Last week I finished reading John C. Wright‘s Somewhither. Before launching into the real review, let me just come out and say that I’ve been waiting rather impatiently for this book ever since Mr. Wright left this post on his blog last summer:
My theory in this book is based on the answers to two speculative questions:
(1) what kind of event in history would produce the amount of mass-energy needed to divide the timeline, that is, to make a near-identical copy of an entire universe (or, if not the entire universe, the continuum as seen from within the lightcone of Earth) — where would the energy, equal (at least) to the Big Bang come from each time such an event occurred?
(2) How can I have an excuse for a scene in which a totally buttkicking and semi-invulnerable seventeen year old squire of the secret interdimensional monster-slaying Roman Catholic ancient and honorable military order of the high-tech Templars with a magnetic accelerator machine pistol in one hand and his granfather’s blessed katana in the other, the finger bone of Saint Demetrius of Sermium in a hollow crucifix about his neck, faces off against the undead Pharaoh Busiris, a Lamassu armed with Gaebolg and a Nephilim armed with Gungnir (not to mention a blooddrinking lilim, an Abarimon swifter than thought, a golden goyim golem, and a Naga armed with a daevaastra, and Baba Yaga in her hawk-legged hut) fighting in wild and desperate melee atop the sloping upper hull of a burning ironclad Zeppelin toppling into ocean boiled by nine erupting volcanoes during a subsea earthquake and lightningstorm tornado caused by an puncture-wound in timespace eating the doomed world like a black hole? While under orbit-to-surface fire from kamikaze Babylonian spacewarships blazing like meteors overhead plunge gallantly to their fiery dooms in desperate attempt to slay the young hero?
I don’t recall the exact scene described here from the book – although it’s very possible that he was, in fact, describing several scenes in the book mashed into one description. But the short version of my review is this: the book is exactly as awesome as that description makes it sound. In other words, if that description is right up your alley, you will love this book. If that description doesn’t do it for you… this is not the book for you.
Fortunately I am right smack in the target audience of this book, to the point that when I read that post I showed it to my wife and said, “I’m buying this book the day it comes out.” I didn’t quite make that, because they stealth released it on me last week. But when I realized on Sunday afternoon that it was out, I literally turned off the show that I was watching, ordered it, and started reading.
The opening chapter of this book was amazing, and can be read for free on Mr. Wright’s blog. If you enjoy that… well, you’re going to get a lot more of it. This book is a giant blast of crazy, and in the best possible way. I recommend it highly.
5 out of 5 stars.
I’m going to come right out and admit it: I bought this book because of its cover. First, that cover is all kinds of awesome. Second, it’s a cover that screams out, “I am a science fiction novel and I’m not afraid to announce that to the world.”
I’m not a fan of the recent trend in genre fiction towards bland, generic covers that try to hide the fact that the books are genre. I bought Game of Thrones back nearly twenty years ago when it was still printed with the original paperback cover shown below. I’m not afraid to admit that I bought that book for the cover, too.
In both cases, it was a good choice. Nethereal is a strong debut novel. The characters are interesting. The setting is interesting. The plot bogs down just a bit in the middle, but otherwise moves at a brisk pace. Most importantly, you’ll want to know what happens next to these characters. The most frustrating thing for me in reading this book was that I was so busy that I had to read it in short segments. I kept getting angry that I had to put it down to do other things.
One other aspect of the book that I found very interesting was the way his world paralleled the nine circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno. I have a strong suspicion that the rest of the series will continue the parallels with The Divine Comedy, and I’m quite curious to watch it unfold.
Five stars for this debut effort. I’ll be watching Brian’s career with interest.