The Reviewer talks as if that is a BAD thing.

Kirkus has the following review of JUDGE OF AGES, which comes out next month:

KIRKUS REVIEW

Third part of Wright’s series (The Hermetic Millennia, 2012, etc.) in which, thanks to alien technology, Texas gunslinger Menelaus Montrose transformed himself into a supergenius—and so did his rival, Ximen “Blackie” del Azarchel.

The alien slavers who provided the technology, the Domination of Hyades, will arrive in 400 years to take ownership of the Earth. All this time, Blackie has been attempting to force the development of a suitably advanced yet compliantly slave-worthy population. The two post-humans are also rivals for Rania, Menelaus’ wife, presently heading at near light speed for a remote globular star cluster in order to confront the Hyades’ bosses’ bosses. She will, of course, arrive back at Earth thousands of years too late to prevent the Hyades’ occupation, so somehow Menelaus, waking periodically from cryogenic suspension, must thwart Blackie and prevent the slavers from exterminating humanity until she arrives. Now, Menelaus discovers that the tombs where he and his allies were preserved have been ripped open and plundered by Blackie’s Blue Men minions—a situation that precipitates a battle that lasts the best part of 200 pages, and a further 100 of post-battle analysis and wrangling, leading to yet another (indecisive) showdown between Menelaus and Blackie. With nonstop if pedestrian action, villains who chortle and strut, and Menelaus’ indestructible self-confidence, it’s a sequence worthy of A. E. van Vogt’s spirit, though, alas, lacking van Vogt’s deftness or economy of style. Weird post-humans build themselves into recognizable characters. The plot devolves into a series of revelations that make sense only to the characters or, possibly, a few readers, should any still be hanging heroically on.

Dazzling, highly impressive but readable only with enormous effort.

There is a rule one should not argue with reviewers, especially if the review, as it is here, attempts to be fair and fair-minded. I mean no disrespect to the hard-working reviewer, who, perhaps, read the book because he was assigned to do so, not because he enjoys space opera.

For all we know, he does not recall (or did not read) the first two books, which contain the clues and red herrings and foreshadowing of the several mysteries involved at the end, which the reviewer for some odd reason mistakes for post-battle analysis. Since another reviewer scoffed at my posthumans as being too flat and stereotypical to care about, it is a relief to have this reviewer scoff at the same posthumans as being too three-dimensional, complex and nuanced to care about the resolution of their turmoils.

But I will permit myself one well-meant if slightly supercilious comment:

A fight scene that goes on for 200 pages of non-stop action starring a hero with indestructible self-confidence. And he talks like this is a bad thing?

I want you to imagine me chortling and strutting while I say this. So if you want to see how an author pulls off being dazzling yet pedestrian, highly impressive yet lacking in deftness, by all means, pick up a copy.

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
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10 Responses to The Reviewer talks as if that is a BAD thing.

  1. Sean Michael says:

    Very amusing, Mr. Wright! And I fully intend to pick up a copy of THE JUDGE OF AGES next month.

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

  2. deiseach says:

    At least they’ve provided a suitable pull-quote for your publisher to slap on the back cover:
    “Dazzling, highly impressive” – KIRKUS Review

    :-)

  3. Arg! Your book comes out on the same day as the new R.A. Lafferty collection! What the heck am I going to do? Read ten pages of one, ten pages of the other, then 10 of one, ten of the other? Split in two? Put one of them in a blender and inject it into my vein? Take the week off?

    Oh, that’s right. I already did. Come on February 11th!

  4. Mrmandias says:

    He’s right that you’ve been making more demands on the reader in your post-Van Vogt sequel phase.

    however, you continue to deliver the goods. So at least in this neck of the woods, I sense an enormous effort coming on.

  5. The wait for the new book’s almost over. It’s like having two Christmases!

  6. PersonalLiberation says:

    Highly anticipated, no reviewer, post-human or other, could dissuade me. I’ve been practicing the meditation techniques of Marcus Aurelius to avoid talking anymore about my anticipation with my wife to spare her.

    As to:

    A fight scene that goes on for 200 pages of non-stop action starring a hero with indestructible self-confidence. And he talks like this is a bad thing?

    Not a bad thing at all. However, I was surprised to hear this after reading the chapter names I imagined a Classic Greek style trial where Menelaus would need to justify his judgments before a chorus of post-humans of ages in contrast to (X)Azarchel’s testimony. Whatever comes we must bravely prepare ourselves for these last years before the coming of the Hyades armada.

    • I am not sure if this fits the description, but there is a scene between the battle and the duel where Menelaus is put on trial by representatives of the Witch race, for this alleged crime of destroying their period of history to make way for the Chimera. I think this was the scene the reviewer found boring or confusing, since it deals with a period of history that was not onstage. The early Witch period is my homage to (and mockery of) the ‘Howard’ families in Bob Heinlein’s Future History stories. In my book I make Lazarus Long into an evil Matriarch.

      My inspiration for that scene was a speculation as to what would have happened to Hari Seldon had he fallen into the hands of any of the survivors of the battles of Anacreon or Kelvin, or any other period of history where his Great Plan decreed their downfall at the hands of the Foundation.

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