruthless Han empire and its sociopathic leader, Tsao Chun. Wingrove's strengths are many, from the detail of character to the grand sweep of nations locked in struggle, all depicted through a dramatic unfolding that does not let go. Highly recommended, especially in light of current global events.
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David Wingrove wrote the Chung Kuo series of eight science-fiction novels in the late eighties/nineties. Now he is apparently rewriting them, and has added two prequels, published in 2011, Son of Heaven and now Daylight on Iron Mountain.
These prequels sit very firmly within the "future history" sub-genre. Son of Heaven was a drama in three acts, dealing with the aftermath of a digital apocalypse, the catastrophe itself, and finally the triumph of its Chinese initiators.

This second novel picks up where its predecessors left off and is split more or less equally between the now dominant Pei Ching - based elite, and the lives of the main protagonists of the earlier novel Jake Reed and his family and friends.
As the book opens, the ruling despot T'sao Chun is faced with rebellion in the Middle East as he prepares his final assault on a divided America, lead by honourable poet-general Jiang Li and Caucasian adviser and computer genius Amos Shepherd.
The book covers a 20 year period. On a micro level Jake firstly sees an opportunity to regain a former life and then, bizarrely and possibly uniquely in a science fiction novel, gets involved in a dispute about his pension rights. On a macro level the book deals firstly with the final, brutal triumph of Tsao Chun, and then with conflict between him and his closest allies.

On a plus side, this is a close to being character driven as any science fiction. Jake and his family are real, believable people, with credible human reactions to the extraordinary world around them. Also, where the third act of the first novel was its weakest part, here as the war between Tsao Chun and his advisers reaches its height, it is the most thrilling. Finally, as with much great science fiction, this deals with contemporary issues. Pension rights is a rather bizarre one, but more interestingly, Wingrove looks at the role and fate of a tyrant, with T'sao Chun seen as a necessary means to an end but who runs the very real risk of becoming a Sadam/Gadaffi like figure. Also interesting and very relevant is the role of capitalism in an autocratic Chinese society.

On the downside, the scope of the novel is just too wide, and many story lines are either left to peter out or are left inadequately explored. To be cruel, the plot of the novel is all over the place, a bit of a mess. The conflict in the Middle East, Jakes attempts to rebuild his former life, his son Peter's career, Jiang Li's conquest of America, are just some of the themes which feel inadequately explored.

At the end of the day, this is intelligent science fiction, and as such is worthwhile, but it does have the feel of being a transitory novel within a series, rather than being a coherent standalone work. It is a reasonable sequel to Son of Heaven. Whether its position in the ultimate rewritten series atones for its faults remains to be seen.
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on 27 August 2014
(some spoilers ahead)

The first book had an interesting premise and set my expectation high. It is an universe of world shattering events... only for the big events to be skipped over and for the story to focus on (comparably) boring events and characters. The main character (Jake) lives through the apocalypse, being on the arch-enemy's special kill list, is now the only web-dancer left in the world... and he is fighting for his pension? That's the best this "hero" can do? That's the depth of his impact on the world? Why should I as a reader care?

The american campaign... my copy of the book must be missing hundreds of pages, since we have the marshal planning for the invasion ... I wake up twenty years later and Jake is fighting for his pension. and his son works for WHAAAAT?!?! I don't care about old senile Jack. What happened to the American Empire? How was it conquered? What was the state of the society/culture/technology over there? If it had regressed technologically, how could they resist to the level that European mercenaries (?!?!?!) had to help out the Han empire?? If it survived technologically, how were they able to conquer it? It certainly wouldn't be unprepared this time.
Would European mercenaries be willing to help their own conqueror to conquer America?

I like the premise of the first book (that of an social struggle in face of engineered economical and technological collapse). It promised to explore difficult themes. However, the interesting struggles were brushed aside by shallow and unsatisfactory explanations and the story focused on lesser plots and themes. Plots on the level of an average tv episode.
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on 18 November 2011
I really enjoyed Wingrove's first book Son of Heaven (Chung Kuo) and have eagerly awaited the next instalment in what is set to be a 20 book series.

Unlike the previous book, where the world was seen mainly through the eyes of Jake Reed and the Han general Jiang Lee, the story becomes far more multi-threaded as we get an insight into the power emanating from the "world leader" and so-called Son of Heaven Tsao Ch'un and his Seven Dragons, the administrators of his will in his sovereignty over the whole planet (and Mars too). We do catchup with Jake and Jiang Lee, and also find out about how their families have fared as life has changed from the old world to the new.

The world is now corrupt and divisive, with few standing up for the laws of the new world as greed and power have become central currencies. Whilst the story is multi-threaded, following the many lives in the new world of Chung Kuo, this theme is central to the premise of the book. And as each story comes together, we see views polarised as to who if fighting to maintain the status quo, and who is fighting to overturn it.

The dream of a utopian world ruled by the Han is on a knife edge...

Wingrove moves between characters and scenes quickly as he brings the threads together. Occasionally I got lost as to who was who as there are a number of characters to keep track of, and often the author will cut in from one thread to another with little introduction. Consult the appendices if you get really lost, but diligent and careful reading will reward you with a rich story of politics, intrigue, revenge, power, greed and corruption - as well as offering hope that not everyone is out for themselves.

Loved it. Couldn't put it down and can't wait for book three...
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on 14 January 2015
The strain implicit in the ChungKuo foundation already starts to bubble up.
And the first turnpoint is slowly approached, the change from tyranny to oligarchy... although it is one of those "necessary changes of all in order not to change anything", as in Tomasi's novel "The Leopard".
Can't wait to read a completely rewritten "Marriage of the Living Dark" conclusion of the series, in two volumes as originally conceived by the author, and with proper plot.
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VINE VOICEon 13 February 2014
Poor in that what was an world spanning story just became a political infighting story tied up for example in a fight for a pension?
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on 27 February 2012
I read the first book and had to read the second. I haven't quite finished the second yet but so far it is just as gripping as the first. When you think of the amount of consumer goods we now buy which come from China, and the fact that China is becoming more and more able to provide us with everything we want, we would do well to take note of its progress. This book is an astounding account of how things could be, and the chilling thing about it is, that China sneaked up on the rest of the world, whilst we were busy ignoring them. However, you do have to be on your toes to make sure you don't miss anything, or lose track of who's who. It's a great read, a great story, and I'm really glad I found it. I can't wait to read the rest of these books, which hopefully will be available soon.
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on 13 June 2016
This author has it. Great story line. Realistic Characters. Have purchased the next two books in the series. Recommend this.
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on 14 March 2015
Thoroughly enjoyed the rewriting of this book - brings the story into modern day - looking forward to the rest
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on 8 November 2014
Really enjoy this. Makes you look at how other people live there lives and how cultures are so different. .
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