It is 2067 and the great tyrant, Tsao Ch’un, in seeking to unify the world beneath the banner of Chung Kuo, ‘The Middle Kingdom’, faces a dilemma. The Middle East had unified against him – Jew and Muslim contesting him in a great Jihad. Should he try to treat with them, or should he call it a lost cause and simply nuke them? Returning to Xian, the heart of ancient China, the great ‘Son of Heaven’ consults his two oldest friends and advisers, Amos Shepherd and Chao Ni Tsu. Yet even as he meets them, he has already made his decision. Jerusalem and Cairo, Baghdad and Tehran, Riyadh and Kabul, Beirut and Damascus – all the great lands of the Bible and the Koran – are gone in one blinding flash as the great man loses patience.
We move swiftly on. It is now 2087. Japan lies under a radioactive cloud, its denizens wiped out. America has been subjugated, its divided states having fallen one by one to Tsao Ch’un’s Marshal, Jiang Lei, its inhabitants dispersed into the great world of levels.
All seems well, the great world unified for the first time in its long history. But even the Son of Heaven cannot live forever. And besides, it takes one type of man to conquer a world, another to rule it. Already the envoys of the Seven Dragons are being turned away from the Black Tower. Faced with the capricious behaviour of an ageing tyrant, the Wheel of Dragons is about to turn against its master. There is to be ‘War in Heaven’, and there can be only one survivor, so it is time for the good and great – Amos Shepherd among them – to choose sides and pray they chose correctly.
And even as that savage war begins, in the depths of the world of levels, far below the towers of genetics mega-corporations and the AI-controlled mansions of the elite, far from the patrolling attack craft of Tsao Ch’un, the anger of the people is becoming outright rebellion.
For the briefest moment it seems Tsao Ch’un has won, the Seven – never his match at war – defeated. Yet at the last they triumph. Even then, the great tyrant seems to have escaped, free to gather his forces and fight another day. Only then, on Iron Mountain, he meets his fate.