Sons of Heaven is an epic novel set against the backdrop of one of modern history�s most haunting events: the Tiananmen Square Massacre. In June 1989, the world watched in horror as China�s military was mobilized to suppress a student movement that stood for peaceful democracy. Hundreds were killed; others say thousands. No one knows for sure.
But the image that remains most powerful is that of a lone young man, looking confused yet terribly brave, as he held his ground before a rolling line of tanks. Who was he, and why did he do what he did? No one has ever been able to determine his identity or fate. Within the pages of Sons of Heaven, in a stunning blend of history and fiction, Terrence Cheng has vividly created a life for this young hero and given him a voice.
Cheng imagines the young man�s life as he goes away to America to complete his education. He falls in love with a beautiful young American girl who opens up to him a free life filled with opportunity. When he returns to China he is embittered and disillusioned; only the potential for political change seems to revive him. Also unraveled is the story of the young man�s older brother, an ardent member of the Red Army, who is ordered to capture his little brother. In the end, their political differences turn deadly. On one level this is a novel of history as played out in modern China, but first and foremost, it is about the universal ties of family and the difficult process of boys learning to become men.
Also under scrutiny is the life and history of Deng Xiaoping, China�s leader who is suspected of giving the final orders to turn the People�s Army against its own people. What historical and political factors affected his decisions that fateful summer? Was Deng the monster that the world made him out to be?
A revolving narrative of family, faith, and courage, Sons of Heaven braids the lives of peasants and soldiers, politicians and gods. It is a powerful novel of one of the most memorable and moving moments of our time.
Praise for SONS OF HEAVEN
"This remarkably structured and textured debut epic seeks to attach a face to the mysterious man who, by stepping in front of the rolling army tanks, became the most recognizable symbol of the massacres. Cheng succeeds in his endeavor...a multifaceted and sophisticated portrait of the Chinese people is rendered. This is a rare find�This is not the first novel to center around Tiananmen, but it may be the best." �Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A] superb first novel...Sons of Heaven succeeds...because its focus is relentlessly personal, and moral." �San Francisco Chronicle
�Filled with carefully measured doses of history, romance, and adventure�Stylistically and thematically daring.� �Miami Herald
"Terrence Cheng enters history in such a profound and provocative way�his retelling of the events in and around Tiananmen Square is subversive, lyrical, and full of control. Cheng is a painter and a cinematographer and a wordsmith all at once." �Colum McCann, author of Dancer
"[T]his brave, insightful and gifted writer...seeks to compassionately understand these fictional (and actual but fictionalized) characters� backgrounds, motivations and uncertainties to help readers grasp the moment from divergent perspectives." �Eugene Weekly
"Compelling...powerful...a first-class thriller set on the stage of world history that is hard to put down." �Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Cinematic...powerful." �Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Who cannot think of those days in June 1989 without recalling the image of an unknown protester facing off against a tank...thanks to Terrence Cheng�s Sons of Heaven, we shall have an enduring reminder." �Denver Post
"An irresistible peek...into the human face of modern China." �USA Today
"The writing here is terse and often beautiful...this clash between polemic-heavy brothers glows with truth." �Los Angeles Times
"[An] imaginative and minutely researched chronicle of the Tiananmen Square Massacre." �New York Magazine
"Cheng paints a tragic picture of what happens when brothers are caught at opposite ends of the spectrum in a place where clear-cut loyalties are not a choice but a requirement. Packed with emotion and desperation, Cheng�s novel speaks for a man who needed a voice." �Booklist
"There is much grace, drama, and insight to be enjoyed; Cheng is particularly effective in depicting the perilous state of mind experienced by risk taking. A ripping good story about a headline event of great power and resonance." �Library Journal
"A vivid and imaginative fictional recounting of the events of Tiananmen Square in June 1989...a compelling read...in a brisk style with plenty of local color." �Kirkus Reviews
"Cheng deftly brings to life an icon: the young revolutionary who stared down Red Army tanks in Tiananmen Square. Sons of Heaven delves into the heart of this brave individual (who has never been identified by Chinese authorities) but also surprises us by supposing and exposing the mind of another revolutionary, the leader Deng Xiaoping, whose decision to turn guns on his own people marked a tragic end to China�s pro-democracy movement. This balanced and daring recreation of events leading to the June 4th massacre illuminates its quintessentially human element, the personal that lies at the heart of the political." �Pang-Mei Natasha Chang, author of Bound Feet and Western Dress
"The whole world held its breath for the man who defied the column of tanks during the Tiananmen Square revolt, wondering who he was, how he had the nerve to do what he did. Terrence Cheng�s Sons of Heaven finds that mysterious man for us in a wonderfully accessible, first novel, ringing with history. From a shocked Deng Xiaoping to the ordinary people swept up in those powerful events, Cheng�s characters stand before us with compassionate, rich clarity." �John Balaban, author of Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong
"What is particularly distinctive about Sons of Heaven is a style that is clear, decisive [and] straight ahead. Cheng uses this style to keep in tight focus the seething power of the situation he describes and examines. The tension between what is happening in the tortured life of China and the life of the individuals who are that China and the style of the telling is delicious. Sons of Heaven will be fittingly admired because it manages to engage the human predicament at many profoundly complex levels even as it reads like an adventure story." �Barry Targan, author of The Ark of the Marindor
"This first novel horrifies, refines, instructs, in all the most meaningful ways. Terrence Cheng treats modern Chinese history with the delicacy and authority of someone who has masterfully re-imagined life inside two of the great civil strifes that tore into the largest population center of the twentieth century. From the brutality of political strife�in a narrative that embraces both the 1966 uprising under Mao Zedong, and the frenzied days of Tiananmen Square in June 1989�to the tender familial rifts and bonds between opposing brothers, Sons of Heaven weaves between terror and tenderness. Cheng�s unflinching narrative, told in multiple voices, and laced with the dreams of Deng Xiaoping, delivers the despair and hope of modern China to the center of our lives." �Susan Bergman, author of Anonymity
"Sons of Heaven is a sweeping panorama of recent Chinese history that in detail and breadth of compassion evokes the great nineteenth century fictional narratives. Imagine Bonfire of the Vanities being about Beijing and the bewildering days when China seemed about to explode; think of Paris and Balzac�s camera eye seeking out the dramas of the great city and creating breathing beings behind what otherwise becomes stale historical documentation. Sons of Heaven is a performance of rare storytelling and intellectual perception and is the next thing to being there as China changed forever." �Lester Goran, author of Tales from the Irish Club