Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

July Books 9) China Mountain Zhang, by Maureen F. McHugh

The lady who lived next door to us when I was a child was a Mrs McHugh, and before I first saw her name written down I thought it must be spelt McQ, or possibly McQueue. Do people in other parts of the world have that problem, or does everyone else hear two distinct syllables, "Mc (pause) Hugh"? (Of course, few people outside my native land realise that the last two letters in "McGrath" should be silent.)

Which is a sideways approach to China Mountain Zhang, the story of a gay half-Chinese American in a world where the Chinese have taken over. McHugh takes the pulp sf convention of the heroic engineer and rather subverts it - Zhang is heroic in his private life, in the way he manages his sexuality and his ambigouous racial identity, but through his profession McHugh is able to explore his native New York, China, Mars and other places. (And we also get several short narratives of the lives of other characters: Martian farmers, nomenklatura daughters, networked kite-flyers (this last being topically cyberpunkish but reworked as an element of social separation.)

I normally try and write up books I read as soon as possible, but I am rather glad that (due to pressure of work as much as anything) I took several days to do this one; my first reaction when I had finished it was that it felt rather slight and episodic, but in fact I find images and themes from it coming back to me. It was the single most frequently recommended book in comments to my book poll post, and I can see why.
Tags: bookblog 2011, sf: tiptree award
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