An enormous historical by a Japanese bestselling author renowned for such blockbusters as The Opium War, this telling the story of a mid–19th-century Chinese religious revolution that threatened to topple a repressive dynasty and establish a property-sharing society based on both Christian and Communist principles. Chen energetically interweaves the lives of the fictional Lian family with the exploits and misfortunes of such real-life figures as the rebellion’s founder Hong Xiuquian (who proclaims himself Jesus’ younger brother), his secular (and militant) counterpart, the wily Feng Yunshan, and Manchu government functionary—and brilliant military tactician—Zeng Guolfan. These are attractive characters, and their stories make for alternately stirring and plodding melodrama, reminiscent of both James Michener and Soviet “historian” Mikhail Sholokhov. But even its best pages are marred by an infelicitous translation riddled with incorrect grammar and syntax (“Although unsigned, the author was apparent from the calligraphy”) and what can only be unimaginative literalism (“The road ahead for the Taiping Army to follow was long”).
And it’s priced at $79.95. Caveat, therefore, emptor.