Action, adventure and an engaging story set deep in the heart of Chinese culture – oh, and it’s all set on Mars in the year 2515. Welcome to the latest book by Chris Roberson, Iron Jaw and Hummingbird.

ironjawIn this engaging book, Roberson continues his development of  The Celestial Empire, where China rose to world dominance in the fifteenth century on Earth and eventually colonized Mars, or Fire Star.  It’s intriguing to imagine and develop alternate world histories (and futures) as Roberson does with his Celestial Empire stories (which remind me of the excellent book by Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt) and to use these new, imagined worlds to play out a twist on actual historical world events, as is done in Iron Jaw and Hummingbird (The Boxer Rebellion in the early 20th century is a big influence).

Here, 2 characters face different aspects of a corrupt, cruel empire: Gamine is raised as the privileged, highly educated ward of a wealthy socialite only to be thrown onto the streets after a seemingly random contest (which she won). Forced to take up the life of a con artist to survive, Gamine travels across the dusty plains of Fire Star scratching out a meager existence until she creates the con of a lifetime.  Huang, the underachieving first born son of a wealthy businessman takes up a career in the military only to have it cut short when he’s captured by ruthless bandits who hold him as a slave until he is able to prove his worth to them. Eventually his skills in strategy win him favor with the bandits’ leader and prove the crucial step in his own transition to power.

Gamine and Huang find each other as the miners, peasants, farmers and poor come together to fight the corruption of the governor and the far reaching power of the military.  Roberson does an excellent job developing his characters from a spoiled playboy into a thoughtful leader and a naive girl into a woman who considers deeply the implications of the con: whether its a simple scam or a full-blown “religious” movement.  Together, Gamine and Huang make a choice that is both subtle and wise and prove their worth as heroes to their people.

  • Posted by Cori

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