Best 1992 Adventures (7)

By: Joshua Glenn
June 16, 2020

One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1992 adventure novels.

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Maureen F. McHugh’s sci-fi adventure China Mountain Zhang.

The titular China Mountain Zhang is a gay New Yorker of Chinese descent; unambitious, introverted, and concerned to hide the truth about his national origin (American-born-Chinese are considered inferior to Chinese-born-Chinese; also, he’s half-Hispanic), Zhang isn’t the heroic type. Instead, he serves as our guide to a future world in which America’s economy has collapsed and the People’s Republic of China has become a hegemonic world power. In the chapters about Zhang, he begins as a construction foreman; his sexuality has cost him his first job and his chance of a great career in Shanghai. He’s posted to an Arctic scientific station on Baffin Island, as an engineering tech; he studies cutting-edge, daoist engineering in Wuxi, the new Imperial City; he tutors Martian homesteaders in their hard-scrabble agricultural commune; and he finishes up as a kind of super-architect. Along the way, he cruises for casual sex, while taking care to mask his same-sex desire — whih is forbidden, in China. The book’s other chapters show us the world from the perspectve of other characters: San-xiang, a deformed Chinese woman who seeks genetic modification, only to discover that a pretty face isn’t the solution to her problems; Angel, a cyber-kite flier in New York; two Martian settlers. There are many stories, here; they don’t cohere — but they all concern ordinary people winning small-scale victories within a repressive social order. It’s not an adventure, but it’s impossible to put down.

Fun facts: McHugh’s first novel, China Mountain Zhang was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. She is a partner at No Mimes Media, an Alternate Reality Game company. Her 2011 collection, After The Apocalypse, was one of Publisher’s Weekly‘s 10 best books of 2011.

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JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.

Categories

Adventure, Lit Lists

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