Far-Ming is a novel is set somewhere in the “Orient” and, according to its Foreword, tells the “epic story of Mountain life with a race of Criterians and humans.” Ming and Ling are twin brother Criterians. They inhabit a mountain with a group of servants and villagers and coexist in a harmonious, self-sustaining community. Ming seems to be the head Criterian in charge. He delineates daily tasks, and everyone defers to him.
As the story evolves, we learn that at a place called Far-Ming Mountain, humans are captured, farmed, marketed, and slaughtered. “Inner breeding” and “stress” have caused human children to lose their ability to speak. Ming believes that they can be “cultured” to develop a “voice” again. He devises a plan to purchase two girls and two boys from a Far-Ming farmer, “harbour” [sic] them on his mountain, and teach them to speak and “learn the arts of the first Orient.”
The plot is difficult to summarize with confidence, due to the disjointed nature of the text. Chapman doesn’t explain who or what Criterians are, and his interjection of variants like “Criterions” and “criterian” intensifies reader bewilderment. The language the children learn is never specified: is it the “oriental language,” in which Ming pens his letters; Criterian, or some other dialect? And inconsistencies run rampant. Chapman states that the human boy, Si Si, is the first to speak; then 20 pages later, he declares that it’s the girl, Su Su who speaks first. Chapman asserts that, “Ming was with his brother when they died.” However, within five pages, Ling predeceases Ming.
In addition, it is unreasonable to expect readers to decipher phraseology such as: “Himself gathering priests was like his very own venture we are all innest of self?” and “A be wishful name yet so in time differed heavenly namesake wishing Orient of beauty called herself of otherwise a story.” Perhaps Far-Ming is written from translation. If so, the art of storytelling is lost in this effort.