Hock G. Tjoa
Hock was born in Singapore to Chinese parents. He studied history and classics at Brandeis and Harvard and taught the History of Modern Europe and of Asian Political Thought at the University of Malaya. He has published George Henry Lewes, a Victorian mind and "The Social and Political ideas of Tan Cheng Lock." He is married with two adult daughters and now lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. In 2010, he published a selection and translation of the Chinese classic, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms under the title "The Battle of Chibi." In 2011, he is publishing an adaptation of Lao She's "Teahouse" as "Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away, a Play." He published "The Chinese Spymaster," the first of a planned three volume series, and "The Ingenious Judge Dee" in 2013
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Agamemnon Must Die
To sail against Troy, Agamemnon sacrificed his virgin daughter Iphigenia. Ten years later, he returns victorious, hoping that Queen Clytemnestra has forgiven him. He is so wrong.
The Ingenious Judge Dee
A double homicide, a "reluctant" corpse, a bride poisoned on her wedding night--all taking place in a small county, one of fifteen hundred in Tang dynasty China, and all demanding investigation and judicial response within a month!
The Chinese Spymaster
Chinese Intelligence uncovers a North Korean trying to sell a nuclear device. Then they find five other dealers trying to do the same for--the Pashtuns. Is this a "Pashtun Spring"? A realignment of geopolitical power in Central Asia? The Spymaster must also confront a vendetta within the Party and he determination of of his Old Friends and their wives to make him a match.
The Battle of Chibi
This book retells selections (translated by the author) from the great classic, the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms." This novel combines fascinating characters in action as well as classic ideas in conflict, battle scenes, deception and earnest debate; there is even a marriage arranged to entrap the Loyalist leader.
Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away, a Play
This is the story of Shopkeeper Wang and the friends, the regulars, and the transients who visit the Yutai Teahouse, in Beijing, during the turbulent decades of the early twentieth century-- a world of those living at the bottom edge of civility and into which corruption and exploitation roughly intrude. This is a world of the poor caught up in the spin-cycle of world historical change.
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Smashwords book reviews by Hock G. Tjoa
- The Other Slipper
on March 23, 2012
This is a delightful imagining of the "back story" of Cinderella's slippers. It is, I think, more interesting that the Cinderella story itself, involving people gifted with magic and making choices about how to use them. It is difficult to be more specific without spoiling the reader's enjoyment of the story. I will say, however, that the writing can be improved, perhaps by liberating it from the point of view of young adults who are not in full control of their senses and emotions. But it is a wonderful story!
- The Friendly Ambassador: The Beginning of the End
on June 02, 2012
It is a very broad and crowded canvass that the author has presented here, as if one had mashed several episodes from all of the Star Trek series. The first volume ends after over one hundred and thirty thousand words with no resolution of the story, merely a pause. The four alien species plus a bio-engineered race of fighting creatures, programmed yet sentient, have fought to a point where the author takes breather. Those who enjoy fight scenes will find much to enjoy even if the notion of ships in space actually ramming each other seems somewhat off. One might also quibble at some of the spelling and words chosen. One would complain more loudly about the lack of a big picture; somewhere around chapter 12 of 20 there does seem to be one. I like action thrillers and there is plenty of action in this book but I miss a coherent view of the why, the mission, for all this.
- Rebellion (Chronicles of Charanthe #1)
on June 30, 2012
The writing is good, the characters are well drawn, and the scenes are amazing. Much of the book has to do with the training of assassins and the fight scenes of their (individual and small group) exercises and competitions are as well drawn as any I have read.
But I don't know that Rebellion is the right title even if this is the first in a series. There is a minor scene with some "rebels" mentioned, but mostly we learn that Charanthe, the Empire, is threatened by Tarasanka. One has a lot of rules and seems to believe that its individual citizens must be controlled and manipulated. The other has an "anything goes" approach to governance but includes much thieving and torture. What seems to be the point is that there is mayhem in both societies but it is methodical in Charanthe; I suspect that this is not the author's intention.
Given such over-arching choices, Ellie's sense of aggrievement at the lack of respect she gets as a woman seems to exist in a totally unrelated universe.
- Budding Magic (The O'Byrne Daughters - Book One)
on July 15, 2012
This is a gentle and fascinating enticement into the magical world of the O'Bryne family in Ireland before the potato famine (although individuals from the family do get around--one even to China). I tried not to dwell on the improbability of the situation (this is after all fantasy) but found it hard to not be aware that the oldest of the daughters is 14. She is magically gifted and like no 14 year old you have ever met or heard of. It was fascinating to have the differences among the girls shown (the youngest is barely past the new-born stage) much of which is revealed through their "link"--much less invasive than a Vulcan mind meld.
Anticipating the famines of the hungry forties, the mother (who dies in childbirth at 32) has split the sphere of O'Bryne influence and created a time-shift between the two hemispheres--so one can be ready for the harvest as the other winters. She has to choose the least bad of all possibilities for each time-line, provide protection for all within each sphere even if they are not of the magical blood-line and arrange for special protection for her daughters. Yet her gift of foresight must have been limited for she entrusts them into the care of her sister who, it appears, has chosen the "dark side."
There is some "metaphysics" of magic to be explained and Druantia appears (she has a trilogy of her own)--half human, half spirit. There are differences too, among--say--the rabbits and the fairies, some of them are vicious and pretty gross. There are differences in the magic, some descended from the druids like the O'Bryne's, some "elemental," and others .... In all, a fascinating and readable world. I only wish the editing had been better.
- It's Just Magic! (The O'Byrne Daughters - Book Two)
on Aug. 06, 2012
In this second part of the magical O'Byrne family, the author continues to demonstrate an incredibly inventive, fertile imagination. Each sister has a different strength (it would probably help for the reader to have been born into a large family), and then there are so many kinds of magic. In this volume, we are introduced to Angels and Demons and passionate relationships or encounters. The plot is somewhat weak and the editing careless, alas, taking away from a fascinating read.
on Aug. 21, 2012
This light read takes us firstly into the point of view of a mentally ill young man who is alternately clever and charming and then vicious and violent; this may or may not have been made worse by a family tragedy. In any case, he actually kills a teenager who had made the mistake of breaking into his apartment building; then he wraps the body all neatly in plastic and forgets completely about it as he goes about his dinner.
Secondly, a companionable pair of police, a man and a woman, run into him eventually as he is on another of his rage-fueled Mr. Hyde mode. The two police personnel also present a mild quandary--they were both going to sit for the exams for promotion, except that one of them knows she is distinctly more capable than the other.
Thirdly, the policewoman has something weighing on her mind--she is married and worries whether she should give in to her biological clock or pursue her career.
The drama is admirably restrained, the plot presents no major issues, and the writing is serviceable.