cover image An Inch of Ashes

An Inch of Ashes

David Wingrove. Atlantic/Corvus (Trafalgar Square, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (326p) ISBN 978-0-85789-818-0

Picking up where The Art of War left off, the lugubrious sixth installment of Wingrove’s Chung Kuo series—rewritten and recast from its original eight-book run to an ambitious 20—further explores the political intrigue, soap-opera romance, and cultural shifts of a Chinese-controlled future in which continent-spanning cities are the order of the day. This volume focuses on the drama surrounding Li Yuan, heir to City Europe, and his new wife, Fei Yen, whose beauty hides a manipulative nature. The other major arc follows artist and scientist Ben Shepherd as he works to develop a new mode of virtual reality. There’s a decidedly serial feel to this epic, slow-moving tale, with most narrative payoffs deferred for later episodes. Wingrove’s knack for worldbuilding and description contrasts with an overall shallowness of storytelling and a questionable attitude toward female characters. Agent: Diana Tyler, MBA Literary Agents. (Dec.)