Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh – Ibis Trilogy #3 (EPUB)
Flood of Fire
It is 1839 and tension has been rapidly mounting between China and British India following the crackdown on opium smuggling by Beijing. With no resolution in sight, the colonial government declares war.
One of the vessels requisitioned for the attack, the Hind, travels eastwards from Bengal to China, sailing into the midst of the First Opium War. The turbulent voyage brings together a diverse group of travellers, each with their own agenda to pursue. Among them is Kesri Singh, a sepoy in the East India Company who leads a company of Indian sepoys; Zachary Reid, an impoverished young sailor searching for his lost love, and Shireen Modi, a determined widow en route to China to reclaim her opium-trader husband’s wealth and reputation. Flood of Fire follows a varied cast of characters from India to China, through the outbreak of the First Opium War and China’s devastating defeat, to Britain’s seizure of Hong Kong.
Flood of Fire turns an interesting bit of the history of the opium trade in China and China’s relationship to the British merchants and government in the 1830s to 40s, into a profound and scary revelation of the power of both greed and addiction caused by opiates. We learn through several of the characters that the addiction to opium takes two forms, the actual users of opium, perhaps less addicted than those who push the sale of it and then live on its huge profits. The attack of the British Navy and Marines on the Chinese is very similar to other holocausts. But it didn’t seem to me that the author was preaching or crying. He just wanted to make sure that we knew what happened and why.
In the end, there is heartbreak, death, a few hopeful situations and several more stories to be told. But a realistic story, well told and a better feeling to the whole region including the story of how Hong Kong became part of Great Britain.