A Review from Kirkus

The review is almost yet not exactly flattering, but almost yet not exactly accurate either. I quote part of it below. The original is here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-c-wright/architect-of-aeons/


Two rival post-human supergeniuses, boorish libertarian Menelaus Montrose and supercilious totalitarian Ximen del Azarchel, laid plans against the Hyades and then retired into suspended animation to await the result.

… The truth, when they finally learn it—after what seems like hundreds of pages of tedious bickering—proves disastrous for both, since whatever they do, they seem constrained to carry out the Hyades’ designs. Worse, another invasion threatens, this time by the Hyades’ bosses, the Cahetel. Montrose prepares an elaborate fleet to combat them, while del Azarchel begins a process to transform the planet Jupiter into an intelligence 250 million times smarter than a baseline human. Montrose and del Azarchel will fight yet another duel. And at the end of it all, 17,000 years remain before a third post-human, Princess Rania, over whom they are fighting, returns from the remote globular star cluster where she has gone to confront the Hyades’ bosses’ bosses’ bosses. Once again Wright provides plenty of intellectual food for thought, with a useful chronology as an appendix, the intent being to emulate such works as Olaf Stapledon’s classic Last and First Men. Inevitably, what plot there is deteriorates into a series of revelations that test the characters—and challenge those readers tenacious enough to stick with it, especially knowing they’ll wait two more books before finding out what happens and who gets the girl.

Impressive, with dull intervals, but for the committed only.


Now, writers are not supposed to bellyache about bad reviews, but I think I have the right to point out that the reviewer is not playing straight with his readers here. If anyone else had read the story, he could speak up for me, but since it is not released yet, the task falls to me.

Of factual errors in a one paragraph review, I can see a few.

Ximen del Azarchel is not a totalitarian, but a monarchist, but this is a trivial error, a nuance of description. He is close enough to a totalitarian to earn the name.

Cahetel is a servant of Hyades, not its superior. Again, someone reading hastily might not catch that.

And the two men were not in suspended animation at that time, but exiled to the moons of Jupiter. But, again, this might not technically be an error, since presumably some of that time was spent in suspended animation.

Jupiter Brain is not something Del Azarchel is beginning the process of creating. Indeed, that happened in the last volume. In this volume is one scene from the middle part of the process, and many scenes, indeed, two thirds of the book, where the process has not only completed, but Jupiter is a sovereign ruling mankind. Again, this is a minor thing, something a rapid reading might overlook, if, for example, the last two thirds of the book was overlooked, or the main point driving the plot conflict has been for the past three volumes was overlooked.

There is at least one misleading statement not technically an error. The two main characters learn the truth about the results of the alien invasion in Chapter Two, which starts around page 30, and the two do indeed bicker.

But for how long? Chapter One is divided into eight subsections with subheadings, of which Montrose and Del Azarchel exchange barbed remarks in first and in the eighth, so, technically, there is bickering in those 30 page, albeit they are not one hundred, and it is not continuous.

In Chapter Two they learn the truth, before which this chapter is also crowded with events like them seeing a war, watching a world go blind, discovering an eerie mystery about the missing aliens, finding they have a mother, meeting the winged posthuman whose gaze stuns them, them hearing the entire history of the aliens and the terrible truth about their past deeds. That brings us up to page 80.

There is no bickering in Chapter Three, where the two men commit an act of piracy, meet a giant, and end up being threatened by the baleful moon, who is a person, and able to boil the ocean from stations in Tycho Crater. She orders, or invites, them to bring their mother to the moon, and they must sneak aboard a posthuman lifting vessel after a horrid sacrifice. That brings us up to page 95, which is not yet one hundred pages.

So, your mileage may differ, but if this seems like hundreds of boring pages of bickering rather than 95 pages of idea-jammed and action-crammed story with some bickering as comedy relief, that is a legitimate difference of opinion, and the reviewer should indeed warn people that the writer put too much salt in the soup. So, this is not an error, but neither is it an accurate statement.

Montrose and del Azarchel do not fight a duel in this volume. Montrose fights a somewhat more massive individual related to del Azarchel — very massive — but, again, that might be hard to distinguish, since I have clones and downloaded copies of people running around in this book. Maybe the reviewer forgot who was who. On the other hand, only someone who did not read the last third of the book would not know who Montrose duels.

And we find out who gets the girl at the beginning of the next book, but the reviewer could not know that.

Montrose is a boorish libertarian, however. The reviewer got that right.

Well, technically, not exactly a libertarian, since his dismissal of our age of history refers to the Internet as the Pornonet, so he is perhaps more like a Cowboy, but it is still a good line.

Here is a review that is only eleven lines long, seven of which contain either errors or misleading statements. (The accurate lines, which I do not here discuss, I have removed from the copy above, out of courtesy to Kirkus: you may click through the link to read them.)

I am not going to say the reviewer merely read the jacket copy and the first three chapters, but I will say a reviewer who did so could give about a review as clear, insightful, and error free as this.

A straightforward review would have said: “Too much bickering between the hero and the villain was tedious. Thin on plot. Too many revelations and plot twists. Too much plot. Too much background detail. Wright goes overboard in creating a fully-realized world. I could not follow what was going on because I read it quickly, while I was drunk …” or whatever the actual complaint actually was.

Instead, the reviewer here is performing verbal contortions in order to create the following effect: he describes what is actually in the first half of the book, which he cannot (however reluctantly) portray admit large-scale in scope and contains astonishing revelations that challenge the characters, while making it sound as if he had already made a withering and devastating complaint, a complaint which, if you reread the paragraph, is never actually stated.

And ‘for the committed only’? What, if I may borrow an expression from my hero, the plaguing pox does that mean?

Now, please note that there are some complimentary comments sprinkled here and there, for which I am grateful. I assume a careful reader would see that the book actually is written on the scale of LAST AND FIRST MEN, and that the effect is, as it was apparently so difficult for the reviewer here to note, impressive. Or impressive only to the truly committed — which denotes nothing, but, like his other remarks, has a negative connotation.

We should imagine him saying such complimentary comments as if through clenched teeth, his eyes narrowed with hate, and tears on his cheeks. Impressive, with dull intervals, but for the committed only…

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UPDATED ON 02 09 2015: Kirkus has contacted my publisher and upbraided my discourtesy for publishing their whole review. Chastened, I remove those sections of the review not directly discussed here.

Also, one thing I thought was a mistake was not: Kirkus were merely listing the last book in the series, not saying it was the first. And one additional mistake I overlooked cropped up. I have revised the above column accordingly, and added a link, with apologies for my lapse of manners to the honorable reviewer.

Kirkus has gallantly volunteered to correct any errors in the review, for which they have my humble thanks, but since the corrections are all minor, they need not bother on my account.

They have not offered to correct the snide and misleading tone, which is a reality I accept with humble goodsportsmanship. The job of critics is to mock good works, and mine to write them: I pray life find them equally as joyful in their endeavors as am I in mine.

Since I have written reviews of my own, not a few, believe me, I understand the need to produce bad reviews, which are more entertaining to read than good ones.