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Posts Tagged ‘John C. Wright’

Adventures in Bookland: Superluminary by John C. Wright

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

Although marketed – and sold as – three separate books, this is really one rougly 500 page story split into three. A bit cheeky that – you end up paying, even for the Kindle edition, significantly more than you would if it was sold as what it really is, a single novel.

Still, I’ll forgive the marketing – it’s not as if writers are coining it (average wage £10,000 per annum), so if this gets John Wright a bit more in royalties, I can’t cavil – as the story itself is such a magnificently over the top piece of space opera. For you older SF fans out there: if you thought nothing could top EE Doc Smith’s Lensman stories, think again. To give an idea of the scales involved, Superluminary has War Dysons as one of its minor conceits! Arthur Clarke famously said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistiguishable from magic: so it is here. Quantum physics, Aristotelian teleology, and every possible variant on the space-time continuum are employed to give an exhilirating veneer of plausibility to a ride that takes the reader to the galaxy’s core (engineered by Space Vampires as the ultimate weapon) all the way through to galactic ramming. This is SF on a scale so massive that it inspires smiles of awe at Wright’s sheer chutzpah. Can he possibly top this, you ask at the end of Book 1? The answer is, yes.

Now, after the praise, the criticism. Given that the book is quite expensive, the editing on it is far too sloppy. There are far too many typos, incorrect words and word order and sundry other editing errors. It does not look like it has been checked much beyond a spell check. That is sloppy, and takes the reader out of the story quite unnecessarily.

But it’s worth it for the ride.

Adventures in Bookland: Chronicles of Chaos by John C Wright

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

Five children who are all its – non-human titans – are raised as humans in a boarding school in England (well, Wales, actually. John Wright is American and labours under the usual confusion as to the relations between Britain, England and Wales) by teachers who are no more human than they are: classical gods and supernatural beings. But the children slowly realise that they are not human, as their powers, all very different, awaken, and their teachers/captors become increasingly wary of their charges. It’s a sort of grown-up Harry Potter/Percy Jackson, but one that takes seriously the nature and powers of the gods. Unlike with the YA stuff of Percy Jackson, the gods are the amoral, ruthless, highly sexual creatures of classical mythology. Wright takes his classcial mythology seriously, and works through its consequences with impressive thoroughness. This seems to have upset a sub-section of readers, judging by the reviews. Reading through them, I note how censorious and proscriptive a culture we have become. For myself, I enjoy the exuberance of Wright’s invention and the humour, both sly and slapstick, that peppers the books.

Adventures in Elfland: Moth and Cobweb 1-3 by John C. Wright

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

Although published as three separate novels, Swan Knight’s Son, Feast of the Elfs and Swan Knight’s Son are one story divided into three books, so I will review them all together.

Do you look around and think, is that all there is? What happened to all the wonder of the world, its romance, its mystery? Well, the answer lies in these books. The Elfs stole them. They pinched the world’s wonders and all the best bits of the geography and hid them behind a mist of unknowing. Now this is an idea I have a great deal of sympathy with. Somebody certainly pinched it, and the Elfs are as good a bet as anyone else (although I suspect we mislaid it ourselves). These Elfs, while magical, supernatural creatures, are fay, Fallen creatures, the glamourous face of those damned forever to the Earth – which is probably why the Elfs are so keen on keeping all the best bits for themselves. (I could never get used to Wright using ‘Elfs’ as the plural form rather than ‘Elves’ but it’s probably done deliberately to distinguish Wright’s Elfs from Tolkien’s Elves.)

Into this world is pitched young Gilberic Parzival Moth, a human (well, mostly) teenager, with all the inflexibility of a typical teenager, and a mother who turns out to be, well, something not so human (given her irritating habit of answering every question with a riddle, she’s probably related to the Sphinx somewhere down the line). Gilberic becomes a squire, then a knight, mashing modern-day pop culture references with deep forays into mythology and folklore. If you like the idea of a more knowledgeable version of Percy Jackson, with fewer jokes but a more wide-ranging mythology, then these books might be for you.

There is some evidence of the books having been written in a hurry and edited loosely – too many typos and, at one point, Gilberic’s mermaid love interest warns him to keep her secret from his canine companion (who can speak, naturally) only for the warning to be forgotten 50 pages later – but the sheer wealth of invention I find hugely enjoyable. The story itself has the same dream-logic of medieval romances such as Orlando Furioso, where the heor passes into the great forest of story where anything can happen and usually does,  with not much regard for likelihood or logic, but then, we’re dealing with Elfs here: everyday reality is optional for them.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable 21st-century take on the medieval romance.