Warning! Long digression ahead!
Not long ago I found the blog of John C Wright. He was certainly a kindred spirit and if he could get a wife, it gives a bit of hope to us maladjusted geeks everywhere.
Of course, I figured if we had so much in common if he (like me) wrote what he would want to read, I would undoubtedly enjoy some of his fiction. I hate to enjoy a writer, but not being able to enjoy their full volume of work.
Thankfully, his wife was willing to help with a comment she left on John’s blog, giving both of his new fans a hint on where to start:
Start with THE GOLDEN AGE if you like bewildering far-futurism. Start with LAST GUARDIAN OF EVERNESS if you like dreams. Start with ORPHANS OF CHAOS if you like intrigue.
My choice was clear! There’s nothing wrong with dreams, but a good intrigue is more my cup of tea. Especially when – very often – they fall apart after a moment’s reflection. Would this Chaos series succeed? Would it entertaining and delight or fail and disappoint? I made my decision…
Except I couldn’t find it.
I stopped by the bookstore on my way home – they had only book #3. I’d stop by one in another town – they wouldn’t have the Chaos series. The one in my home town would carry only book #2. At first I thought of it as a bit of a joke.
Then it became a quest.
Sure, I could order it online or ask the store to special order it… But no, that would be cheating! By now my hunter/gather instincts took over and I was going to catch this prey without making someone else do all the work for me!
It wasn’t long before I started obsessing. If I drove by a bookstore, I would stop and look. Some slow days I would drive out of my way to check a store. Each time it was the same: if they had any book of his, it was the 2nd or 3rd of a series, never the first. Never Orphans of Chaos.
Maybe I was going about this the wrong way. Maybe it was out of print now. In Louisville, there are 3 stores called Books & Music Exchange. Perhaps a copy rested there.
On a free day, after the spending the better part of an hour, browsing? None.
Clearly Mr Wright has made some Faustian deal. Perhaps in exchange for getting published, he was cursed with nobody being able to find his book. (I’ve been wondering how it’s done)
Then, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I was driving back to the city from relatives in the most nightmarish traffic I’d ever seen. After several, long hours, I needed desperately to get out of the car. Hunting for my prey again, yes that would be relaxing.
I went to that last B&ME, the one that had failed me after an hour of effort. In there I could hunt for lots of treasure. First I decided to look for a Christmas gift for a friend. No luck. So I turned to my most elusive of prey…
I would find your book, John C Wright. It cannot hide from me forever…
As if pulled by some unheard siren’s song, I drew toward one of the many sections of sci-fi in the store.
And it was there.
I didn’t even have to look. Orphans of Chaos was the first book I saw.
Well that all turned out anti climatic. Guess I’ll do the review now.
Review of Orphans of Chaos
There is none.
Ok ok, this isn’t about me just teasing you, reader for my amusement (though there is a bit of that too). The fact is, I can’t really review it. Why?
Well… fans of LotR like to say that it is, in fact, one book divided in 3 parts (hardcore fans point out it’s 6 parts). It doesn’t seem fair to judge one part of a story. It’d be like taking a novel and doing an in depth review of the first chapter. This first book ends on such a cliffhanger, I had to go get the 2nd one the night I finished it, right away (thankfully, that was in the first store I looked). I dare say it was a good thing John wasn’t more popular when he first wrote this as there might have been wide scale riots from people having to wait any length of time to find out what happened. I hadn’t been so on edge since the end of the first part of ST:TNG’s “Best of Both Worlds” (I still remember the nightmares Picard being assimilated gave me.) I assure any reader: if you make it about halfway and find yourself enjoying the book, then hurry and pick up the 2nd one, because you will not want to wait. (if you don’t enjoy this book, what is wrong with you?)
I won’t discuss too much here for fear of spoilers (that I’ll save for the talk on book 2), but there are a few things to say. The book is a bit slow to get started as John spends a lot of the first half with world building. However, this is welcome as, once things start getting strange (after the council scene), as a reader, you’re not confused and are able to following everything fairly well. I am quite fond of John’s skill as a story crafter (and wish more authors worked as hard as he clearly did in this). Most of the time, authors throw out lots of scenes and words in the hope that confusing the reader will create the mystery the author can’t be bothered with. Here, even when some things were confusing to me (I wasn’t as able to follow the math talk as others might be) everything still follows the logic he’s so painstakingly worked to establish (remember what I said: slow build up).
That’s the other delight of this book. Too often, after reading a story it seems like the author wants you – the reader – to forget about it, because a moment’s thought or reflection would unravel the entire spell (yes, I’m looking at you, Meyer – and sometimes King). Here, John C Wright actually encourages you to think about the book, and the more you turn the events and plots over in your head, the more beautiful it all becomes. Characters, motivations, plots, everything still holds together no matter how strongly you challenge it (at least in book 1). This, is a tale that works great on multiple readings – if not demanding you read it again!
Oh, and it’s a very fun read as well. It might not change your life, it might not give you a new way of looking at the world, but it takes you to a new place, and introduces you to new friends. It is a book, that reminds you why you loved reading in the first place.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to find out what happens next!