Structure: China Mountain Zhang
The first time I realized I was reading a mosaic novel, I had deliberately sought it out. It took a few trades in the online book networks to find it, but finally I held a battered copy of China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh in my hands. I had no idea what I was getting into but by the end I still had no idea what I had really read. It was good. If I were to recommend it today, I would say: it was very good.
The premise of the novel supposes that China is the ruling superpower on Earth and takes a wide ranging look at how this affects Chinese citizens, Chinese Americans, space colonists, naive young people, and people who think they are too old to be naive.
A mosaic novel treats each chapter as a short story in the same world. I believe I have seen the term “loosely connected” somewhere in relation to this form, though I cannot remember where. McHugh uses the form to give us a different perspective on the world so that we sample coming of age and Outer Limit-like episodes set within the same confines. However, all characters interact with each other and each others’ consequences until what we really have is a journey of self-knowledge and acceptance.
Anything more is a spoiler, so go hunt down your own copy.
Mosaic novels exist onscreen in a very popular format if one is a horror addict like myself. The horror anthologies, of the eighties and nineties, usually use the smaller films within to affect the larger framing device characters so that the true horror is one that the audience sees coming (as is true in all good horror – we call this feeling dread).
I chose to do a mosaic novel for the 100 Day Project because I thought a. It will be really fun and b. It will be challenging and c. I don’t know what I’m doing.