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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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8792610,083 (4.04)56
Title:China Mountain Zhang
Authors:Maureen F. McHugh
Info:Orb Books (1997), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 324 pages
Collections:Your library

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China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh (1992)

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I thought that this book had a light touch for the sci-fi elements of the story, which left a lot more space for exploring the character aspects and developing believable conflicted characters and a sense of place(s).

The political dimensions were well rounded and gave a strong contrast to the contemporary (declining) western dominance without ramming a dys/utopian society in your face.

I got a lot out of the read, and was glad not to have it all tied up to an unbelievable climax, rather left as a fine example of daoist engineering. ( )
  autopoietic | Oct 28, 2015 |
Completely different than anything else I've ever read, but totally awesome. My full review is here, on Hot Stuff for Cool People. ( )
  hotforcool | May 31, 2015 |
Slow, scattered, and compulsively readable.

In a near-future world, China is economically and culturally dominant and Mars is the new frontier. The United States is no longer an economic force and people there work and play and dream of living in China. But only genetically pure Chinese are allowed that privilege. Everyone else is denied the Middle Kingdom and must make do by emulating its culture, its fashions, and by riding its economic coat-tails.

The book is divided into chapters/sections that each follow different protagonists - three on Earth and two on Mars. The bulk of the narrative follows the titular character, Zhang but there is overlap between all of the storylines. None of these characters find much in the way of resolution and, in truth, not much happens with most of them. The conflicts are mostly (but not all) internal.

What elevates this book is McHugh's writing; it is evocative and her world-building is breathtaking. There is a melancholy and almost desperate feel to each character as they muddle along looking for improvement and envying others their status. With each step forward, they come to realize that, despite their advancement, there will be no escaping themselves. That seems to be the common thread here. It does not sound like very compelling stuff but, once I began this book, it was difficult to stop. China Mountain Zhang is not action-packed by any means but it is a very memorable and intriguing novel. ( )
  ScoLgo | May 15, 2015 |
China Mountain Zhang is one of the most unusual science fiction books I've read in a while. There are no epic battles or time travel or bending of the rules of physics. If most science fiction feels like space opera, played out on a large stage, this books reads like a quaint period drama, small in scale, where the dramatic beats occur in tiny spaces—cramped apartments, dorm rooms, kitchens. By most measures, it isn't an exciting book; no one saves the world here and there are no edge-of-your-seat moments. And yet Maureen McHugh has created a fully realized world like no other. The world is eerily ordinary and real; the characters feel true and and solid. There is a line in the book that captures the storytelling: "We are small, governments are large, we survive in the cracks."

China Mountain Zhang is beautiful slice-of-life storytelling at its best. Even in such a speculative, futuristic world, people still get by and cope with everyday anxieties and issues (the Mars chapters are particularly well done). It's a world that looks a lot like our own. I was really surprised to discover that the novel was first published in 1992. A sleeper hit that is now a classic I hope. ( )
  gendeg | Oct 7, 2014 |
In the 22nd century, when China is the dominant superpower and the US has had a socialist revolution, Zhang is trying to figure out what to do with his life.

Whenever I read futuristic science fiction written during the Cold War that assumes the Soviet Union continued as a superpower, I find myself mentally substituting "China" for Soviet Union, just to keep the story believable for me. Now here's a book written in the '90s that actually does posit China as the dominant superpower, and of course, it's a lot different and more realistic than those Soviet-era books. For one thing, the United States has declined quite a lot, as well as having undergone its own socialist revolution. This version of the near future also brings in questions of race -- people of Chinese ethnicity have privilege here -- sexuality, and gender as well as politics.

This future is not dystopian, not really (although I'm sure many Americans would consider a socialist USA the worst thing that could ever happen). It's far too realistic for that. The characters are all ordinary people with ordinary concerns about work, success, love, and community. I think that's why I enjoyed this book so much--the story is told by real people with the minor concerns of real life, but it maintains a broad scope. The story begins and ends in New York City, but it travels to an Arctic research station, a rich and glittering Shanghai, even Mars.

The characters, however, are all people who don't quite fit into this new normal. The protagonist, Zhang, is gay and half Latino (which has been obscured by genetic manipulation) who must keep both these aspects of himself secret in order to get ahead. He chafes against these restrictions and longs for community, finally choosing to do something very American: he starts his own business. Other sections of the book are told from the points of view of characters that Zhang meets peripherally. One is a Chinese woman with a medical condition that has rendered her "ugly"; once she has that corrected, she unexpectedly faces the possibly worse problems of pretty girls. Another is a loner who has finally moved to a commune on Mars in order to be left alone, but yet finds herself reluctantly helping to build her new community.

These are quiet stories, and the events that take place are not big ones. Without the technological enhancements, all of these stories could take place today. Through her speculative premise, McHugh shines a light on the persistent tensions that characterize the human species: the tension between conformity and individuality, and the desire we all have to make our own lives and to truly be ourselves. ( )
2 vote sturlington | Jul 1, 2014 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maureen F. McHughprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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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