HASTEN FORTH AND PURCHASE JUDGE OF AGES

Having been puzzled and annoyed by the less than stellar review eructated by Kirkus for JUDGE OF AGES, I thought it only fair to give the opposing point of view by someone more qualified to have an opinion, our own Deiseach. What follows is an intermediate review (written before she reached the end of the book) and then a final review:

Dear Mr Wright, I go off-topic to express my delight with “Judge of Ages”, the most recent volume of the “Count to a Trillion” series.

I am still only half-way through it, and I spent my time reading equally divided between laughter and “WHAT????”

I can certainly say I never saw the plot convolutions coming.

Menelaus is as wonderful as ever :-)

I definitely see the family resemblance between him and Scipio, though I fear I may be racking up the time in Purgatory between the pair of them and their oaths as I’m mentally voicing them as I read – as Chaucer says in “The Parson’s Tale”:

For cristes
Sake, ne swereth nat so synfully in dismembrynge
of crist by soule, herte, bones, and
Body.

Though I am glad to apprehend Menelaus’ tasteful restraint – indeed, more than 2% of the interior of the Earth would be ostentatious and over-the-top :-)

Dear Sir Guiden: were you not already a happily true-married man, I would be throwing myself at you. There were tears and smiles as I read Oenoe’s account of how she fell in love with her husband.

Dear Mickey the Witch: as a person of a spherical contour of bodily form myself, I appreciate the cunning use to which you put your superfluity of tissue. Also, I agree: the best way to sum up what Menelaus and his opponents are doing is “magic” ;-)

I’m probably way off here, but did I detect the slightest hint of jealousy in Exarchel about Menelaus giving Mickey a nickname? Almost as if it/he were thinking “I’m the only one he gives a nickname! I’m his Blackie!”

Good grief: between the double-, triple- and quadruple-backstabbing and intrigue, and the fact that Menelaus planned most or all of this, I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen next, and I love every minute of it.

Also! You are making me like your characters! Soorm is charming, if one can say that of a Hormagaunt (licking up the brains and all), and dash my wig, if Reyes y Pastor died in defence of the Blessed Sacrament, I’ll have to pray for his soul. I already like Ximen much too much. And Illiance was already the best of a bad lot, so what you did with him – grrr, can a girl not have at least one villain to boo and hiss?

Can I please assume (not yet having come to the end of the book) that Naar at least comes to a sticky end? I don’t like Naar one bit, and if he reforms and all, I don’t know what I’ll do with myself.

Finally, I appreciate your use of language. The names you give the Hermeticists (and others) are beautiful; they may be villains and rogues and traitors to humanity, but they have such absolutely lovely names: Sarmento i Illa d’Or is a scoundrel, but his name is gorgeous to say and to see.

————————————————————-
And here is the final review:

I am hobbled by not wanting to reveal any spoilers for those who have not read “Judge of Ages”, so all I can truly say is this:

(a) This is a public service announcement to every person who has learned to read the English language. HASTEN FORTH AND PURCHASE, WHETHER IN PHYSICAL COPY OR AS A DOWNLOAD, “JUDGE OF AGES”

(b) Now that I’ve read all the way to the ending, my reaction is

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Also, WOW!

Also, I definitely did not see that coming and it serves both Menelaus and Del Azarchel right as the necessary kick in the pants they need to remind them that they are not, in fact, the Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

(c) The duel scene was perfect, even up to the unexpected ending. And drat you sir, you had me wiping tears from my eyes at various points, e.g. when Del Azarchel was talking about the little picture of the Virgin they gave Rania to serve as her mother. I had to keep reminding myself that Blackie is a villain, a murderer, a schemer, an oath-breaker and such because I kept having fits of liking the megalomaniac.

I could throw words like “amazing”, “stupendous”, “magnificent”, “awe-inspiring” and “slapstick humour in the style of the Three Stooges” around but suffice it to say that I am one very satisfied customer and will be a repeat customer for the next volume (God and the publisher willing).

 

106 Comments

  1. Comment by dangerdad:

    A side benefit of responding to that ridiculous review on goodreads is that goodreads emailed me when it came out, and it was on my Kindle app within 5 minutes.

    Really enjoying it so far. I may have to go back and read the last few chapters of THM since the continuity is so strong.

  2. Comment by Mrmandias:

    Really a great book. I’m already dying for the next one.

  3. Comment by deiseach:

    No inducements were asked or offered in the writing of this review :-)

    I truly enjoyed this book, and its predecessor volumes, and am anticipating the continuation of this series because good Lord, there’s only four hundred years to go until the armada from the Hyades arrives and the Earth is in bits!

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Well, the planned series does not end when the Armada arrives, nor when (or if) Rania returns. The story arc ends when the universe ends. I will write the next three volumes come hell or high water; whether it is published or not is up to you. Write a letter to my publisher, Tor books.

      • Comment by deiseach:

        The story arc ends when the universe ends.

        Ah, an intimate, small-scale investigation of interior mood and motive. I see :-)

        Write a letter? I don’t know if “Hey, George, some crazy Irish woman is bugging us about some guy we apparently publish” will achieve anything, but I’ll keep shoving my money in their faces if that will help.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Yup. Montrose’s motive is that he wants his wife. Blackie’s motive is that he wants her, too. They might pretend that there is something more abstract and philosophical going on, but that is the primal motive. Rania is not on stage much at the moment, but her worry concerns the harmony of personal and cosmic needs and desires, each with several levels of nuance, and therefore she is involved in a difficult balancing act of her public, private and divine priorities, and the haunting sense of her mission for which she was born, or, rather, created. The menfolk just want to kill each other. Personally, I think neither one is good enough for her, but that is just me.

          So it is a small-scale investigate of interior mood and motive AND a Wagnerian overblown space opera, all rolled into one!

          • Comment by deiseach:

            While I understand Del Azarchel’s reasoning about killing Menelaus (because he’s correct: a civil divorce will not affect the sacramental marriage, so Rania can only be free to re-marry if she’s a widow, not a divorced or separated woman), I cannot understand why he thinks she would marry him.

            Perhaps this is the gulf between the male and female minds, but when she was free, she freely chose Menelaus (now, Blackie may not be able to understand why she chose him, but there’s no accounting for taste and all the other post-humans she could marry stood to her in the relation of fathers or guardians, not possible husbands).

            If he makes her a wife by force, either the good old Chimera method of ‘beat her into submission’ or other methods of coercion (such as ‘marry me to avert galactic war’ or the like), still she is not his wife because coerced consent is no consent.

            And finally, if he thinks he can make her a wife, does he not realise she can make herself a widow? Rania may be more tender-hearted than I, but my own opinion is that a man who forces himself upon you as a husband had better look out for the bread-knife through his kidneys when you make yourself his widow.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Unfortunately, no scene has been on stage showing what Blackie’s relationship with Rania is. He is one of the men who raised her from a child, so his position is like that of a guardian to a beautiful heiress who is his ward in a Gothic romance.

              He was, after all, planning on marrying her before Montrose woke up from being Mr Hyde, and there is no hint in the narrative that she was thinking of refusing, only that she had a man she preferred, making Blackie the second choice.

              As to forcing himself on her, well, here is one issue which the story has not addressed because your humble author simply never thought of it. I mean, Blackie is a tyrant and dictator, and mutliple genocidal murderer many times over, not to mention a mutineer — but he is not cad!

              I did not put in a scene where it is clear that Blackie would never even begin to imagine such a thing only because I never began to imagine such a thing. I can correct this, thanks to you, since the wedding between Rania and Blackie takes place in THE VINDICATION OF MAN, which I am writing now.

              This is an unavoidable danger to any author — I cannot think to put in a scene to show something is not the case if I do not anticipate the natural reactions or expectations of the reader that it might be the case. My job is to answer the reader’s unasked questions before he asks them.

              An example will do — in THE GOLDEN AGE, I anticipated that readers would assume the artificial intelligences were emotionless and malevolent because in science fiction that is the default assumption, so I put in more than one scene to show that this was not the case.

              On the other hand, the notion that there is a stable island of elements above the transuranics in the periodic table is one that is so old and tried and true that I mentioned it merely in passing, assuming a scientifically literate audience would know of it — but the only criticism I have received for any inaccuracy in my hard SF is this point, a scientific speculation which not only did I not make up, but which I incorrectly assumed would be not open to serious question by the audience.

              On the third hand, one mouth-breather complained that my science was mere technobabble that reminded him of STAR TREK. This is because the Phoenix Exultant uses antimatter, and the reader thought antimatter was something Gene Roddenberry had invented for his show. I used antimatter because of the absurd ratio of the rocket equation (fuel versus payload) which one needs for interstellar flight. I did not say it in the text, but what I had in mind was a “beam core” pion rocket.In a pion rocket, antimatter is stored inside electromagnetic bottles in the form of frozen antihydrogen. Antihydrogen, like regular hydrogen, is diamagnetic which allows it to be electromagnetically levitated when refrigerated. To reach 0.8 c, I was also assuming a fuel to payload ratio of above 99 percent, which in turn requires the gigantic behemoth sized ship I described: it was practically a triangular bubble containing nothing but fuel with the payload of less than one percent of the mass — but, nevermind, readers whose familiarity with SF is no deeper than STAR TREK are not going to catch the references to real science that real science fiction writers put in their works no matter what you do.

              • Comment by deiseach:

                Ah, “forcing” can mean anything from ‘locking her in her room, dragging her to the altar, and assuming her consent’ to physically consummating the marriage by force.

                Being reared on folksongs such as Annachie Gordon (this version by Mary Black) where it’s quite cold-blooded: Jeannie’s parents force her to the church, at the wedding feast she tells Lord Saltoun that she’ll never lie in his bed and bear him a child, and Jeannie’s father tells her attendants to take off her gown (preparatory to putting her to bed), then Jeannie falls dead on the floor, then I probably have a more robust understanding of what might happen.

                And really, if Del Azarchel does not want to be considered a cad, then he should not plot the death of a man so he can marry his widow. I don’t see the bloody corpse of her husband (whom, to all appearances, she loves) as the kind of courting gift Rania might appreciate.

                Never mind that it’s perfectly possible she may already be with child by Menelaus! A thing that only occurred to me when I was reading Blackie’s Cunning Plan: “I will kill you and marry your widow and we will live happily ever after”.

                Hmmm – it may not go so smoothly as that.

                Also – “the wedding between Rania and Blackie”????

                Now, the only way this can happen is if Rania believes Menelaus is really most completely dead, and if you are going to kill off your main character in Book Four of a six-book series, I congratulate you on your daring but I don’t know where we’re going to go from that.

                So I’m going to assume he’s not dead, or not all the way dead, or he’s dead but he gets better, and then the marriage is a bigamous one and oh dear oh dear oh dear, that is not good either because if consummated, then Blackie has inveigled Rania into committing adultery. Which is a sin. So she had better slap a boatload of conditions on that marriage, such as she’ll agree to the marriage licence/civil ceremony but no consummation until she’s completed a period of mourning for her first husband.

                I still maintain the “wedding gown today, widow’s weeds tomorrow” view of the matter on Rania’s part is the best way to deal with the situation, but I’m more than happy to leave the resolution of this love triangle up to you, Mr. Wright.

              • Comment by deiseach:

                the reader thought antimatter was something Gene Roddenberry had invented for his show

                I don’t know what to say to that. Why was this person reading SF if he/she/it hasn’t a basic grasp of the tropes involved? Perhaps they were misled by the “thrilling space romance” notion and thought they were going to get a story about spacemen in space love in space with alien space babes?

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  This person (and when the sex of the antecedent is unknown or unestablished, “he” is correct, even if the person in reality is a woman or a robot) may have been a fan of space opera, a Star Trek guy, and not read much hard sf at all. Not everyone is an ANALOG fan.

                  Who am I to scoff? I like Larry Niven and Isaac Asimov just fine, but I also like Jack Kirby’s MACHINE MAN and the MORTAL KOMBAT movie and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE and Genndy Tartakovsky’s version of STAR WARS, and A PRINCESS OF MARS, and some stuff that, science-wise, has about as much real science in it as a McDonald’s burger has real grade-a beef. It is Soy-ence Fiction.

                  What was Clarke’ famous law again? Any sufficiently sword-using science fiction story is indistinguishable from fantasy? It was something like that. It had the word ‘indistinguishable’ in it.

              • Comment by Mrmandias:

                “since the wedding between Rania and Blackie takes place in THE VINDICATION OF MAN, which I am writing no”

                WHAT!

                NOOO. NO. N.O.

                To quote Mitt Romney. OH, NO, NO. NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO. NO, NO, NO.
                —-
                I was going to suggest that if your publisher won’t do the next three books, you could fund them through a kickstarter, but I see you’ve already anticipated us and are started on your marketing campaign. If we kick in sufficiently, Blackie doesn’t marry Rania. And if we reach your stretch goals, Sir Guy de Whatnot doesn’t start spouting Richard Dawkins’ atheist platitudes.

  4. Comment by Brian Niemeier:

    I got my copy on Wednesday. Stayed up past 3 AM reading it the last two nights. Best entry in the series so far.

    If it’s any consolation, Booklist gave The Judge of Ages a positive review. A subscription is necessary to read it, though.

  5. Comment by MissJean:

    I have a question, Mr. Wright. I have your The Golden Age and Count to a Trillian on my Kindle app. So which do I read first? (I have you queued up before Mr. Wolfe and Mr. Tolkien.)

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Read Tolkien first, then Wolfe.

      • Comment by MissJean:

        I told the brilliant Mrs. Wright that she’s after Tolkien (whose Silmarr… erm, I can’t spell it. Silmarilion? hasn’t arrived by post) , and I haven’t got her first Prospero book yet.

        So this summer, after I’ve read Wolfe (and, come to think of it, Vogt’s SLAN), which of your novels goes first?

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          GOLDEN AGE is the first book in a trilogy, which continues in PHOENIX EXULTANT and GOLDEN TRANSCENDENCE. I wrote it first. COUNT TO A TRILLION is the first in an unfinished six-volume story, continued in THE HERMETIC MILLENNIA and JUDGE OF AGES.

          I don’t know which one to read first. COUNT TO A TRILLION has a better opening, but takes more time to get under weigh. GOLDEN AGE is far future, and uses the ‘throw them in the deep end of the pool’ method of explaining the strangeness of the remote future world. COUNT TO A TRILLION is a little closer to home, and more like the current day. I suppose it depends on what mood one is in.

          • Comment by MissJean:

            Thank you so much, Mr. Wright. I thought that they were of the same series. GOLDEN AGE first, then.

            Also, I have great admiration for everyone here who is so well-read in various genres and so interesting in their commentary. I love books but it seems I’m permanently in a backlog these days years. The recommendations here have helped me choose some interesting authors I wouldn’t have considered, like Ted Chiang and Mr. Wolf. (VERY grateful for introduction to Cordwainer Smith, one of the greatest writers of whom I’d never heard.)

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              My pleasure. Cordwainer Smith is an unique treasure.

              I should warn you that Ted Chiang, while a very skilled writer indeed, is fairly firmly the camp of those who regard the Bible as absurd.

              One of the things that made me begin to doubt my firmly held and lifelong atheism was his short story ‘Hell is the Absence of God’ which was so unselfconsciously unfair and outrageously slanderous to Christians, not to mention completely stupid in its theme and approach, that I began to wonder why if the Christian were as wrong and wrongheaded as I and all other atheists took them to be, our side felt the need to invent hysterical lies about them. I mean, if something is wrong, is it not enough to show the wrongness, and let that speak for itself?

              So I was aghast at the degree and depth of his blasphemy, which was so outrageous that it offended me, even though I was on his side, and even though I did not believe blasphemy existed, because I did not believe there was a God to blaspheme, or divine things.

              Just a word of warning.

              • Comment by DGDDavidson:

                After reading your take-down of it, I went and bought “Hell Is the Absence of God” to see what I thought. My reaction was much the same as my reaction to “Behold the Man” or His Dark Materials or, for that matter, Stranger in a Strange Bed: I laughed at it. It did not read like a story that wanted to be taken seriously.

                Perhaps it would have worked better if he hadn’t cheated, but he capriciously broke the story’s internal rules just to screw with his protagonist. Even taken for what it is, as a story set in a bizarre world that functions in its own bizarre way, the story doesn’t work. He should have known he couldn’t write any sort of effective satire of anything when he cheats like that.

                • Comment by MissJean:

                  You’re right. He wrote what the world (and Hell) was like, putting the frame around the edges of the puzzle, so to speak. Then when it was almost complete, he jammed some random pieces from another puzzle into the empty slots.

                  • Comment by John C Wright:

                    Not random. He wrote a satire on Christianity where God was a devil, and the devils were enlightened freethinkers, and the main character, having been tormented by a cruel God by killing the man’s wife, in his attempt to gain heaven not for God’s sake but for his wife’s sake, attempts to gain the ‘Blind Faith’ needed to enter heaven, which is caused by a light that wipes out one’s eyes and makes one unable not to love God: and having achieved this the main character is condemned by God to Hell.

                    Because the point of the story is that God is not the source of life and love and light, but the enemy of man who seeks to destroy human happiness.

                    It is the kind of think a bright thirteen year old might write about God when he is drunk on the idea of atheism, an idea that he has embraced for the first time.

                    That is assuming we are talking about a thirteen year old who has never met any Christians, but “knows” from his radical Leftwing friend’s fragmented jokes and taunts about them what they must be like.

                    • Comment by MissJean:

                      Well, I thought it seemed random because the Janice character also had the same vision and started speaking solely of God’s beauty, but the third character saw Neil’s soul go to Hell and started ministry preaching on something to the effect that it’s all a big crapshoot. So it seemed like there were different ideas left in just to cover all the bases.

                      Plus the fallen angels seemed like apathetic dudes thrown in, it seemed to me, because it was necessary after mentioning the pathetic sort of Hell that people kept seeing. (I think Hell in the story sounded a lot like “Seinfeld” – a little talk, a little laughing, but basically about nothing.)

                      It reminded me a little of the scene in “The Golden Compass” in which Lyra suddenly remembers that fire can cause an explosion in a mill, so she tosses a bag of flour in the air as she runs through a kitchen. Then there are explosions behind her. Why? Because the author thought it would do.

              • Comment by MissJean:

                Thanks for the warning, but it seems I’ve read that.

                I forgot it was by Chiang because it was not nearly as well-written as his story about the Tower of Babel. It read like a synopsis instead of a story, except for the description of the angelic visitation in the desert. As I recall, he was inspired by that dumb movie The Prophecy.

                Also, I remember the character’s names because they were forehead-smackers: Neil (Kneel) for the guy who went to Hell and Janice (Janus) for the woman who was alternately cursed, cured, and cursed-as-a-cure.

                It’s one of the few short stories that I’ve felt the author was trying too hard to have a profound ending, making it a stupid ending. The other was the old one about the guy with a ghost in the bag and someone’s face is eaten. (I forgot the name. It’s probably something like “Ghost Bag”!) If he was going for a disturbing ending, the bar was raised when I innocently dipped into my eldest brother’s college coursepacks and read I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. Yikes!

              • Comment by deiseach:

                The twist ending didn’t work for me, because when Mr Chiang had his character have the bright idea of “My wife is in Heaven; to see her again I need to get to Heaven; I can get to Heaven if I love God; if I achieve this vision, I will love God”, I went “Eh – that’s not going to work”.

                And lo and behold, it didn’t work, and the ending was supposed to be that God was cruel, or arbitrary, or didn’t care about humans, or something. Anyway, we were supposed to be “That’s not fair!” about the character’s fate, and I was going “Look, mate, I learned this when I was twelve in our preparing for Confirmation classes”.

                You can’t have a box-ticking faith: you can’t go “I don’t want to go to Hell, so I’ll keep all the rules and God can’t damn me” (although the fear of Hell may be a rock-bottom starting point for faith); you can’t go “I want to go to Heaven to get all the goodies and the happy happy joy joy so I’ll keep all the rules and God has to reward me” because that doesn’t work either.

                You love God, so you wish only to do His will, and so you keep His commandments. Because they are His will, because they are right, because God is good. Not because He will punish you if you don’t, and not because He will reward you if you’re good.

                I mean, it’s laid out in Matthew 10: 37-39 “37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

                So the narrator who only wanted to get to Heaven because he wanted to be re-united with his wife was never going to get what he wanted. You can’t reduce God to an instrument. C.S. Lewis has exactly that in Chapter 11 of “The Great Divorce” where a woman wants to see her son again:

                “Oh, it’s work, is it?” snapped the Ghost. Then, after a pause, “Well. When am I going to be allowed to see him?”
                “There’s no question of being allowed, Pam. As soon as it’s possible for him to see you, of course he will. You need to be thickened up a bit.”
                “How?” said the Ghost. The monosyllable was hard and a little threatening.
                “I’m afraid the first step is a hard one,” said the Spirit. “But after that you’ll go on like a house on fire. You will become solid enough for Michael to perceive you when you learn to want someone else besides Michael. I don’t say ‘more than Michael,’ not as a beginning. That will come later. It’s only the little germ of a desire for God that we need to start the process.”
                “Oh, you mean religion and all that sort of thing? This is hardly the moment… and from you, of all people. Well, never mind. I’ll do whatever’s necessary. What do you want me to do? Come on. The sooner I begin it, the sooner they’ll let me see my boy. I’m quite ready.”
                “But, Pam, do think! Don’t you see you are not beginning at all as long as you are in that state of mind? You’re treating God only as a means to Michael. But the whole thickening treatment consists in learning to want God for His own sake.”
                “You wouldn’t talk like that if you were a Mother.”
                “You mean, if I were only a mother. But there is no such thing as being only a mother. You exist as Michael’s mother only because you first exist as God’s creature. That relation is older and closer.
                No, listen, Pam! He also loves. He also has suffered. He also has waited a long time.”
                “If He loved me He’d let me see my boy. If He loved me why did He take away Michael from me? I wasn’t going to say
                anything about that. But it’s pretty hard to forgive, you know.”
                “But He had to take Michael away. Partly for Michael’s sake. . . .”

                The narrator got justice – bare, naked justice and nothing about mercy. Now, whether Mr Chiang thinks God has no mercy or not, the faulty reasoning here seems to be:
                (a) You deserve to go to Heaven if you’re a Good Person
                (b) A Good Person is one who hasn’t committed sins like murder or rape (as though there were no other ways of killing grace in the soul)
                (c) If God or whomever does not let a Good Person into Heaven merely on a technicality (such as “You don’t believe in Me”), then God is being mean and nasty and unfair

                There’s nothing to say that the narrator didn’t deserve to go to Hell for other sins in his life. No, we’re supposed to think of the ending as a mean little trick God plays on His dupes.

                • Comment by MissJean:

                  Now that you mention it, I can see a strong resemblance between the main character and those angels in that movie “Dogma” – using a technicality to get into Heaven.

                  I read “The Great Divorce” only a few years ago, and was astounded that it wasn’t dated. The mother reminded me of the mother of a school-shooting victim I met during my work, except the real-life mother was hardly reluctant to speak of her hatred of God. The scariest of Lewis’ characterizations was the woman who wanted to meet her husband again because she needed to “fix” him.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  Odd that you quote that book. One of the happiest days of my life was when both my ten year old and my fifteen year old asked for THE GREAT DIVORCE as their bedtime story today. I had started reading at part of my ‘Sundays With Daddy’ project where I spend an hour with each kid each week reading and discussing some Christian literary work. I had started with Peter Kreeft’s THE UNABORTED SOCRATES and SOCRATES MEETS JESUS and moved on to Lewis’ THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS.

                  What should I read to them next? What is a good book on theology told in a story book fashion for teens and younger kids? Is there truly no one else like Lewis?

                  • Comment by deiseach:

                    As I said, Chiang’s “Hey! Bet you Christians never thought of that, did you?” ending didn’t work for me because my response was “The nuns taught me this when I was twelve in my small Irish town – am I supposed to be shocked, astounded, dismayed or gobsmacked by your staggering genius? Do you really think, in the two thousand years of Christianity and all the heresies and all the theology and all the study, nobody every came up with a scenario like that before?”

                    I don’t know if it counts as theology for the young, but perhaps (some) of Chesterton’s Father Brown stories? You can see his art student training in the way he writes descriptions, he gets the basics of ‘faith is reasonable’ in under the guise of a thrilling detective tale, and they are thrilling detective tales – what young teen boy would not appreciate a murder where the victim’s head is smashed like an egg, and they have to work out who did it when all the indications are contrary?

                    I’m no help here – when I was fifteen, I got all my theology out of “The Divine Comedy” – stumbled across the Henry Cary translation mouldering on the school bookshelves, and God bless the man, he was so Low Church Anglican that he carefully footnoted the reference, in the introductory verses, to “a lady in Heaven” (which as any fule kno is the Blessed Virgin Mary) as being the allegorical figure of Divine Mercy.

                    But even in a stiff early 19th century translation, Dante just hit me over the head. I liked him a lot better than Milton (whom we were doing in English class at the time), part of which was down to pure sectarian bias on the part of an unsophisticated young ignorant rural Irish Catholic – the first poem we studied (before tackling the initial book of “Paradise Lost”) was Sonnet XVIII and referring to the Pope as “the triple tyrant” didn’t incline me to favour him, on top of learning he was a Puritan in Cromwell’s time and indeed a friend of Oliver Cromwell (yeah, that gets us loving him after learning about Cromwell’s Irish campaign and the Siege of Drogheda) in History.

                    But part of it was definitely the theology – I appreciated that Milton was a great poet and “Paradise Lost” a great poem, but his angels and devils were too fleshy and the conversations between God and Jesus too remote (and his presentation of the Son struck me as tending almost towards Arianism or one of the early Christological heresies: there’s no sense of Two Persons of the Trinity here, but God and a subordinate).

                    Dante’s world was bigger somehow, and even though we didn’t see the angels (except as shimmers of light too bright to be directly looked at) and God is off-stage until the very end, it’s more immediate and realer, somehow. And of course, he made me fall in love with Virgil (though any resemblance between his version of Virgil and the real person is probably very faint).

                    I suppose what I’m saying is that, although at the time I didn’t have words for it, Milton is consciously (even self-consciously) writing A Great Poem. Dante is writing self-insert Classics fanfiction and he has the arbitrary, impassioned likes and dislikes of us fans (you can imagine him in online debates with “ZOMG Caesar is the greatest I can’t even my feeeeels”) :-)

                  • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                    What should I read to them next? What is a good book on theology told in a story book fashion for teens and younger kids?

                    If your kids are old enough, THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY is brilliant, if dense-ish. FATHER BROWN mysteries are a great second, but stick with the early ones. BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE is another brilliant one, and a fine story besides. MANALIVE is great but, unfortunately, has a regrettable Jewish caricature.

                    None of these are stories for children, really — but neither is THE GREAT DIVORCE.

                  • Comment by allmotherwit:

                    (Actually Mother Wit (formerly thefish30). WordPress would not recognioxze me as logged in; I had to create a new account just to comment. :/ )

                    This is a subject dear to my heart. My then 11yo daughter adored Pilgrim’s Progress so much that I went on to Pilgrim’s Regress even though I thought she was a little young for it. She loved that too. I was going to go on to Hind’s Feet on the High Places (not particularly a boy’s book), but discovered she had found and finished it already on her own.

                    Needing a new Christian lit book on the spot, I picked up Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia which is being well received. It’s very light on the Christianity, but full of good sense and Johnson’s prose is sooooo smooth it’s a delight to hear aloud. Plus it’s a quick read.

                    I think The Great Divorce is our next one, and I’ve been eying Father Brown. I’ll have to look up Kreeft.

                    I’ve also gone through Ourselves by Charlotte Mason with all four of my girls at once. It’s largely an extended metaphor of “the Kingdom of Mansoul”, its natural resources, ministers, advisers, and chief perils for “young people” from a thoroughly Christian perspective. Though there was a bit of eye-rolling over it at the time, I’ve been privately assured its lessons were both memorable and valuable.

                    As an aside, if your kids have have not read the Benedict Society series, it is deeply good, very funny, edge-of your-seat exciting and written by a man who understands the interior life of children.

              • Comment by Mrmandias:

                Chiang may be an atheist (I don’t know), but his stuff isn’t new atheist to me, nothing like His Dark materials or whatnot. I see him doing for God what you do for Space and Time. Restoring the sense of scale and therefore of fear and awe. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. He’s almost Calvinist.

          • Comment by Mrmandias:

            I would recommend Count to a Trillion. The hero in it is deeper.

  6. Comment by cjf_moraga:

    What a wonderful series! I purchased The Judge of Ages on Wednesday and have just gone back to re-read the first and second books again. There are so many details that escape first reading. I missed a more detailed timeline in the second book, so really appreciate the carefully thought out chronology in the third book with its powerful sense of history!

    (Though I do not quite understand how the Hermetic could cover 50 Light Years between 2235 and 2285 unless it was traveling instantly at light speed from the start. There appears little time to accelerate and decelerate and doing so quickly would turn the crew into paste)

    This series reminds me so much of Olaf Stapledon of which it is I suspect a conscious tribute. So few authors are able to create a true sense of historical “deep time”. In fact I cannot recall any author ever quite creating the Stapelton effect as convincingly, though in comparative terms we are not even out of the age of the First Men yet.

    I greatly look forwards to the following volumes. (I sense from some older posts there is a doubt as to whether the next book will be taken up by the publisher. I certainly hope it is, and if not, please do consider self publishing electronically or physically. I suspect you have many willing customers who will make it worth your while)

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      The figures are approximate.

      When I assumed the star (a real star, BPM 37093) was closer to 49 than the estimated 50 – 53 lightyears away, that the acceleration was continual at about 0.7 gravities, and that the trip took 51 years and achieved .9985 percent of lightspeed; but then I noticed if I assumed it was 48.5 lightyears away and the ship traveled at 0.8 gravities, the figure was .9988 and the travel time was closer to 50.8 years…

      (I actually assumed the acceleration was higher at the front and back end, and there there was an unspecified coasting period in the middle, due to the nature of using a laser beam to hit a target 25 lightyears away…)

      But then I just rounded the figures to the nearest large number, and assumed no reader would actually ask me to show my work.

      The short answer is that the figures are approximate and the acceleration was constant for decades before and after a midflight coast at nearlightspeed. You can get from a standing start to nearlightspeed in 50 weeks with a constant one gee acceleration. No flatten-the-crew-to-paste acceleration is needed.

  7. Comment by The Ubiquitous:

    It has shipped, so says Amazon, along with When God Spoke Greek.

    I have no doubt which I will read first — and it won’t be anything scholarly. At least, unless this series takes a very weird turn.

    • Comment by deiseach:

      Well, as to scholarly – I’m getting a free education in physics and astronomy that I didn’t receive when I was at school (I’m one of the biologists – yeah, yeah: the flower-pressers who didn’t have enough maths for real science).

      :-)

  8. Comment by PNG_pyro:

    Well, as you are one of the few authors I’m willing to pay money up front to support, I was pretty pleased to discover you’d finished the trilogy. I don’t read this blog often, but every time I do, I’m reminded why it’s on my hotbar; you are consistently witty and often educational.

    I just read The Hermetic Millennia, and I have to say, I enjoyed it very much indeed. The only critique I’d venture is that in a few parts it felt overly meta; Menelaus’ conversation with Mickey had me laughing out loud, not an easy feat, but it also had me going “Oh, very good Mr. Wright!” You may be more ‘visible’ to my mind than the average reader, though. Since you seem to welcome feedback, I thought I’d post it. Other than that, all I have to say is “your book is good and you should feel good.”

    I may have also found a spelling mistake. In the first chapter, in the second paragraph after the second heading, ‘The Empire of Air’, Montrose calls the Cryonarchs ‘Cryptonarchs’ once. I was rather confused, since it was the first chapter and I was trying to get names straight. Unless I’m missing something important? Oh; I have the Kindle version, for reference, and unrelated, I am very pleased by the fact it is DRM free.

    Now I need to consider if I can budget the next book into next weeks spending money…hmm. First world problems, right?

    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

      I was pretty pleased to discover you’d finished the trilogy.

      Ah, but he hasn’t finished it, and it isn’t a trilogy — if “it” means the COUNT TO THE ESCHATON sequence.

      • Comment by PNG_pyro:

        …dang.

        How did I miss that?

        Something about these books screws with my head. First, I thought ‘Count to a Trillion’ was standalone. Now I’m convinced it’s a trilogy?

        I mean, I knew there would be more books, but for some reason I thought these three were a unit. With, you know, an ending, and closure, before the next…set.

        Ok, I’ll bite…how many books? I don’t really like waiting year-on-year for releases, so I may go back to not reading them until they’re done. Especially if Judge of Ages cliffhangs like The Hermetic Millenia. Not a fan of cliffhangers.

        I mean, more books are good, but…waiting is bad. Not that I’d encourage rushing, but-oh, you know what I mean.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          I am writing the story in six books. So far, the publisher has only agreed to buy four of them.

          One of the few complaints I have with my editor is that whenever I write the words ‘To Be Continued’ at the end of the manuscript, he red pencils them out. The editor will NOT LET ME tell the readers the story is not over when it is not over. The theory is that reader will not buy a book if the story is not complete in that book, unless we trick them with false advertising.

          After one flatheaded reviewer complained about the ‘ending’ of ORPHANS OF CHAOS — apparently he thought this was one of those postmodern nihilist stories where no plot points get resolved and everyone fails in middle of the action — I resolved to make it as clear as possible that there was more to come by having the hero fall off a cliff, or drop a tower on him, or have the baddies discover his identity, or whatever.

          • Comment by Nate Winchester:

            Who could hate the ending of Orphans? I mean… I did because I found it horrifying and one of the worst things to happen to characters I’d grown to care about but then it was clear I was SUPPOSED to have those feelings towards the ending.

            Or maybe I should say I loved to hate the ending to Orphans. It’s not often I feel gutpunched by a book like that.

          • Comment by PNG_pyro:

            I’m sorry to say it, but your publisher isn’t totally wrong, at least where I’m concerned. Although the false advertising bit seems rather short-sighted, since I would buy them…eventually. I do like reading things all at once. I waited for the end of the Wheel of Time, even, after realizing they weren’t done at seven door-stops.

            Although I don’t know how representative I am, since much of my reading is free; either from the library, or the surprisingly fast-growing category of free online stuff. You need to do some shovel-work to find the gems, but some of them are really worth it.

            On the other hand, I do want to support you, since you’re an excellent Christian author, so I may buy Judge of Ages and the next to convince your publishers the rest are worth it. Is this a common issue for people who want to write a series?

            • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

              Presumably as often as human error gets involved. They messed up on their superequations or somesuch.

              John writes:

              I have been informed by the publisher that an overestimation was made in the print run, and more units were printed than feasible. Unless each and every volume of the book sells, the series will not appear on the balance sheets of Tor Books as a good investment, and they will not buy the concluding volume.

              This was a problem for Hermetic Millennia. It seems as if purchasing this series firsthand is going to be particularly important for the rest of the series, because of the problems with Millennia.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              I don’t know if it is a common issue. I told the publisher I could do it in four books, and the tale grew in the telling, and I asked for two more, and they have yet to answer. So the fault, if we must find fault, is mine, not theirs. But good sales would no doubt ease their decision making process.

        • Comment by deiseach:

          Cliffhanger? Ah…

          That depends on what you consider a cliffhanger. :-)

          • Comment by PNG_pyro:

            This is true. His cliffhanger did not have me tearing my hair out; that sort of thing might have made me abandon the series in frustration. It’s mild enough to be tolerable. But I still like doing my waiting all at once.

            Oddly enough, this attitude is opposite for how I consider shorter-paced serials, like comics. If I’m only waiting a week, I actually prefer an unfinished story. Weird, huh? I guess we’re all a bit crazy.

        • Comment by Mrmandias:

          The first three books do come to a rather satisfying conclusion and have a story arc.

  9. Comment by Nate Winchester:

    I JUST NOW got my hardback copy of it, Mr Wright. (literally, I just walked out of my town’s B&N with it, a book for my neice who’s birthday is next month, and Futurama season 8 and and now typing this at a nearby restuarant with wifi) I intend to write a bit of my own until the food comes then I shall start on it forthwith. (though don’t tell Mr Correia I’m putting his Hard Magic on hold for you ;) )

    Of course I’ll let you know of my honest review once I’m finished.

    EDIT: And my waiter – a friendly fella – asked about it and I recommended your first book to him. Hopefully you’ll gain a new fan today.

  10. Comment by Mary:

    Ordered it Tuesday. Got it Thursday. Have yet to read it. (There was a Boskone between now and then which was a factor.)

  11. Comment by Gigalith:

    I got it a few days ago, and went straight from taking it out of the package to reading it through in one fell swoop. Loved all of it.

    I have a couple questions, which may be answered if I hadn’t read through the book so fast:

    1. What is the difference between the super-brain of Montrose and the super-brains of the Giants? Why does one not need a giant (ha!) brain while the others do? Is it that Monstrose’s brain uses more of the divarication proofs?

    2. Why, at the end, do they need a Xypotech for long-term biosuspension? Montrose seemed to get by with only Pellucid for millennia. For that matter (again, perhaps I needed to read more closely) why does del Archel even need biosuspension with his fancy age-restoration amulet? For that matter, with only a few hundred years left on the clock before all Hyades breaks loose in Sol, why are they even concerned about long-term anything, unless they’re planning to skedaddle before the Armada arrives?

    3. Where is the Pope during, say, the age of the Hormagaunts? Frozen in a Tomb? (Ever since I thought of that idea the phrase “WRATH OF THE CRYO-POPE!” has been stuck in my head.)

    4. From a post above, did book 4 get picked up by your publisher? If so, congratulations! Here’s to books five and six.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      1. This is a good question. Basically, Montrose is dumber than the Giants but for some reason he has not figured out yet, he can do the Monument Math in his head more easily than they. This is a plot point that will be revealed in a later book.
      2. Pellucid is an advanced form of Xypotech. The long term suspension technique replaces one fourth of the body’s mass with artificial engines smaller than human cells which slow the molecular mechanisms of life. The sheer complexity of how to do this without creating cancer or causing death requires what is basically a real-time computer model of every cell in the man’s nervous system. The human brain is outrageously complex: there are more possible combinations of neural interconnections than there are atoms in the universe. Del Azarchel’s amulet increases lifespan and slow aging, but does not grant him the ability to outwait 66 thousand years. The text does not say, but his amulet would begin to produce divarication errors after a millennia of life. The text does mention that he has to return to to the cryonic coffin aboard his ship to have Exarchel correct accumulated cellular reproduction errors. Neither Montrose nor Del Azarchel plan to die when the Hyades arrives in four hundred years. They both intend to live until Rania returns circa 70000 AD.

      3. We do not know where the Pope is during this time. Presumably in the tombs. We do know that the Witches and the Hormagaunts raided the tombs on several occasions. On at least one occasion the motive of the Witches was to destroy surviving Christians from an earlier period in history. It is implied from the story Soorm tells that some form of universal Church, existed during the years when Reyes y Pastor was master of the world.

      4. Book 4 is on the publisher’s desk now. They have yet to buy the manuscript.

      • Comment by Gigalith:

        So, I hadn’t been missing things.

        In re 2, I was more of referring to that they have bigger problems than long-term biosuspension at the moment.

        In re 3, I think the only problem with having a living but absent pope is the current Canon Law excommunicates any bishop who makes more bishops without Papal permission, and excommunicated priests cannot give valid absolution outside of the danger of death. I suppose far-future canon law would be wise enough to deal with such strange contingencies as Hermetic cardinals going sane and what to do when there’s bishops needed but the Pope is unavailable, so as to avoid the WRATH OF THE CRYO-POPE.

        In re 4, I do hope your publisher buys it. Otherwise, I will be all :(

        • Comment by Nate Winchester:

          Cryo-pope keeps making me think of…
          http://futurama.wikia.com/wiki/Space_Pope

          Though it could be interesting if structures break down enough would Catholicism resort to a more protestant or less formal form.

          It’s one of the things I’m considering trying to examine in my FF/SPN crossover but haven’t got a lot of feedback from my catholic friends on how to do the topic. ;)

        • Comment by deiseach:

          There must be a provision for what to do when you can’t get a message to/from the pope; in the past, what about places (like Ireland) on the peripheries, where it would take months/years to get a message to Rome about “Bishop Seanchan is dead” and a message back saying “Okay, go ahead and consecrate Fachtna as your new bishop”?

          From Irish history, there’s the case of Myler McGrath, who managed to be simultaneously Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland bishop at the same time: basically, he was a Franciscan priest who was appointed bishop of an Irish see in 1565, in 1567 he saw which side his bread was buttered on, went over to the English government in Ireland, and got appointed as the Anglican bishop, and it was only nine years later, in 1580, that Rome got around to depriving him of his see and excommunicating him.

  12. Comment by TheMindsI:

    I very much look forward to reading your newest book, Mr. Wright. Due to an unfortunate loss of income I won’t be able to buy my own copy for probably a year or more, but my friendly local librarian has agreed to purchase a copy for our library :-)

    On that note, does it help your overall sales when libraries get copies of your books, or do libraries get some sort of exemption or free pass where the publisher sends them copies for free (or, more likely, just at cost)? If they count to your overall sales (or even if they don’t), I’d be happy to call up more local libraries (there are several private ones which compete with each other in my area) and demand more Wright.

  13. Comment by The_Shadow:

    I’ve read it now, and I enjoyed it very much! I do find the expository style of this and the previous book a little disorienting at times, though – much of the action is told through the stories of others.

    I personally suspect that (for example) the whole episode of Rayura-Ah would have been more powerful if shown directly. But then, I must admit that would have made for a much longer series! These books resemble Star-Maker in the sheer compression involved – as a writer friend of mine puts it, “Each page of that book would make a novel for anyone else.”

    My only real critique would be that we hardly got to know Pellucid before it, ah, had problems. I would have had more of an emotional reaction to what happened if the ground had been prepared a bit more. (Also, I somehow missed that it was based on Res Ipsa.)

    Oh, and there are some interesting typos in places. Like, how does ‘two orders of magnitude’ change 200 years to 200,000 years?

    A question. It is implied that the Church manages to survive underground at least as far as the age of the Chimerae. Was there a hierarchy as well? Or were they surviving as the Japanese Catholics did, with only baptism and matrimony? Was the Church extinct in the age when Reyes y Pastor tried his ill-fated revival? Was he a bishop? (Of course it is a matter of Catholic faith that the Church and the people of Israel will persist until the end of time; but fiction need not follow the iron laws of the real world.)

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      A question. It is implied that the Church manages to survive underground at least as far as the age of the Chimerae. Was there a hierarchy as well? Or were they surviving as the Japanese Catholics did, with only baptism and matrimony? Was the Church extinct in the age when Reyes y Pastor tried his ill-fated revival? Was he a bishop? (Of course it is a matter of Catholic faith that the Church and the people of Israel will persist until the end of time; but fiction need not follow the iron laws of the real world.)

      You see, for this book I am a science fiction writer, not a fantasy writer, so I am not allowed to violate any known laws of science or other facts, whether revealed truth or empirical truth. Science fiction writers only speculate about the unknown.

      More will be revealed in a later book, but I will give you a hint: Ximen del Azarchel did want the Church toppled from her position of dominance during the Twenty-Sixth to Thirty-First Century, when she was able by fiat to halt the investigation and production of human emulations called ghosts. He also kept enough bishops in cryogenic suspension for his own use, because he wanted to be married in the Church when Rania returned.

      Reyes was also most successful at reviving the Church than he thought: the Sacerdotal Order of the Twelfth Millennium is an institution which contained many elements of the original Uniate Catholic Church of the Twenty-Sixth Century: for example, Del Azarchel and Montrose meet a member of Order of the Discalced Friars of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in AD 11057. (This scene appears in CONCUBINE VECTOR, which is currently sitting on the Editor’s desk. Keep your fingers crossed and write Tor Books letters asking them to buy my next!)

      By the Eighteenth Millennium, the Christian roots of the Sacerdotal Order are almost forgotten, smothered in layers of syncretic and synthetic faiths of other origins ecumenical and universal, rejecting no expression of faith from any culture: so ancestor worship and astrology are practiced alongside the veneration of Saints, and Christ is revered alongside Tash and other gods.

      However, there is a revival or reformation in the Sacerdotes led by a Martyr named Purewater in the Thirty-Sixth Millennium, and the Judeo-Christian elements either absorb or dismiss other practices, such as ancestor worship.

      In the Forty-Second Millennium, Sacerdotalism becomes the established religion of Hierophants, a crossbreed race composed of humans and Swans in mental union.

      Thereafter, the Sacerdotal Order claims that her Supreme Pontiff is in fact the heir of Peter in an unbroken line back to the First Millennium. However, whether or not the various breaks, real or apparent, in this continuity make this claim true or false is something for a Theologian or Canon Lawyer to answer, not your humble historian. The Sacerdotes are still in business as of the 700th Century, when Rania returns.

      What is embarrassing is that I went to the trouble of making all this up and writing it down in my notes, so that I can rattle off an answer I honestly never expected any reader to ask — not many science fiction fans would want to know about the continuity of the people of Israel and the hierarchy of the Church.

      I am not kidding: I have all this stuff in my notes. I have a middle-scale timeline planned to appear in an appendix for the next book to cover the millennia between the rise of the Swans and the Vindication of Man. The book after that will require a large-scale time line to cover the larger periods between the rise of civilization in the Milky Way until the collision between Milky Way and Andromeda; and after that I will move to the very-large-scale timeline and leave these local events behind.

      • Comment by Nate Winchester:

        You know I really do want this series to become popular enough that a “behind the scenes sketchbook” from the author could be published.

        At least until then, perhaps we few loyal readers should see about forming a “Count to Echaton” wiki? I know I was kind of wanting it as I’m reading Judge since there are some threads I need refreshers on (or even just to know whether the part I’ve reached is a new or continuing thread). You could then include “author/canon-official” behind the scene stuff that might never make it into the book or something. :D

        I mean this is the multimedia age. Though I got to thinking… if we can’t get this series into tv/movie form (and I don’t think budgets will allow anytime soon), I’d kill to see it in comic.

      • Comment by The_Shadow:

        A delightful and commendable answer, sir! Though even SF occasionally takes liberties with known scientific laws – faster-than-light drives and time travel being two traditional liberties.

        And my word, even the Discalced Carmelites are still around in the time of the Swans! God is good indeed. :) (I assume the Calced didn’t make it, though – who can imagine a cetacean with shoes? ;)

        How did things work out for the Jews? The idea of a Jewish Hormagaunt frankly boggles the imagination. (Imagine the kosher regulations!! Oh my word, and the Chimerae…!) Did Reyes y Pastor ordain any Hormagaunt priests?

        Why should you be embarrassed at your efforts at sub-creation? While I’m not so much of a purist on the matter as Tolkien (nobody is!) I certainly see no shame in striving to make your imagined world as consistent as you possibly can. Even the parts that your readers will never see still matter, as they help shape the parts your readers do see.

        And I agree with Nate Winchester that I would pay real cash money for a peek at your notes in a ‘behind the scenes’ format, and would also eagerly endorse his idea of a wiki.

      • Comment by The_Shadow:

        Also, what sort of man must Blackie be, that he can be Catholic enough to desire marriage in the Church, yet do his level best to encompass the Church’s destruction?

        Perhaps he would reply that in any event, his faith tells him that the Church *cannot* be destroyed. But as C. S. Lewis says, if you volunteer to do the Devil’s work, you must expect to paid with his wages.

        (I’m a little surprised the Church ended up countenancing cryosuspension, btw – to the point that even a Pope was frozen. I have to assume that canon law requires one to resign all ecclesiastical offices before suspension, though – otherwise the result would be chaos. How could a new Pope be elected if the old one is still technically alive, and could be unfrozen at any time?)

        • Comment by deiseach:

          Actually, very possibly Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his resignation would give a precedent here: if we take it that any pope who goes into cryosuspension is, de facto if not de jure, considered to have resigned his office, then you could have a frozen pope and one who is alive and reigning at the same time.

          • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

            I wonder how many popes are frozen, after all. I also wonder whether there was some unscrupulous pope who by his disappearance caused a canonical crisis, forcing the issue — now that’s an idea for a short story.

            Well, a short story for a very slim market. Still.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Also, what sort of man must Blackie be, that he can be Catholic enough to desire marriage in the Church, yet do his level best to encompass the Church’s destruction?

          What sort of Apostle must Judas have been? Keep in mind that he did leave everything to follow Christ during his earthly ministry. What sort of general was Benedict Arnold? Read his history: was the bravest and most daring and successful general in the rebel cause, he fought brilliantly, and the Continental Congress in an act of blindingly shortsighted ingratitude cashiered him for having soldiers help him move his furniture.

          • Comment by The_Shadow:

            You misunderstand me, Mr. Wright. Probably I was not clear.

            I’m not boggling over the mystery of evil, mystery though it be. Human beings have certainly been known to betray what they hold dear before.

            It’s the sheer blindness and hypocrisy that boggles me about Blackie. It’s not just that he persecuted the Church he claims to hold dear; that has certainly happened before. It’s that, having done so, he still wants all the canonical i’s dotted and t’s crossed. It’s like an unrepentant Benedict Arnold applying for an American passport on the grounds that he’s a natural-born citizen.

      • Comment by The_Shadow:

        One final thing. You posted here a heart-wrenching cut chapter of Blackie’s confession to Reyes y Pastor, in which the priest deliberately turns his back on his vision of the Virgin and embraces damnation.

        I wonder if you would consider writing a short story about his change of heart and ultimate martyrdom? It would make an effective diptych with that chapter, I think.

        And if it gave more insight into Blackie’s character, so much the better. I agree with Deiseach – I find it maddening how much I feel inclined to like the guy, given what a complete blackguard and tyrant he is. How can a man like that have the self-knowledge to crack that joke about megalomania?!

  14. Comment by Sean Michael:

    I too have purchased a copy of THE JUDGE OF AGES. But I can’t comment on it as yet because I want to read several other books first. I’m currently reading volume 6 of David Wingrove’s CHUNG KUO series: AN INCH OF ASHES. Next comes CRUSADE, by Taylor Anderson. And then, I hope, Mr. Wright’s THE JUDGE OF AGES.

    Truthfully, I find several things most implausible in Wingrove’s series. The most important being how the tyrant Tsao Chun, founder of the world wide Chung Kuo Chinese state, stamped out Christianity.

    I’ve also been frequenting Dr. Paul Shackley’s POUL ANDERSON APPRECIATION blog because of being a devoted fan of the works of Mr. Anderson. Dr. Shackley has most kindly “published” on his blog occasional essays of mine about the works of Poul Anderson.

    Sean M. Brooks

  15. Comment by robertjwizard:

    Mr. Wright,

    I am going to constrict my speech to save myself the embarrassment of the repetition of such words and exclamations as: Dude! No Way! Totally!

    You achieved a payoff that is truly spectacular because it spanned three books. From the end of Count to a Trillion to when Montrose and Blackie meet at the tombs and are both exiled.

    And everything in-between. That is what I open a book for.

    So well done. Thank you.

  16. Comment by The_Shadow:

    Question arising from a re-read. The Swans waited until the deadman switch was activated before making their move. So why wasn’t the Jupiter Seed killed as well?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Upon rereading it, I realize the scene is not clear. Here is the pertinent paragraph:

      Del Azarchel on heavy feet turned back toward Montrose, and pointed underfoot, and then at the hills with his white glove, gesturing toward the unnaturally sublimating snow. “You found a way to kill Exarchel. All the nanotechnology in the world’s water supply is going inert. Your final move was a sacrifice move. You just shot your horse, didn’t you? You allowed Exarchel to be infiltrated, knowing full well that I could not pass up the chance to have a xypotech of that sized housing my soul, and I sent Exarchel into it, and the infiltrator was infiltrated in turn. But why did you wait until I showed the black palm? Ah! You needed the deadman switch turned on, did you not, so that every single copy of Exarchel where ever it might be stored or how so ever it might be encrypted, would be linked by one link. That was the link you needed. Very clever.”

      Montrose spoke in a strained voice, wincing and panting, “They waited, hoping I would shoot you, which would take care of Jupiter for them.”

      Del Azarchel’s voice was hoarse with horror. “Them?”

      Del Azarchel actually misses his guess in that scene, because he does not know about the Swans. Montrose was not waiting until Del Azarchel “showed the black palm” as part of a plan to wipe out all copies of Blackie connected to the deadman switch when Exarchel commits xypohippocide; Montrose’s answer was meant to be a correction to Del Azarchel’s wrong guess.

      What your friendly author meant to convey was that if Montrose successfully shot Del Azarchel and killed him, every copy (including the Jupiter Seed) would have been obliterated by Del Azarchel’s deadman switch. That was the Swan’s plan A. But Montrose misses the shot. The Swans, without consulting Montrose, switch to plan B, and destroy Pellucid in order to kill every version of Exarchel connected with Pellucid, which causes all the snows of the world to melt, but Pellucid is not any current contact with the Jupiter Seed, which is a problem the Swans decide to let their far future descendants worry about.

      In other words, the Swans do not actually trigger the deadman switch to kill all copies of Del Azarchel. Presumably they cannot. But the various versions of Exarchel on Earth were linked up to Pellucid, which the Swans could and did destroy.

  17. Comment by David Meyer:

    Brilliant!

    My pre-ordered copy of The Judge of Ages arrived last week and I finished it with great relish today.

    I found The Hermetic Millenia, though very enjoyable, to suffer from some weaknesses that I attributed to middle-chapter syndrome. However, HM+JoA taken as a unit is a very powerful installment.

    I won’t spoil the ending of the novel, but will say that I can’t believe the direction in which the final twist has thrown series plot. The final scene is simultaneously sad and uplifting.

    Blackie is not the villain we love to hate, but the villain we hate to love. If Menelaus were not already married and homosexual unions were licit, Meany and Blackie living happily ever after would be the logical conclusion of Count to the Eschaton. ;)

    Very well done, sir.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Thank you. You honor me with your kind praise. Now if you write a letter to Tor books, asking them to buy the next three books in the series, we can find out what happens.

      What DOES happen? My guess is that Rania returns from space having been turned into a member of the third human sex known as phaens, and then ae (for we need a new pronoun for this sex) downloads Blackie against his will into the body of a svelte and dark-eyed Spanish girl, and Montrose into the body of a loving but big Black Dog, and all three form some sort of illicit sexual union. Then, the lizard Space-Pope Verminous IV emerges from Cryonic suspension, and excommunicates all three, and by black magic has them flung alive into hell, but Blackie, now known as Blackina, marries a Zelazny character named Dilvish whom she finds in a malbolge. Montrose the Black Dog meets Gandalf and follows him back to Middle Earth, becoming Montrose the White Dog, and he defeats Saruman’s dog Wormsnout. Rania returns from the dead by magic and ae lives on the back of Professor’s Quirrel’s head beneath a turban.

      Blackina and Dilvish live happily ever after, and founds the House of Peppin, whose many sons become warrior kings and repel the Space-Paynim from Space-France in the Eleventy-First Millennium.

      • Comment by The_Shadow:

        These posts, along with the learned and rational discourse, are what keep me coming back to this blog. :)

        Oh, but you are wrong about Meany the Black Dog following Gandalf! In point of fact, he visited St. John Bosco multiple times in 19th century Italy, as “Grigio”. (Look it up, it’s a weird story.)

        And Mr. Meyer: “Blackie is not the villain we love to hate, but the villain we hate to love.”

        Well said! One feels dirty liking the guy, and yet one can’t seem to help it! It’s maddening! (One almost gets the impression that Menelaus feels the same way.)

        • Comment by David Meyer:

          Meany definitely feels that way, only moreso.

          I was going to write, “Meany and Blackie would be best friends if it weren’t for Rania and Blackie’s predilection for genocide,” but the truth is they are best friends in spite of Rania and Blackie’s predilection. Though that doesn’t mean they won’t try to kill each other again the next time it’s convenient.

          • Comment by The_Shadow:

            For a moment, your sentence structure left me thinking, “What?! Rania has a predilection for genocide?!” :)

            Luckily, the ‘next time it’s convenient’ will be several tens of thousands of years away!

      • Comment by David Meyer:

        Shhhh! No SPOILERS! ;)

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