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Ice and Fire: Chung Kuo Series Paperback – 1 Dec 2012
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"One of the masterpieces of the decade." "--Washington Post"
"The achievement of a master world-builder." " --Omni"
"Wingrove has a way of creating rich characters with just a few deft strokes of his pen, each of the major players coming across as reassuringly solid with an air of realism." --SF Book Reviews
"Imagine a collaboration between James Clavell and Frank Herbert and the result might be something very much like Chung Kuo . . . smart, involving, entertaining." --San Francisco Chronicle
"One of the masterpieces of the decade." --Washington Post
"The achievement of a master world-builder." --Omni
A masterpiece of world-building to match George R R Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, David Wingrove's extraordinary and ambitious 20-volume Chung Kuo series is a dark glimpse into mankind's destiny.
'Awesome. Chung Kuo carries the hallmark of legend' SFXSee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
Ice and Fire is the fourth volume in the 'new' version of the Chung Kuo series, picking up shortly after the events of The Middle Kingdom. As well as being a continuation of that novel (understandably, as Ice and Fire was originally published in 1988 as part of the original Middle Kingdom), it also contains a number of self-contained character and story arcs standing against the epic events unfolding from previously.
If Ice and Fire does have a self-contained theme, it's the hope of the young to bring a brighter future than what their elders have achieved, only for that hope to be eroded by cynicism and, in some cases, cruelty. The novel focuses on characters such as Li Yuan, the heir of one of the T'angs, who hopes to be an intelligent and fair ruler but is distracted by his love for his murdered brother's widow. Ben Shepherd is a highly intelligent, gifted artist who is also ruthlessly intelligent and able to see what others cannot. Kim Ward is a young boy from the Clay, the darkest, lowest levels of the world city, who has shown an aptitude for science and engineering. However, Kim has also discovered the Aristotle File, a document which exposes the lie that Chung Kuo is built upon.
Wingrove manages the character development of these individuals with surprising effectiveness, given the slimness of the volume (under 300 pages) and the large number of storylines that are in motion. There are also complex political machinations between the Seven and the House, whilst Howard DeVore (the series' main antagonist) is manipulating both sides to his own ends. It's a busy novel, somewhat less relaxed than its immediate predecessor, and is a fast-paced read.
The book suffers from two distinct weaknesses. The first is a result of Corvus, a small (-ish) publisher, picking up the series. Rather than publishing the series as ten 600-800-page novels (still a lot shorter than the individual volumes of many epic fantasy series) over three years, they have chosen to publish it as twenty 300-400 page ones over six. This has its benefits (each book is a concise and fast read), but it also risks frustration as each book stops just as it is getting going. There are also cost issues (buying twenty hardcovers, paperbacks or ebooks is simply more expensive than buying ten, whichever way you cut it). Ice and Fire is the first book in the series where it feels like this is a bit more of an issue, and it may well become more of one as the series continues to progress.
The other is a notable rise in the amount of sex and violence in the book, including a torture sequence which recalls the more gratuitous excesses of Terry Goodkind (fortunately this torture sequence only lasts five pages, not the forty plus of a Goodkind novel). The sudden increase in such scenes feels a bit jarring after the first three books, which certainly were not for children but did not contain as many scenes. Probably not an issue for some readers, but definitely an element of concern (and, based, on how the original series unfolded, something that might become more notable in later volumes).
Ice and Fire (****) is a well-written, fast-paced and page-turning read. It suffers a little from its shortness, with the story cutting off just as it's getting going, but otherwise this is another solid instalment in what is turning out to be an impressive SF epic.
great concepts innovative and exciting and scary on what the future of resource starved world and pollution covered could look like while looking at space and tradition...
interesting characterisation of people's and outlooks, occasionally a bit stereotypical but it works when there are the odd maverick to mix it up a bit.
I started, quite by accident and not knowing about the series, reading book one, Son of Heaven, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Just recently I read book 2, after reading that there is in fact a long series of books. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed book 2, a well written book. Moving on to the original, but re-written books 3 and 4, I began to have doubts and started not to enjoy the series. There were also some inconsistencies in the books, which go against the rules of the universe that the author has dictated, which really put me off.
For me, book four will be the last book I read. I quickly worked out the price of all 20 books, in the new series, with the additional 500k words (not much if you consider there are 20 books). The price is going to be something like £160! Way too much for this series. I assume the author is just trying to cash in, which is understandable to make a living, but far too expensive, in my opinion, for these books. The same material in 10 books would be more reasonable. I read books 2, 3 and 4 in under a week. Short books for the price.
One thing to note is, books 1 and 2 are very good. I noticed reading books 3 and 4 that the quality of the writing was not as good as the first 2 books, which I assume is down to the author having written the new books 1 and 2 just recently, so had more experience. I found most things to be believable in books 1 and 2, in books 3 and 4 I was frustrated a lot by actions taken by characters which were really quite dumb and not very likely to happen in real life, now or any conceivable future society.
If you do get into this series, expect to pay dearly for all 20 (see below).
Son of Heaven (February 2011)
Daylight on Iron Mountain (November 2011)
The Middle Kingdom (August 2012)
Ice and Fire
The Art of War
An Inch of Ashes
The Broken Wheel
The White Mountain
Monsters of the Deep
The Stone Within
Upon a Wheel of Fire
Beneath the Tree of Heaven
Song of the Bronze Statue
White Moon Red Dragon
China on the Rhine
Days of Bitter Strength
The Father of Lies
Blood and Iron
King of Infinite Space
The Marriage of the Living Dark