It has been more than two months now since Mr. John C. Wright surprised me with the delivery of a review copy of one of his latest novels, The Architect of Aeons. Yes, I have had the extreme good fortune to receive not one but two unsolicited works from Mr. Wright now. That is why I must begin this review with a sincere apology to the book’s author. It has taken me far too long to finish reading this book and get this review online.
In my defense, they have been two insanely busy months. We have a new baby in the house (my youngest turns three months old today). In that time, I’ve also planned and hosted a major martial arts seminar, attended a Judo tournament, put editing work into Silver Empire‘s first full length novel (look for announcements on that very soon!), had to find a new cover artist, plugged away at two short stories for our next anthology (more on that project soon as well), had to plow through some submissions for the same anthology (some not so great, some… very, very excellent), had a major software delivery do at work, made a trip to visit my ailing grandmother in Washington, D.C., and, of course, have had all of the normal duties of adult life on top of all that.
A week or so ago, however, I finally hit a nice point. My editing notes had been sent off to Susan, I’d passed the halfway point on my own first novel, seminars and tournaments were done, and I finally had a moment to relax. If it assuages Mr. Wright’s ego in any way, this book was my reward for finishing all of the important things in my life – and I used this book as motivation, telling myself I could not read it until I finished those things. Then, of course, it still took me far longer to actually read it than it should have.
Now that I have finally finished it, I must say that this book is an intriguing read. I have to admit that I struggled a bit with the first half of the book. It’s a difficulty of the format that I’ve had with much of this series. Mr. Wright has adopted the most difficult task of telling the story mostly in “catch up” sessions. Large periods of time elapse with the main character, Menelaus Montrose, either in time dilation from space travel or, more commonly, in suspended animation. Each time he re-enters “normal time” there are large bits of dialogue catching him up on the history (sometimes millennia worth) that happened while he was away.
I can think of no better way to tell a story such as this. And it’s a testament to Mr. Wright’s amazing skill as an author that he makes it work at all. Nevertheless, it can at times be a difficult way to read a story.
The second half of the book, however, really shines. Indeed, I zipped through that part of the book easily. And it is here that Mr. Wright once more touches on the issues that have really defined the series. How does a normal(ish) human survive in a world that is dominated by posthuman intelligences far superior to his? Not just superior, but orders of magnitude superior?
There are moments in the second half that are pure gold: the duel between Montrose and an entire planet, the Foxes, Montrose forcing a galactic level superintelligence into a deal on his terms.
The work also continues to explore other issues that have been hallmarks of Mr. Wright’s work dating back to The Golden Age trilogy. What is the true nature of identity? If my mind is uploaded in full into another host, which one is truly me? What about when those minds diverge? What if one of them sees its intelligence amplified – or reduced? These questions of identity and intelligence are what continue to make this series fascinating. And despite the somewhat sluggish nature of the book’s beginning, this is why Architect of Aeons still merits four out of five stars. A strong showing from Mr. Wright, and I continue to look forward to the rest of this series.