I had recently read a short story and then Nekropolis by McHugh, so I ordered China Mountain Zhang. Great novel. But not what you think it will be. As numerous commentators point out, it is an ambitious sci-fi novel about ordinary people living fairly ordinary lives in a sci-fi future that is not too far away (certainly closer than 1992 when the novel was published). I kept comparing it to Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen, another novel about “regular” folks (hey, we’re all special, as we learn in elementary school). It is quiet, the epiphanies are small but important for the characters lives, and their lives change with a natural flow.
So I have nothing but praise, except for the long lecture by Zhang when he teaches his first class. Read like something McHugh had written elsewhere, or maybe before writing the novel, and she stuck it in at the end. Just does not work, and not really necessary.