The Middle Kingdom by David Wingrove is the third book out of twenty in the Chung Kuo series. If political intrigue and betrayal set in a futuristic world where the Chinese people rule the entire Earth, then look no further than the Chung Kuo series! Yes you read right. This is only the third book out of a whopping twenty. Originally, the author finished the series with just eight books. This recast series was written according to how the author first saw fit to tell his story with no constraints such as being forced to cut things short due to publisher demands. I’ve read the first two books and I’m glad to say that although it adds much more depth to the entire story overall, it is absolutely not mandatory that you read those beforehand. In the original series, The Middle Kingdom was actually the first book and so in the recast series, the first two books can actually be considered prequels. Whatever the case may be for you, this is not a series that you’ll want to pass over.
Set in the futuristic world, the Chung Kuo series depicts the Chinese people ruling over the entire Earth and its population. If you really want to read about how this came about, then I highly urge you to first read The Son of Heaven and Daylight on Iron Mountain before embarking your journey here. Again, although that is not mandatory, you’ll definitely get a much better experience if you do. Certain sections of the book here mention of the tyrant Tsao Chun. He is a very important figure in the Chung Kuo series and so if you want to know how it is he came to bring the entire world and its population to its knees, then go ahead and read the prequels. With The Middle Kingdom, the timeline has been forwarded ahead many, many years from the prequels and it is here that you will realize that the author will slowly pull you in to his world and resistance is definitely futile!
What makes things more interesting is that the Chinese people (the Han’s) of Chung Kuo also live alongside the Europeans (the Hung Mao’s). Tensions often run high and it is the job of the T’ang to maintain order. However, with billions of billions of people within Chung Kuo itself which can be considered a massive pagoda stretching miles and miles across the earth with many different “levels”, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do just that. Change is something that the rulers of Chung Kuo is trying to hold back and suppress. But with certain powerful men at the forefront, it seems as if change is just what they will get.
With such a series, you would expect characters galore and well, that is exactly what you get! The story is told through a bunch of characters ranging from assassins, scientists, princes, generals, soldiers and to one of the rulers of Chung Kuo himself. Each character is very interesting in of itself and lends to the identity of the overall story very well. In a story of this magnitude, there are bound to be conflicts from many different sides and factions. Sometimes the author makes it difficult to tell who is right or wrong. Are the Hung Mao people so wrong for pushing for a change? They didn’t specifically ask to be in Chung Kuo. They had no other choice. But at the same time, how many sacrifices are necessary to get what they want? Characters range from the loyal to the disloyal and everything else in between.
The Middle Kingdom is not a book with many action sequences save for some towards the end. I can’t say the same for future books in the serious obviously but The Middle Kingdom seems more on the side of world building and fleshing out the necessary characters that will play a much more vital role in the future. When others have compared the Chung Kuo series to George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, I can immediately see why. The Chung Kuo series is just massive no matter how you cut it. Spanning 20 books, I honestly can’t see what the author has in store for us but I’m definitely all in for this one!