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Sons of Heaven by Terrence Cheng

Sons of Heaven

by Terrence Cheng

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632282,854 (3.9)None
  1. 00
    The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (booklove2)
    booklove2: Main characters have similar personalities, also they both battle regimes.

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Hits the ground running... right into the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Wow. Cheng's writing is very stunning. This book takes the perspective of three people: "The soldier" and big brother, Lu. "The dissident" and little brother, Xiao-Di. "The Comrade" and leader of China, Deng Xiaopeng. I almost feel like I've met Xiao-Di before -- very real, very relatable (even Deng Xiaopeng is made very real!). This should be read by anyone wanting a dose of easily readable history of China. I think it does a good job of covering the basics of Chinese history in memorable fiction -- at least for someone who knows little about it yet. I think one of the main things that makes this novel "fictional" is giving a story to the mysterious "tank man" -- the man standing in front of the tanks in that famous picture. They never did find out who the man was, so Cheng has a great time making a story for him. The story simply flows really really well. If you had handed me a book like this, something fictional yet historical, I would have learned so much more than I did in history class. A favorite read from this year, so far. ( )
1 vote booklove2 | Dec 31, 2010 |
A novel inspired by the young Chinese man who faced down a tank during the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. The story is told from the widely varying perspectives of that imagined character, his brother (a soldier in the People's Army who is particularly ruthless in dealing with the dissidents), and Deng Xiaoping, the reformist ruler who, at age 85, ordered the crackdown. Only the dissident's chapters, however, are told in first person. The story is interesting, but not, somehow, as moving as it seems like it should be, perhaps because the prose is pretty pedestrian; and, having read a number of other novels--good ones--in recent years set in Communist China, this somehow did not feel authentic, though I can't pin down why. ( )
  mbergman | Jan 6, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060002433, Hardcover)

With Sons of Heaven, Terrence Cheng has crafted a personal and insightful look into the Tiananmen Square massacre and its participants. Inspired by the famous footage of the unknown man who stopped the tanks, Cheng creates a conjectural history for him in the character of Xiao-Di, an intelligent, opinionated young man raised by his grandparents in Beijing. The father of Xiao-Di's girlfriend, a supervisor at the employment bureau, helps him receive a scholarship to study at Cornell. After ending the relationship and returning to Beijing, Xiao-Di finds himself blacklisted from employment. Idealistic and angry, he joins the growing student movement centered in Tiananmen. Cheng intersects the narrative with Xiao-Di's brother Lu, a bitter, vicious soldier later ordered to capture him, and the character of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, combining history and speculation in an attempt to understand the violent response to the protests. With patience and understatement, Cheng offers a sympathetic glimpse into each man's inner life and motivations, revealing their shared experiences and tragedies. The author humanizes these stories with just the right amount of quietly stunning detail in his assured, elegant prose, such as the "sparkles over the Mao pins" on Lu's boyhood uniform, or in Deng's evocative dreams:

Here is a wolf-faced Mao, lean and sharp-eyed, his hair long and wavy framing the sides of his face. He smokes cigarette after cigarette, blowing clouds into the air of the blue night.… Mao stands with a rifle and blasts a shot into the night, and in the purple drop of evening stars shatter and rocket the sky.

A haunting, rare book, Sons of Heaven communicates the basic humanity of these characters and the true cost of their conflict. --Ross Doll

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:13 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Sons of Heaven is an epic novel set against the backdrop of one of modern history's most haunting events: the Tiananmen Square massacre. In June 1989, the world watched in horror as China's military was mobilized to suppress a student movement that stood for peaceful democracy. Hundreds were killed; some say thousands. No one knows for sure." "But the image that remains most powerful is that of a lone young man, looking confused yet terribly brave, as he holds his ground before a rolling line of tanks. Who was he and why did he do what he did? No one has ever been able to determine his identity or fate. Within the pages of Sons of Heaven, in a blend of history and fiction, Terrence Cheng has created for this young hero a life, and given him a voice."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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