Top critical review
A bit dated
on 28 January 2013
Competent writing and some interesting ideas, but virtually 'Golden Age' in racial and sexual politics. Perhaps would not bother some people, but threw me 'out of the story' multiple times. As a historian, I'm used to reading things according to their time of origin, and this has some interest as an earlyish and ambitious e.g. of the non-western-future concept. But a culture war in which freedom-loving neoliberal white guys battle and/or collaborate with socially ultra-conservative inscrutable 'orientals' - in a world where women are mothers, sex slaves, amazons or secretaries (who mainly get to die and/or be raped), and sons by prostitutes transcend their base origins by the sheer power of European genetics - is not my kink. No doubt there are 'strong female characters' somewhere in this massive series, certainly the Han characters are not individually caricatures, and appear on both sides of the culture war, but I had to put this book down too often to care.
Having previously read another volume of this series at the time of original publication, I was persuaded by blurbs that the series had been 'updated' for this re-issue, and expected this sort of thing to be made at least somewhat self-aware. The fact that it isn't also highlights the degree of handwaving about the practical side of extreme population pressure, which itself dates the book. Non-western-dominated futures and the impacts of exponential population growth were far-future ideas 20+ years ago, but that's no longer so. In a world where these are current factors, this book just doesn't stand up against the likes of 'The Wind-up Girl'. In short, fair play to those who don't mind these kinds of tropes, but if fridging and cultural determinism bother you, not recommended.