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