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Book Review

Book Cover

A Snake Lies Waiting


Author: Jin Yong
Translator: Anna Holmwood and Gigi Chang
Publisher: MacLehose Press
426 pages
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 0 85705 462 3
Publication Date: 23 January 2020

Having won his fights and the right to Lotus’s hand, Guo Jing and his companions set off on a boat, which unknown to them is unseaworthy. When their boat sinks they are initially rescued and then attacked by Venom and Gallant…

Legends of the Condor Heroes 3: A Snake Lies Waiting (427 pages) is the latest volume in the Chinese Kung Fu epic, written by Jin Yong. The book was translated from the Chinese by Anna Holmwood and Gigi Chang.

The story is set in 1200AD China, and centres on the adventures of Guo Jing, who, for wont of an overlong explanation, was brought up in the court of Kengis Khan, but has returned to his native country to learn all of the great Kung Fu mysteries.

Originally the story was published in a serial format, and like Dickens, the stories have been collected together as whole novels. This works up to a point, but the overall story does not hang together like a normal novel would.

Volume three is a particular case in point. Volumes One and Two had to set up the overall story and introduce the characters, because of this they flowed more naturally together. It is pushing it to say there is one coherent story in volume three. What you end up with is two connected instances and some additions towards the end of the book which pushes the overall story forward.

The first section deals with what happens when Guo and his companions lose their boat only for their rescuer to turn on them. You have to bear in mind that this is very much a book about martial arts and often you get a little bit of plot or a set-up, before you get pages of various characters fighting each other. And it can run for some considerable pages.

Set as a serial, I can see that Yong would bring the fight up to a certain point and then his audience would have to wait for the next week to find out who won, thereby increasing their anticipation. Of course, you can keep your audience on tenterhooks by not resolving the fight for some weeks. As a serial this probably works well, collected together, it hints at possible audience battle fatigue.

To break things up and avoid repetition Yong has his fighters employ more and more improbably named fighting techniques, it’s not quite, ‘three sandwiches short’ is countered by ‘I can fit my whole fist in’ , but for someone who is not an innate fan of Kung Fu, it might as well be.

Overall, whilst well written, or at least well translated, there is a general feeling that this volume is treading water – no pun intended – as, while there is a lot of explosive action, the story does not progress that much.


Charles Packer

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