China Mountain ZhangJanuary 7, 2014
The theme is interesting, a post-Sinification world, following American-type-Mao-Zedong-lead cultural revolution, The Great Cleansing Wind, which made (well) America becomes China. It is a bit far-fetch, off course, considering that the Mao type communism has lost its steam long time ago, replaced by Chinese type capitalism, ignited by Deng Xiaoping, with his own type of glasnost and perestroika, which is called Gaige Kaifang, many years ahead of Gorbachev. If this world is sinified after all in the end , it will become a Chinese type capitalist instead of a Mao type communist (which will make a much more interesting sci-fi, I think). But, still it is an interesting alternate history.
The main character is (surprisingly) China Mountain Zhang, which is read in Chinese, Zhang Zhong Shan (Zhong = middle, or China because China is the middle kingdom, sounds like Middle Earth, right?🙂 , Shan = mountain). He is gay, which makes his life increasingly difficult in a family oriented communist culture. He is also an ABC (American Born Chinese), which make him a second class citizen (to be a first class you should be a Chinese born in China). I truly like the term created by the author. ABC does ring a bell like WASP. The conversation is also very natural, by insertion of Chinese short phrase here and there. I can enjoy those Chinese insertion thanks to my rudimentary understanding of Chinese. It serves the novel well.
The novel is not told in a exactly linear plot, it is jumping from one character to another without a exact link provided (yes, there are still some hints of connection). I myself am not bothered by this way of story telling. If used properly, it can be quite powerful.
I felt that this novel is not coherent. In one part it wants to tell the story about a post-communist world, in the other part it wants to tell the characters living in this world. I find both part unsatisfying. The character is deep, but not deep enough, the world building is OK, but not that OK. For a sci-fi novel, I expect the world building to be more than just OK. It would be better if the book just focuses in one side (I prefer the world building).
Overall, still a very good novel, but can be much better. 4 star it is. Closer to 3.75 actually.