A Sympathetic Review from Vast, Cool, and Unsympathetic

or, Vaster Than They Previously Appeared

Mr. John Markley pays my latest book high praise:

I liked The Judge of Ages quite a bit. The central premise of the entire series is one of the more intriguing ones I’ve run into in recent years, and Wright continues to do interesting things with it. We learn more about some of the post-human inhabitants of the Earth and just what’s happened to reduce the world to its desolate and seemingly uninhabited state, as well as the true nature of Azarchel’s machinations and the scope of Montrose’s response, both of which turn out to be even vaster than they previously appeared.

And I realize that “vaster than they previously appeared” sounds sort of absurd in the context of an 8000-year conflict between supergeniuses where human evolution itself is the battleground and entire sapient species are casualties, but therein lies one of the great strengths of the book and series. Wright throws out interesting ideas with wild abandon, from little details about future technologies or societies to much larger things with important consequences to the entire story or setting, and yet does so in such a way that even bizarre or outrageously grandiose concepts still seem natural and reasonable within the logic of the story. It combines thoughtfully worked out consequences of technologies and other ideas and the constraints of reasonably hard science fiction (there’s no FTL, antigravity, or my personal bugbear, nanotech-as-magic) with the sort of wild exuberance I’d usually associate with old pulp space opera or early Marvel Comics.

(Wright’s writing in general often seems to have this quality, whether he’s doing science fiction or fantasy, where there’s such a proliferation of stuff that the story seems like it ought to either be crushed under its own density or go careening out of control and over the side of a cliff, but doesn’t.)

There are some excellent action scenes, and Wright uses the collision of technologies and biologies from across his future history- powered armored and other relatively conventional science fiction weapons like railguns, a monstrous race of posthumans capable of radically modifying their own biology and ruthlessly optimized for conflict, colossal 22nd-century dueling pistols with bullets that have their own engines and countermeasures and accompanying escorts of smaller defensive bullets, a self-replicating computer system that’s been gnawing at the iron core of the earth long enough to have significant influence on the planet’s magnetic field, among other things- effectively in this regard as well.

I still like Menelaus Montrose a lot as protagonist and viewpoint character. It helps that his odd backstory allows him to serve as a sort of audience surrogate in a very strange world without being ignorant, ineffectual, or bland in the way such characters often are. He’s able to quickly understand and adapt to the bizarre conditions he finds himself in thanks to his augmented intelligence, but his original background is in a society much closer to our own then to its successors. Consequently, he appreciates just how bizarre his world and his own story are (from the perspective of a 21st-centuryish human) in a way most protagonists of far future science fiction do not, without being a bewildered primitive or inept fish out of water. He approaches things with a combination of wry, seemingly detached humor and a very serious sense of purpose, and the mixture works well.

He goes on to say that the opening chapters had weak pacing, a criticism I cannot dispute. But overall he recommends the work in warm tones and says he is eager for the next volume.

(By the bye, let me announce that this next volume is not going to be called CONCUBINE VECTOR after all, nor, after solemn discussions with the publisher, will it be called my preferred title, HARRY POTTER AND THE LUSCIOUS LESBIAN LOVE-SLAVES OF THE VOLUPTUOUS VAMPIRE VIXEN OF VENUS VERSUS GODZILLA OF GOR, but instead will be called ARCHITECT OF AEONS, in reference to the person, or planet, who is the main antagonist in this stretch of the plot.)

Read the whole thing (the whole review, I mean) here.