It’s a common tale: a gunman out for revenge in the American West, whose six-shooter leaves a trail of bodies behind him. But The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu, the debut novel from Tom Lin, takes a novel twist on the genre by having its gunman be Ming Tsu: a Chinese man, orphaned in the United States, out on a journey to murder those who press-ganged him to work on the railroads.

Russia’s position between Europe and Asia has led to differing conceptions of “what Russia is” to its leaders. Russia’s vast holdings east of the Urals have often inspired those who led Russia to look eastward for national glory, whether through trade, soft power, or outright force. Yet these Russian “pivots to Asia” often ended soon after they began, with outcomes far more limited than what those who launched them hoped to achieve.

On January 10th, 1795, a very tired caravan arrives in Beijing. The travelers have journeyed from Canton on an accelerated schedule through harsh terrain in order to make it to the capital in time for the Qianlong Emperor’s sixtieth anniversary of his reign. The group is led by two Dutchmen: Isaac Titsingh and Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest, who are there to represent the interests of the Dutch Republic at the imperial court. It’s a momentous occasion, especially after the disastrous British Embassy from George Macartney two years earlier.