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Titus Bluth's Blatherings

Creation of the Gods (Volume I)

Creation of the Gods (Volume I) - Gu Zhizhong, Dai Dunbang, Dai Hongjie As another reviewer noted, this is one of the five great classic Chinese novels. I read them all on a Chinese culture kick, and at the risk of sounding like a philistine, Three Kingdoms and Outlaws of the Marsh were each a bit of a slog, Dream of the Red Chamber was too foreign to my experience for me to relate to the characters, and Journey to the West was didactic and repetitive.

Creation of the Gods is as close to perfection as any book I've read.

Let's put aside the whole cultural aspect of this work, because it's completely unnecessary to recommend it for that reason and it might actually turn some people off. This story is just so damn entertaining. There's midair kung-fu fights, heroes and villains who are believably motivated, comic interludes that are actually funny, all set against a backdrop of realpolitik and shifting allegiances and telling a truly epic story that is (very loosely) based on historical events. Timeless, authentic-feeling vignettes of domestic life introduce many of the characters in memorable ways (lecherous King Zhou, King Wu's dutiful sons, Nezha's relationships with his father and mother and Jiang Ziya's commercial misfortune and short-lived marriage will all resonate with a modern reader, I think). And when it's all over, you'll find yourself pondering the ruler and the ruled's obligations to each other, God's (or Gods'?) relationship to humankind, the nature of duty, rights and morals and what this whole "good and evil" thing really means.

I got the Beijing University Press edition (two volumes, hardback) and I'm very happy with it. The translation is excellent, with none of the archaic or purposely foreign-sounding phrasing that is sometimes used in translations of this sort, presumably to make things more exotic or "authentic." The book is nicely illustrated and designed and just so well made that it makes contemporary Western hardcovers hang their heads in shame. Seriously, this is an heirloom quality edition.

Did I mention I really like this book? Because I really like this book.