When China Comes

Spoiler Alert – The section contains details about Part 3 of Son of Heaven.

Some brief thoughts on Part 3, after the break…

The final part of Son of Heaven is over, sadly, and the wait for more Chung Kuo starts again. In this section, the distant whiteness of the City looms on the horizon, and our friendly Purbeck gang is in line to get sorted into residents or rejects for the new constructed society. Meanwhile, Jake’s web-dancing past is revealed, which, instead of being a death sentence, is his saving grace as he finds an ally among the new regime.

And it begins…

This section gives us a taste of the Chinese culture that underlies the series proper, not the least of which is the constant need to “save face,” or maintain outward dignity, as well as putting on a respectful show for one’s superiors while silently cursing them. Jiang Li’s character is a glimpse of things to come: things aren’t black and white; with few exceptions, characters aren’t good or evil — they’re human and dynamic. This is definitely one of my favorite things about this series. Presumably, the next novel will take place wholly or partly in the world of levels, the city of ice. I’m also very curious how Tsao Ch’un’s fall will go down (we all know that’s around the corner, right?), especially as it pertains to the Thousand Eyes’ role. Also will Jake and/or his family have a place in the new world?

While reading this section, I can’t help but be reminded of the Holocaust and the oft-discussed ethical dilemma of blame and responsibility during atrocities. Is one to blame if he or she is merely following the orders of others under threat of harm, or does he share the blame equally? The Milgram experiment also comes to mind. Jiang Li personifies this dilemma — he justifies it to himself by saying he’s carrying out the job with more compassion that another might.

Son of Heaven has been a great doorway back into the Chung Kuo universe. Mr. Wingrove hasn’t lost his touch between Myst: The Book of D’ni (his last published work) and SoH.  Book 2, Daylight on Iron Mountain, is due in the fall of this year. That doesn’t mean this site will remain unattended… I still have a few things to add to The Vault and I’ll have a few more things up my sleeve.

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