Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Hermetic Millennia

John C Wright
Tor, 2012 (a review copy was gently provided to me by Tor)
Size: Average (my hardcover copy has 399 pages)
Theme: Evolution
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Menelaus Montrose
Recommended minimum age: Young Adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: UNLIKELY

After having read “Count to a trillion” by the same author, I had mixed feelings about this novel. On the one hand, I was hoping that finally the story became a space opera. On the other hand, I feared that the author’s proclivity towards verbosity and descriptive narrative got the best of him. Unfortunately, the book reflected my fears almost exactly. Within the global picture of the series, nothing develops concerning Rania’s interstellar trip, and no real follow-up on the hermeticists (aside from a brief appearance to let us know what they were up to). For a book that covers several millennia, I felt like the plot was going nowhere fast, like a gazelle running still on ice.

The story follows Montrose, now as the “judge of ages”, who after his near demise at the end of book 1, has been hibernating with only very occasional periods awake (whenever the need arises for him to intervene on how evolution is moving along on earth), within an extensive system of tombs that he built. The tombs house derelicts and occasional criminals from several ages along these millennia, and keep adding more inhabitants (all slumbering until a brighter future comes). By year 10500, however, problems arise, and much more time than usual is required from him, as the entire tombs system is in jeopardy and the future looks bleak.

The book ends with a “to be continued”. That being said, the end was one of the best parts of the entire novel. The author clearly has a good imagination; at every turn, there are new weird characters, or some new piece of technology. However, rarely anything is decently explored or even explained. I found the characters shallow and the story hard to believe. Almost everyone has a very particularly sense of humor and, even less likely, a lot of characters (from different races, species, and thousands of years apart) employ very similar irony in their speech. Sexual references abound excessively. The author also jammed in the story a bunch of references to sci-fi classics, which add absolutely nothing to the plot. Honestly, it was hard to read through the book, having taken me about three to four times as long as usually it takes to read a novel of this size. Nothing at all in the plot made me curious and eager to read more about. It might be just me, but this series really does not work for me at all.

Related work:
This book is the sequel to “Count to a Trillion” and should not be read before the first installment. A third book in the series will surely follow, as the story ends abruptly (and with a very subtle cliff hanger).

*** Spoiler Alert ***
(Warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):

It is hard to decide what is worth mentioning here. The novel is spent with Montrose captured by a group of blue men and their Moreau lackeys (a reference to Doctor Moreau’s island). He learns some additional details about each age of his 8 millennia slumber from characters that were sleeping in the tombs and were unearthed by these blue men. In the end of the book, Montrose discovers that the hermeticists apparently were deceiving him, and that he actually is not in as much control over the evolution unfolding on earth as he thought.

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