Reviewer Praise for Golden Oecumene, Everness, and Chaos Chronicles

This is from two years back, and it is a website I haunt, so I am a wee surprised I did not see it. High praise indeed from Free Northerner
(http://freenortherner.com/2014/11/23/the-bookshelf-john-c-wright/).

Let me quote the opening paragraph of each review. Go to Free Northerner to read the whole thing:

The Golden Oecumene

This is the best SF series I’ve read in a long time, possibly ever. I bought the the Golden Age and waiting two weeks for Amazon to deliver the Phoenix Exultant was almost agonizing. I would put the series almost on par with Dune and Starship Troopers (ie: my second and third favourite SFF books ever, after LotR). The scope of the series is huge and he fits so many ideas, ideas which would require whole books from lesser writers to address, in perfect harmony within the series. It is mind-boggling how much he managed to fit so together and how perfectly he managed to do so. The plot is a fantastic and novel take on the fallen scion archetype, weaving numerous story threads together seamlessly, and capping it off with an amazing final confrontation combining logic, philosophy, and science perfectly.

I’d need to be able to write as well as Wright to be able to describe just how great the writing is, so I’ll just say it’s excellent. Wright uses a quasi-classical/Shakespearean English style which he combines with future-jargon that sets a unique tone to the writing that brings the story alive. I can not adequately emphasize how good the writing is. On top of this, he even threw in strong characterization and character development, something sometimes missing from hard SF, which tends to focus on ideas over characters.

Also, Wright demonstrates exactly how to write good ideological fiction. Objectivism subtly permeates and under-girds the series and this underlying philosophy is even essential to the final confrontation, yet at no time does it feel like Wright is preaching or shoving ideology down your throat. The objectivist philosophy is there, but not explicit; it exists in the background, central to the plot and theme, yet barely noticeable and never preachy. Writers of both the right and left should read this and understand how Wright did it; this is how your write ideological fiction.

My comment: You see, it is not the message hidden in the fiction that anyone minds, it is the message overwhelming and strangling the fiction we mind.

Yes, I am still bitter about not winning the Prometheus Award, even though I am not bitter about not winning the Hugo Award. The Prometheus Award stands for something, and I truly thought the judges would see and recognize the real merit of the work. The Hugo Award is worthless these days. It is just as much an award for political SF as the Prometheus, but the World Con Morlocks refuse to admit it.

War of the Dreaming (Chronicles of Everness)

This two part series blends pagan, classical, Judeo-Christian, and English mythology together in an epic fantasy tale. The story is unique and avoids fantasy tropes, while at the same painting an unworldly, fantastical version of our own world.

The plot  and characterization are solid: the two main characters, Galen and Raven, undergo well-done coming-of-age and redemption, respectively, arcs, but the highlights are the world-building and the writing. The writing is excellent, once again having a tinge of classical/Shakespearean English to it. Again, there’s some ‘fantasy babble’, although far less than in the Golden Oecumene; it should be accessible to those with a passing familiarity with mythology.

The world John C Wright builds is fantastic in both sense of the word. The breadth of the mythology used and woven together is fantastic, and one would need a strong classical education to get it all, far stronger than the one I got in the public education system. I understood many (most?) of the references. but repeatedly, a mythological reference would be made that I would realize I was missing; I ended up consulting wiki a number of times. The breadth of references and the ease with which they’re worked in demonstrate a very high level of knowledge of myth by Wright. Yet, despite the depth of knowledge required to understand every nuance of the book, missing a reference never detracted from the story. Knowing the mythology added to the enjoyment, but there was never a point where a lack of knowledge made you miss a part of the story. The integration of mythology characters and themes was well-done indeed.

This series is heavily Randian, even more so than the Golden Oecumene. The ideological underpinnings of the novel are far less subtle; one of the protagonists, you’ll know which one if you read it, could have easily been named John Galt, but even so, it never becomes preachy or off-putting. The objectivism is worked seamlessly into the plot and never detracts from the book. This is another good example of how to write ideological fiction.

My Comment: Everness is actually my first book, even though it was published second. I am always surprised it did not attract more attention, albeit, as this critic correctly points out, my hand was less skilled in those days.

Chronicles of Chaos

This series is a weaving of classical mythology into the orphanage-of-fear trope. I was skeptical of this series, because these orphans-at-a-boarding-school-discover-their-powers-and-come-into-their-own has never been something that I’ve particularly cared for. I’ve always preferred focus on ideas, world-building, action, and plot to character development and characterization and these orphan-type stories tend to focus on the last to the detriment of the first three.

I did buy Orphans of Chaos at the same time I bought the Golden Age and it was excellent. The writing was once again amazing, although, it had less of the classical/Shakespearian English influence to it than Wright’s other books. The escape-the-evil-orphanage plot was OK, but only OK. Even so, the writing was great enough to really pull it along and keep me engaged. The parallel discovering-the-hidden-secret-of-the-orphange plot was excellent. The slow reveal of the hidden secrets and the world-building of the world outside the orphanage really drew me into the book. I was hooked and immediately ordered the next two books upon finishing.

Sadly, in the second book, Wright made the only major misstep I’ve seen throughout the three series I’ve read. I’ll try to avoid spoiling it, but the beginning of the second book pretty much undid the advances of escape-the-evil-orphanage plot of the first book, so the world-building and the hidden-secrets plot more or less stalled as the escape-the-orphanage plot, ie. the most mediocre part of Orphans of Chaos. took up the first half of the second book. Wright would have been far better off combining the last half of the first book and the first half of the second book, cutting a bit of filler, and reducing the series down to two books. Had he done so, I would probably be praising this as highly as his other two series.

My Comment: Free Northerner says I am as good as Orson Scott Card or George RR Martin at his height. Putting false modesty aside, I think he is right.

Best living author? No. Gene Wolfe is better than I am, and Jerry Pournelle is still alive. I have not written anything half as good as MOTE IN GOD’S EYE.

But the criticism of the Chaos Chronicles is correct: there is too much filler in there. It was put in at the editor’s command, and includes material I originally meant for an as-yet unwritten sequel, where I intended to reveal more about the world.

Well, someday. I have not penciled in when I will get around to EXILED FROM CHAOS into my writing schedule, and don’t make enough money with my pen to quit my day job yet, so we will see.

The comments in the comments section are even more flattering. I assume one of those people is actually my mother writing under an assumed name.

For those of you who have not seen it, there is a novella taking place in the same background as The Golden Oecumene and taking place after it, called ‘The Far End of History” — it originally was published in an

in an anthology New Space Opera II, ed. Gardner Dozois, Eos (2009).

I believe you can read it free of charge on a pirate site:
http://genius.com/albums/John-c-wright/The-far-end-of-history-a-tale-from-the-last-days-of-the-seventh-mental-structure

 

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