by John Biggs
Tin Dragons begins with a bad guy called Son Shui, who within seven pages is conscripted by the Tai Ping Revolutionary Army, re-christened Wu Lei (The Fox) and then re-re-christened Wu Ying (The Fly). Utterly sociopathic, Wu Ying enjoys hobbies including 'irritating people', 'feeding off their exuding weaknesses' and then killing them with a large sword. The one person Wu Ying does not murder is a young boy called Ah Yan. Rather like Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Ah Yan flees his homeland (for a tin mine in Emu Flat, Australia), grows up big and strong, is given a new name (Jack Yang) and all the while dreams of revenge. Conveniently, Wu Ying also heads for the mine alongside as much human detritus as you can imagine. There is Ah Fai, the corrupt mine owner and his chum Big Chan, who 'ensures that discipline is maintained'. There is Lam Sing Chiu (also known as Charlie) who shows Jack the ropes. And then there are Terry Conway and Lizzie Wiggins, two girls on a 'voyage of discovery'. An Australian who taught for many years at the University of Hong Kong, Biggs clearly knows his subject. Onto these bones he grafts a story that examines love, racism, history and philosophy, but never forgets to entertain as it educates.