Son of Heaven by David Wingrove

Rating 6.0/10
Solid but not particularly exciting example of post-apocalyptic fiction.

Son of Heaven is the first book in David Wingrove’s new Chung Kuo series, and sets it around 2050 in a world, which has suffered a complete collapse back into a roughly pre-industrial society. This is a reworking of the eight-book Chung Kuo series published between 1989 and 1997, which is now being republished as eighteen shorter novels, with two new prequel novels, of which this is the first.

The action focuses on Jake, who before the Collapse was a ‘dancer’ on the stock market – looking for investment opportunities by being immersed in a virtual world. When the attack comes he escapes London and ends up bringing up his son in a rural village. Twenty years later, airships appear on the horizon. The Chinese are coming.

Overall I think this is a pretty solid but not particularly exciting example of post-apocalyptic fiction. I found the world pre-Collapse interesting, particularly the descriptions of the virtual stock market. I don’t know whether Tron was an influence but that is how I image the immersion of Jake in the datascape. Companies form what I imagined as a terrain of crystalline structures, all different shapes and with different feels and smells depending upon their health. Then the attacks begin and companies are obliterated from the market, leaving putrid devastation. The market then collapses and technology begins to crumble, breaking down the barriers between the privileged city dwellers and those who live outside the walls in slums. After the collapse it’s every man and woman for themselves, and even twenty years later, gangs and groups of refugees still roam England, meaning that communities have to remain on guard.

My problem is though is that I just don’t buy it. Jake is living in a small village community in the English county of Dorset. If the whole world has collapsed into madness, even twenty years later why on earth would an invading force turn up in its airships and start rounding up people in rural south west England? It comes across as though the author loves the place and wanted to get it into a novel, which is the same with the references to Philip K Dick and Jimi Hendrix, which I also wouldn’t be surprised if the author was partial to. Also, a lot of the characters just really get on my nerves. Jake comes across at the beginning as a stereotypical banker, running about in his high-flying job so fair enough, but he talks to his girlfriend / fiancée like she’s about twelve. The entire world is going to pot and he doesn’t want to worry her pretty little head about it. It really wound me up. Also, he escapes and comes across this little Dorset village and they give him some sort of trial before accepting him into the community. There would have been a hell of a lot of refugees running away from the cities, was every person who wandered past given a trial as well? I’m going to leave it there but a mix of implausible situations and reactions from people just made me care very little when the invasion started.

I haven’t read the original series so maybe people who have would get more out of this, but unfortunately this doesn’t make me want to read the next nineteen books.

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