Published in 1987, Chinese science fiction author Ni Kuang’s book Chasing the Dragon tells the story of a dying astrologer who pointed to changes in distant constellations that would lead to a catastrophic event on earth. He warned that a great city in the East was about to be destroyed. He begged Wisely and wife Bai Su to “stop them” before he died.
Which city? Who is them? The couple and their best friend Chen Chang Qing searched through the late astrologer’s study to look for clues. The answers are not given in the book, not even at the end of the story, but there is no mystery as the reader should have guessed them.
Author Ni Kuang used an interesting way to introduce Chinese astrology in this book. He also used it to either to playfully deflect responsibility from draconian leaders or to explain how a population of billions could be brainwashed by attributing such behaviour to interstellar manipulation.
The reader is jolted when Chen Chang Qing embarked on a suicide mission to stop the destruction of the city by assassinating a leader of the regime that would destroy the city. He didn’t succeed and was detained and interrogated even before he could get close. Too many people in that country have been controlled by cosmic forces that are beyond Wisely, let alone the ordinary human being.
The conclusion is not very satisfactory. I think the author got a bit too personal and carried away. The book is no longer a novel. It is a rant against something that the he fears and detests in an exceedingly blunt and brazen way.
The author refers to a mysterious force in the universe that appears to be controlling the behaviour of people under that regime. There is no way their minds can be changed. It didn’t matter that Kong Zhen Quan (the astrologer) was able to predict the destruction of the city. There was no way he could have stopped it even if he had wanted to. Many things are just fated.
The author’s pessimism, his understanding of how fragile that great city can be and his perception of the city having a spiritual identity that surpasses its physical presence are shown in the following statement:
There is no need to destroy any buildings or kill any resident. In fact, life may seem to go on as usual on the surface. But as long as the city’s edge over others disappears, it will perish.
I’m not sure how many fans of Wisely were disappointed by this book, but it’s certainly a departure from his usual formula. There is simply too little distance between the author and his work in this case.
Just two years after the publication of Chasing the Dragon, a bloody massacre took place in a city in the East.