The Golden Age: A worthy read

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJohn C. Wright 1. The Golden Age: A Romance of the Far Future 2. The Phoenix Exultant: or, Dispossessed in Utopia 3. The Golden Transcendence: Or, The Last of the MasqueradeThe Golden Age by John C. Wright

John C. Wright’s The Golden Age is a worthy read. Taking place in the far future, 10,000 years from now, it is a world where the transhuman ‘singularity’ has occurred long before and the population of the solar system is made up of humans of massive (and varied) intellects and powers as well as the “Sophotechs,” huge supercomputers of intellectual capacity to dwarf even their superhuman creators who make sure that the society of humanity does not lack for anything except perhaps risk and adventure, “deeds of renown without peer” as the main character would have it.

This main character is Phaeton, the aptly named son of Helion. His father is one of the seven peers who are the richest and most powerful men in the richest and most powerful age that humanity has ever known. Something does not sit well with Phaeton though, even in this golden age of peace and prosperity. Phaeton hungers for even more than the world can give him, namely the above-mentioned deeds of peerless renown. In addition to this he soon discovers that he has large gaps in his memory and is given some uncomfortable indications that he is not the man he thinks he is and perhaps the world is not as rosy a place as it seems. So begins Phaeton’s quest to discover his true identity while his father, wife and seemingly the whole of humanity stand against him. The secrets that Phaeton uncovers will shatter his life and may, in the end, also shatter the world. John C. Wright has created a wonderful glimpse of a far future for humanity. It is a solar system where faster-than-light travel has not been discovered, forcing humanity to still live in its cradle system, but they have been able to engineer the planets and the sun to suit their every desire and need. They also live mostly in the cyber-like world of the Mentality, where everything from their self-image to their perceptions of the world around them can be tailored to suit their varied tastes and desires. Over all watch the immense minds of the Sophotechs, ensuring that no human hurts another (unless it be himself) and keeping track of the endless calculations needed to keep the golden age running smoothly.

The story is a fairly straightforward quest tale in which Phaeton must overcome insurmountable opposition in order to reach his goal, though it is laced with numerous insights into human nature, both personal and political, as well as the philosophical implications of such a utopian world that make it more than an adventure story. The prose is also excellent, a well-crafted piece of work reminiscent of Jack Vance, whom Wright has cited as a great influence. The ideas are also “big” in the best tradition of both space opera and tales of human life after the singularity. The book is the first part of a trilogy and ends on something of a cliffhanger, so don’t go into it expecting to get a neat resolution to the plot. All in all, The Golden Age is an excellent book, and I think you’ll enjoy immersing yourself in the world that John C. Wright has created in an erudite and well-crafted story.

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TERRY LAGO, one of our regular guest reviewers, is a Torontonian who, like all arts students, now works in the IT field. He has been a fan of fantasy ever since being introduced to Tolkien by his older brother when he was only a wee lad, though he has since branched out to enjoy all spectrums of the Fantasy genre and quite a few of the science fiction one as well. Literary prose linked with well-drawn characters are the things he most looks for in a book. You can see what he's currently reading at his Goodreads page.

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