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the Complete Review
the complete review - science fiction

Tale of a Feather

Chang Hsi-Kuo

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To purchase Tale of a Feather

Title: Tale of a Feather
Author: Chang Hsi-Kuo
Genre: Novel
Written: 1991 (Eng. 2003)
Length: 118 pages
Original in: Chinese
Availability: in The City Trilogy - US
in The City Trilogy - UK
in The City Trilogy - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B- : continuing conflict and division, with some decent details

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Tale of a Feather begins with another epic struggle for control of Sunlon City. More dramatic, however, is the re-appearance of the immense Bronze Statue that used to tower over the city. It is an awesome, intimidating symbol -- but it turns out that this incarnation is also an illusion.
       Conflict and fighting continue -- though, as a Captain Mai understands: "Our real enemy is the history of the Huhui planet" (a history "the cult leader simply understands how to manipulate").
       Things don't look good: Ah-(chu) notes:

This is bad. The statue looks more and more hideous. Disaster is looming over the city.
       Sciecne fiction again shifts to supernatural fiction: "The Evil Spirit of the Huhui planet has unexpectedly come to haunt us at this moment", Ah-(chu) says. (This language, this form of expression, and these ideas pointing out some of the weaknesses that are found throughout Chang's trilogy.)
       The Evil Spirit even goes in for some time and space shifting, to further confound Miss Qi and Ah-(chu), and they find themselves in a changed Sunlon City slightly in the future.
       Mayor Ma -- Zhihuang Ma -- now Field Marshal Ma has taken advantage of the situation and consolidated power. He is now preparing to wipe out the remaining opposition -- the Gaiwanese. Though they have been on Huhui for generations they are still considered outsiders, and the thought is apparently that: "only by exterminating the foreigners can the Huhui planet be united." There are rumours that the Gaiwanese are still cannibals (as they were on their old planet), and that they kidnap the children of Sunlon City and make meals of them.
       The next target is New Menghan City, where most of the Gaiwanese are. Miss Qi travels on one of the boats headed there -- only to be confronted with another Huhui life-form, the enormous (and strangely self-sacrificing) sea serpent.
       Miss Qi eventually makes it to New Menghan City, finding some old acquaintances there -- statuesque hero Gai Bo, and General Shi. The city is attacked, the warfare not of the most modern form -- Froghoppers (which function exactly as one might imagine from the name) attack airships in operations bearing a strong resemblance to trapeze acts, for example.
       Eventually, however, it all comes back down to a battle for Sunlon City, and as the novel closes the city is close to complete defeat. Huhui appears to have been freed from the Bronze Statue and its shadow (and the Evil Spirit) but the cost is a high one.

       There are some decent myths and larger stories here, but little is adequately elaborated on. The racial conflicts and the burdens of history are reasonably well presented, but too often Chang makes it too easy for himself. The supernatural fix-it (or, often: confuse-it) isn't adequately explained or dwelt on. The Bronze Statue and the cult around it is an interesting idea, but too often he lets go of it to focus on other matters. And the primitive warfare in these times of supposed interstellar travel strikes a particularly jarring note.
       As the final volume in the trilogy, Tale of a Feather concludes things reasonably well, but it does not live up to its very grand ambitions.

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The City Trilogy: Reviews: Chang Shi-Kuo: Other books by Chang Hsi-Kuo under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Taiwanese author Chang Hsi-Kuo (also: Chang Shi-Kuo or Zhang Xiguo) was born in 1944 and is the director of the Center for Parallel, Distributed, and Intelligent Systems at the University of Pittsburgh

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