Praise for Clockwork Phoenix 3

Strange Horizons offers a flattering review of CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 3, and I urge everyone to rush right out and buy 14 copies of the book for the Feast Day of St. Agnes to give to friends, relatives, mendicants and cellmates.

Somewhat to my embarrassed surprise, a story by yours truly was singled out for fulsome praise, which is odd, since, when I have my minions consult the master-list, I do not have any of the relatives or loved ones of this particular reviewer in the torture-crypt buried beneath my laboratory-fortress in Antarctica and maintained by the loyal acolytes of the Unspeakable Abomination of Ka’uu. Neither has my beautiful but evil daughter used her Tibetan mind-powers on anyone recently. Nor is this reviewer someone I have replaced with a soulless robot-duplicate created for me by Rotwang, the Inventor.

The only other possible options are (1) the Astro-Nazis from their nearby hidden vril-powered spaceship base are still annoyed with me for freeing Godzilla from the glacier, thereby destroying the only remaining corridor leading along the Earth’s axis to the hollow interior of the planet, and, continuing their petty conspiracies against me, are using this review to lull me into a false sense of security (I often have little quarrels like this with my Astro-Nazi neighbors. Anarctica is rather crowded these days, what with forgotten Nazi spaceship bases, Shoggoths, and the Thing From Another World, the Savage Land, that annoying Arthur Gordon Pym fellow, and so on) or (2) The reviewer, Hannah Strom-Martin actually liked the story.

I think option (2) the less likely, but read and judge for yourself.

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John C. Wright’s “Murder in Metachronopolis,” for my money the collection’s crowning achievement, also starts with a basic scenario: a gumshoe is offered a commission. But Jake Frontino, the titular “Meta” in this noir/SF mash-up, is no ordinary detective—he’s a detective in a world where time travelers have seized control and the murder he’s investigating is his own. The irritating nature of this conundrum is not lost on Jake, or on Wright, who is smart enough to employ satire as a literary weapon against the expected time travel clichés. As Jake explains it to a pesky Time Lord:

“I don’t take cases from Time Masters, see? All you guys are the same. The murderer turns out to be yourself, or you when you were younger. Or me. Or an alternate version of me or you who turns out to be his own father fighting himself because for no reason except that that’s the way it was when the whole thing started. Which it never did, on account of there’s no beginning and no reason for any of it. Oh brother, you time travelers make me sick.” (p. 226)

Sing it, child. Wright’s own tale avoids these pitfalls by understanding the time travel narrative perhaps better than any author who has yet attempted it. Just as time travel can produce several stories out of the same event, Wright crafts several narratives out of his premise: the one he initially gives us, in which events and possible events are told out of order through a series of thirty “chapters,” a second narrative with a completely different tone that is revealed by reading the chapters sequentially, and an implied Choose Your Own Adventure option, which results in an infinitely entertaining mish-mash. Nice trick, that. But Wright isn’t done. His grasp of character—and of the moral dilemmas inherent in playing around with time—are no less keen. The world-weary Jake is an appealing narrator, guiding us through the chrome-plated wilderness as seemingly familiar territory blows up in our faces. How did Wright manage to use the requisite “Do we go back and kill Hitler?” question as both a joke and the moral center of Jake’s tale? You’re going to want to go back to the beginning and figure it out. There are infinite realities in time travel—let’s hope one of them contains an award for Mr. Wright.

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The full review is here.