Judging the Judge of Ages

A review by Joseph Moore over at Yardsale of the Mind:



Short form: This book ends well, but, even though the pages kept turning, was less satisfying in the middle sections. Still, there’s enough momentum to keep me eager for book 4. 


In the Hermetic Millennia, we got the back stories on all the races created by Blackie’s henchmen, which were interesting and inventive. However, in this book, a hundred plus pages are spent in a fight scene that read like I imagine the climax of a really huge and imaginative RPG would come down. I myself have never played, but my kids do, and I’ve heard them in their sometimes hours long set up, where characters and powers and weapons and vulnerabilities are chosen, a setting is created – and then, eventually, a battle takes place where a skillful dungeon master uses all the set up to create as epic a battle as possible, wherein the players get to use all that cool stuff. Maybe that’s totally wrong, but that’s how both RPGs and huge part of this book appear to me.

It was interesting enough that I read right through it, but I was less than fascinated or thrilled. From a moving the story forward perspective, it could have 1/10th as long. Then comes some very dramatic plot twists – and another 50 pages of people standing around talking, then we get more plot twists and another cliff hanger.

Now, I *like* the philosophical digressions and reveals. I liked all the back story stuff in Hermetic Millennia.  But here, riding on the heels of the long battle scenes, it was a bit much.

None the less, by the end, Wright had recaptured the sense of wonder and surprise that is so much on display in this series. He has a wonderful talent for leaving enough clues that the reader can figure out some of what’s coming next, yet he always adds a twist or 6 – fun.

Conclusion: worth reading, and didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the next book, but not as good as the previous 2 installments.

Read the whole thing http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/book-review-judge-of-ages/

My comment: Far be it from me to comment on a commenter, since the customer is always right, and I am sad that I could not appeal more strongly to Mr Moore’s tastes. I say this because his tastes are good and agree with mine on other books he’s read. Mr Moore’s good judgment cannot be doubted. He is actually a critic who does his work correctly.

His sounds like a half-negative half-positive review, but I myself think it is right on the mark. A fight scene sprawled across a hundred pages of explosions and bloodshed, giants and poisoned nymphs, haunted coffins, posthumans, automatons with Gatling guns, warrior-aristocrats with staves and knives, a blind knight astride a horse wearing powerarmor, a haunted albino, witches and vicious dog things, is indeed meant by the author to be an epic where everyone gets to use all his cool stuff. There is a lot of stuff and a lot of cool in that scene.

I like fight scenes, and I like long fight scenes but some readers complain that the fighting does not allow for dialog. I also like talking scenes, and I like long talking scenes, but some readers complain that the talking does not allow for fighting.

Be that as it may, a skillful writer can mix and manage both, like a juggler spinning plates, without boring or annoying the reader: here the skill was insufficient for Mr Moore, but he graciously admits he found merit nonetheless, for which I am grateful.

I will say, though, that the talking scene he thought to slow was, if I am reading between his lines correctly, the one where my version of Hari Seldon, the Pyschohistorian and arch-manipulator of history, is put on trial for the crime of manipulating history.

I admit I have a personal fondness for the scene, which may indeed have tempted me to include matter that should have been cut. One must be as emotionless as a surgeon operating on the brain of one’s own child when writing a novel, you know, and perhaps I allowed sentiment to jar the elbow of my judgement in this case. But, if so, I regret nothing: putting the Judge of Ages on Trial was too rich an irony to pass up.

And if you do not think Psychohistory is a crime and a conspiracy against human nature, I urge you to reread Isaac Asimov’s FOUNDATION and deduce what the author there is actually saying. Put yourself not in the shoes of a common man of Terminus, the world whose fate is arranged by the Seldon Plan for future greatness, triumph, and dominion, but a common man of Kalgan or Anacreon, whom the plan condemns to conquest, failure, and obscurity.