Old China hand Cordell novelizes Mao Tse-tung's incredible Long March (1934-35) during which Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang army cut the Communist troops from 300,000 to 50,000--with the help of bad weather, arduous terrain, swollen rivers, giant hailstones, icy mountains, malaria, plague, and so on. The story is seen through the eyes of a young medical student, Chan Lin-wai, the son of a land agent. During a rebel purge, Lin-wai runs off with his father's concubine lipa, but is soon captured and drafted as a surgeon, breaking out of the Kuomintang's encircling grip. The march is 8,000 miles, all on blistered feet, with constant harassment and attack by the enemy. Many readers will feel lost at first in the unfamiliar locale, but identification with--and respect for--the suffering marchers quickly anchors one's sympathies. A tragic love story is interwoven when Lin-wai and pregnant lipa find they are half-sister and -brother; he takes up with Kwelin, an army nurse with a harelip who has been raped by the Nationalists. Lin-wai remains at war for fifteen years, lipa dies in childbirth, Kwelin ages prematurely. It is a relentlessly paced epic with strong scenes, moral force and descriptive writing of some excellence. His best book yet.