The Middle Kingdom by Wingrove

Middle-Kingdom_WingroveChung Kuo is complete. The great city now covers the entire planet unifying control into the hands of the Seven. It is a perfect world; Pax China. It is also Hell.

The Middle Kingdom
Chung Kuo 3
David Wingrove
Atlantic Books
May 2013

This new Middle Kingdom is a world of social strata. The richest and most ruthless rise in literal levels in the structure that covers the earth while those who are punished, who are disgraced, who are poor or not considered useful languish near the bottom. For the truly despised there is always the underground. A land of eternal darkness and sludge where mankind has regressed into primal creatures seeking only to survive. No matter where in the levels you live you have no privacy and no control. Only the Seven ruling kings of the earth and to a smaller, but gaining, extent the heads of the top corporations have any true power.

It is in this world of complete control that several businessmen and associates hatch a plan to end Han rule. Through any means necessary. When an assassin decides to blackmail the group loose ends need to be tied up. But in doing so, more of their plan starts to unravel. Changing the world from within, without getting noticed, requires sacrifices. Someone will have to take the fall. And to add to the looming showdown between the existing power structure and those who would push for progression and freedom there is the looming problem of overpopulation and lack of resources that may doom the world regardless of who may rule.

The ruthlessness of the rebels along with the fact that they are top level members of society add a moral ambiguity in this book that didn’t exist as strongly in the prequels. Here we find people who would champion freedom from the prison of the city but for selfish reasons. While the rulers of the world do so with concern for both their positions and also keeping the peace. This ambiguity leaves the reader with choosing to root for a faction that may be the lesser of two (or three) evils from their perspective. This tension adds to the story as we know that there are still seventeen more books in the series.

The prequels, Son of Heaven and Daylight on Iron Mountain, completed, David Wingrove’s original 1989 science fiction masterpiece is reintroduced to modern readers as book 3 of Chung Kuo. It is a testament to the author’s far thinking that this book isn’t dated at all. In fact, it fits right in with modern technological expectations proving again how astute Wingrove was with his writings.

An excellent novel and series that I can’t recommend enough.

Scott Asher is the Managing Editor of He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.