China Mountain Zhang
Cover of 1993 Tor paperback edition
|Author||Maureen F. McHugh|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3563.C3687 C48 1992|
The novel's title derives from the name of the protagonist, a young gay man of mixed Chinese and Puerto Rican ancestry who goes by the name Rafael Zhang in non-Chinese contexts and Zhang Zhongshan in Chinese contexts. His Chinese given name, Zhongshan, is written with the characters with primary meanings "center" and "mountain"; the Mandarin name for China also begins with the character meaning "center" or "middle". Thus, "China Mountain" is an alternate reading of his Chinese given name. (Zhongshan is also one of the given names used by Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen.)
The main story involves a man's maturation in a future dominated by China, where the United States has undergone a Communist revolution (the "Cleansing Winds Campaign") after a period of economic crisis. His personal evolution is paralleled by four side stories in his narrative, following characters progressing from arrogant outsiders to finding a place in society. These stories never fully interconnect in the normal manner of a novel.
Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science
The backdrop is a 22nd-century in which the Chinese Communist regime dominates the world. The novel is slightly unusual for science fiction in that none of the characters cause any significant change in the world around them; nor does it use any standard science fiction tropes.
The New York Times said of the book when it first appeared: "A first novel this good gives every reader a chance to share in the pleasure of discovery; to my mind, Ms. McHugh's achievement recalls the best work of Samuel R. Delany and Kim Stanley Robinson without being in the least derivative."
Connections to other works
McHugh's short story "Protection" is set in the same future history as China Mountain Zhang, detailing the experiences of a petty criminal in a "Reform Through Labor" camp in Kansas under the future Communist system.