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China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh

China Mountain Zhang (original 1992; edition 1997)

by Maureen F. McHugh

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962328,994 (4.04)57
Title:China Mountain Zhang
Authors:Maureen F. McHugh
Info:Orb Books (1997), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 324 pages
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China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh (1992)


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This novel is phenomenal. McHugh has crafted an incredibly convincing future - China has become the leading power, resulting in social and cultural dynamics that work in interesting ways - and uses this to tell a very human story. It mostly follows Zhang, a gay ABC (American-Born Chinese) man with a Hispanic mother. His identity alone makes him a target for discrimination - ABCs are seen as lesser than domestic Chinese people (when in China for school, he has to sit in a certain area of the public transport) - and he must be careful to hide his orientation from most, because being gay is punishable by death. The main plot of this book is no epic space opera conflict or dystopian conquest - it is instead about Zhang and a few peripheral characters trying to make their way in the world - taking Zhang from his New York City home in now socialist America to a research base in the Arctic to China and back again. What stood out to me the most about this novel was the excellent character development. McHugh writes these characters so convincingly that it didn't take long for me to deeply care about them and their lives. Interactions between Zhang and those he meets, from colleagues to friends to lovers, are written excellently and feel organic and emotional. The society Zhang must navigate is interesting and fresh - while a socialist state controlled by China, this future America is flawed, yet technologically advanced. People are able to "jack in" to devices, allowing for a type of augmented reality that feels feasible and real. I didn't know what to expect going into this novel - and what I got was something moving and beautiful. ( )
  jameschatham | Apr 6, 2017 |

#89 – 2013#

“Dao ke dao, fei chang dao” = “The way that can be spoken is not the way” (page 220).

This simple aphorism exemplifies the tone of this novel. Lots of things left unsaid, but at the same time, because of that, conveying lots of meaning.

I’ve just finished this astonishing novel and I’m still trying to deal how it made feel.

One of the things that impressed me the most was McHugh’s refusal to let her secondary characters remain two dimensional pictures in the novel. It included several parallel stories apart from Zhang’s story, each one of them quite above average writing-wise.

China Mountain Zhang is a quiet, and beautiful novel. Although it’s not about heroes, it tells stories of ordinary, everyday fortitude, the kind we need to get out of bed and live our lives. McHugh impregnates each of Zhang’s decisions and actions with significance, reminding us of the momentousness of day-to-day life.

China Mountain Zhang is a clear example of speculative fiction (SF) that particularly interests me. It’s one of the few types of SF I have much interest in reading these days, ie, the story of ordinary people doing ordinary things in an imagined world.

My love for it was due to the fact that most SF plots required heroes and villains to commit actions that affected many people, and sometimes entire worlds and universes. This has always been one of weakest characteristics for Speculative Fiction. But maybe its lack of character depth is also its strength. Truth be told at the beginning I didn’t read SF because of the characters, but because of the worlds they inhabited. That was what fascinated me. Later as grew old, my interests started to shift.

China Mountain Zhang’s main accomplishment that so impressed me was its ability to portray a sense of intimacy, of merging this reader's consciousness with the imagined consciousness of the characters (Zhang,San-xiang, Martine, Alexys, etc) and allowing me a rapport that is impossible in reality. This is certainly not the only thing that above-average-SF can do, but it is one of the few things it can do better than any other type of genre literature I know of (I’m thinking “mainstream” literature here).

What a way to finish 2013. This novel is going to be everlasting in my mind… It transcended SF and worked on many levels.
" ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
Zhang is a young queer man who works construction and hopes for a brighter future in an alternate world where communist China overtook the US as the global power. This book blew me away. I read it in a single sitting, instead of sleeping. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
This was the 2nd book I've read by Maureen McHugh, although it is her first.
I have to admit, I preferred "Mission Child" - but this was pretty good as well. McHugh is an excellent writer, with a real gift for creating vivid, complex and believable characters.

However, I felt the structure of this book was slightly awkward - the main plot follows Zhang, an American of half-Chinese heritage, in a near-future where China has become the dominant world power.
Every so often, the story goes on a tangent, exploring the lives of people that come into contact with Zhang - a settler on Mars that he tutors, athletes involved in a dangerous sport (cybernetic hang-gliding, basically), and a girl that he reluctantly takes out on a few dates.

Each of these scenarios remarkably quickly comes to life - but remains tangential to the plot. Each dilemma faced by these sub-plot characters is only partially resolved. Much like real life - and I believe it was intentional on the writer's part - but it's still somewhat frustrating.

The book also has a tendency to, every so often, "jump ahead" a few years - so, although we see Zhang's growth from irresponsible young man to well-respected engineer, it seem to occur in a jerky, slightly disorienting rhythm rather than a flow...

Regardless of these small things, I'd highly recommend the book - it's a pleasure to read, and deeply insightful of human nature, with a thought-provoking look at a possible near-future... ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
This was a really interesting book. Not plot driven at all, it weaves in and out of a few characters' perspectives, loosely tied together. The characters themselves are the point of the book, and McHugh does an excellent job of creating their world in vivid, emotional detail. One of those books that sort of creates a layer between how you see the world, like a colored light gel...if that makes any sense. ( )
  chessakat | Feb 5, 2016 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maureen F. McHughprimary authorall editionscalculated
Barlowe, WayneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Romero, Pedro JorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Windgassen, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A simple way to get to know more about a town is to see how the people work, how they love and how they die. - Albert Camus, The Plague
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The foreman chatters in Meihua, the beautiful tongue, Singapore English.
She is very religious and she believes in Marx and Mao Zedong. Do not make the mistake of thinking her stupid; she has to juggle a lot of Kierkegaard and Heiler to explain but she manages a full wipe.
Legally everyone is equal, but even here at the other end of the world in the Socialist Union of American States we all know better than that.
I don't believe in socialism but I don't believe in capitalism either. We are small, governments are large, we survive in the cracks.
I feel inadequate. I know that politics is important, I just don't like to think about it. I don't know what my opinions are, I just know that very little I hear ever seems to have much to do with me, or with my life.
But I am only free in small places. Government is big, we are small. We are only free when we slip through the cracks.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312860986, Paperback)

When talking about this book you have to list the awards it's won--the Hugo, the Tiptree, the Lambda, the Locus, a Nebula nomination--after that you can skip the effusive praise from the New York Times and get to the heart of things: This is a book about a future many don't agree with. It's set in a 22nd century dominated by Communist China and the protagonist is a gay man. These aren't the usual tropes of science fiction, and they aren't written in the usual way. But, wow, it's one heck of a story.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:49 -0400)

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