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10 thoughts on “The Golden Age

  1. says:

    The Golden Age by John C Wright is a fully developed view of an age 10,000 years into the future, named the Golden Oecumene The solar system is a utopian society teeming with a vast assortment of human, artificial intelligence, nearly immortal tech assisted post humans, and many entities in between, including mass minds and AI collectives They exist in an abundantly populated Solar System that has been re engineered on a planetary scale The book is filled with big ideas, whether it s the layers of alternate reality the beings exist and communicate through, or the complex society and subtle relationships between the various life forms The scale of the world building in this trilogy is stunning.I enjoyed the start of this story, set at a masquerade ball during the time of High Transcendence , an event held every thousand years, meant to bring together all life forms, to celebrate the Golden Oecumene, and to plan the next thousand years The masquerade allows beings to conceal their identity, which provides some intrigue and a slow reveal of many of the main characters The protagonist is Pantheon, son of Helion A great lord, Helion, completed some celestial engineering of the Sun providing some of the stability and power to this golden age Pantheon quickly realizes he has lost large swaths of his memory and quickly determines that he himself played a role in suppressing his memories The rest of this first book, largely follows Pantheon attempting to recover his lost memories, but also unraveling a web of complexity and intrigue.In my opinion, the novel is not without its issues I found it to be a laborious read, never turning into the mind movie that the best books create for me I was never able to easily visual the settings and I never connected with the characters The one exception might be Rhadamanthus, Pantheon s AI assistant that often manifests as a penguin There are no strong female characters, and the most important one, is a strikingly beautiful, puppet replica who is deeply in love with Pantheon, but is constantly dismissed In this respect, the book feels a bit like a typical 1950 s misogynistic sci fi novel In addition, I saw some troubling viewpoints from the author outside of this book , but I m going to attempt to keep the author s viewpoints separate from this work What s impressive is that despite its flaws, I never once considered abandoning this book It was not the plot or characters that kept me, but the continuous creative ideas about this utopian society so far in the future.I will likely read the next two novels at some point, hoping that Wright continues to produce the intriguing ideas, but also finding better footing is his story telling I don t read a great deal of far future or cyberpunk sci fi, so maybe I m being exposed to concepts and ideas that common than I realize But for me, this was chocked full of imaginative concepts A challenging read, but worth the investment due to the non stop mind stretching imagining of a far off future, it s inhabitants, and it s wonders and tribulations.


  2. says:

    While at a masquerade leading up to the celebration commemorating the High Transcendence, Phaethon finds certain people are shunning him and that a large segment of his memory has been erased Phaethon slowly pieces together why his memory has been erased and learns that if he regains his memory, he will be exiled from Oecumene and the paradise it provides But what does that have to do with his father, Helion, and the other six Peers The Golden Age is one mind bender of a read While wrapped in space opera trappings, it s essentially a mystery Phaethon s tale reminds me of Michael Moorcock s Dancers at the End of Time at some points, William Gibsons s Neuromancer at others, with a heaping helping of Roger Zelazny throughout John C Wright shook the idea tree hard when he crafted this tale, leaving only the diseased and worm ridden ideas for the rest of us The only book I ve read recently that crammed so many ideas between its covers was Kraken by China Mieville.Phaethon s progress in uncovering why his memory was erased was quite a read, full of red herrings His relationship with his father Helion and wife Daphne were well done The technology Wright invented, while extremely daunting at first, was well conceived and seemed plausible in an sf context Phaethon was a compelling protagonist and will doubtlessly continue to be so in the next too books The writing style was actually pretty breezy once you wrapped your head around some of the concepts.Any complaints Well, while I loved learning about Phaethon s world, not a whole lot happened in this book Much like Gene Wolfe s Book of the New Sun, Wright throws the reader into the deep end of the pool without much in the way of exposition Still, it was quite an enjoyable read and I m eager to devour the other two books in the series.


  3. says:

    5 StarsThe Golden Age is a gem of a sci fi It does not even matter that it is the first book in a trilogy it is still worth a read I want to say Thank You To all my friends here at Goodreads that reviewed this book and put out the warning that although the beginning of this book is extremely difficult to get through, the persistent reader will be rewarded with a remarkably written hard science fiction mystery novel This was my first exposure to John C Wright as an author, but now I will seek out his other works.This is a tough novel to follow as it is not easy to keep track of what is happening in the real world versus the many different layers of alternate virtual realities that the people of Phaethon s world live in The novel is frequently going from one layer to another, mostly keeping you up to speed with the where and the when, but it was a tough learning curve to get used to Phaethon stepped one further step into mentality, going from Nearreality to Hypertextual, what was sometimes called the Middle Dreaming level The filter leading into his direct memory was removed.Everything around him suddenly was charged with additional significance some objects and icons disappeared from view, others appeared The sound of a thousand voices, singing in chorus, thundered from the lake bottom, splendid and astonishing, surging in time with the flames Phaethon felt the music tremble in his bones.When he glanced at the guests, the meanings attached to their various costumes and appearance were thrust into his brain This is a mystery novel in a hard futuristic sci fi world Our main hero Phaethon, son of one of the world s richest men, comes to realize that centuries of his memory are missing, huge holes in his life, with no apparent reason The conspiracy behind this memory loss is the heart of this book and without giving away any spoilers it is the reason to read this novel The mystery unfolds slowly to us and to our hero in a way that could only happen in the far future.great stuff here I mean, how can I trust you without taking such a drastic step As to that, I do not know The cruel technology of your society makes it unwise to trust your eyes, your memory, your thoughts You may not be who you think you are Everything you know could be false This could be a dream Your only guide of action can be to follow your instincts and feelings how else can you be true to your character I loved the deep futuristic world building and found myself lost in it Not since Greg Bear s City at the End of Time have I been so taken away in a far future setting Both of these books will send your mind and your imagination spinning for a long time after I applaud Wright and his blunt style of dropping us the reader into this amazing world, without spelling it out all black and white He made us put work and effort into the start of this book, which really makes the whole thing payoff later on.As a lover of hard science fiction, I can easily recommend this to others that share my same taste This book will turn off many people that are not willing to put the initial investment into it It really was hard to push through This was a great read, I cannot wait to read the second novel in the series.


  4. says:

    6.0 stars Absolutely mind blowing science fiction debut novel I do not know how best to describe this In tone, it reminds me of some of the golden age science fiction classics like The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester and The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov However, the book is written in a very contemporary and highly computer literate style think cyber punk that reminds me of William Gibson Absolutely incredible and very unique I can t wait to read the sequel HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION Nominee John W Campbell Award for Best Novel Nominee Locus Award for Best First Novel.


  5. says:

    Dude This is one of those books that, for the first 60 pages, is impenetrable to the point of sheer frustration I was reading it thinking, this guy is an ok writer but this whole murky mysterious thing is making me mental Kind of like trying to read Greg Bear, or anyone who writes obscure prose out of some lack of story or character confidence So it was like that for the first bunch of teh book, and Tim kept reading it on the sly and overtook me, and then he wouldn t put it down until it was done It took me a while to get back into the story, but things started to clarify exceptionally quickly Wright managed to explain the story and the significance of the initial murkiness using clever, just noticable but very well crafted devices which clarified things without spelling them out, sometimes pushing you ahead to anticipate the characters understanding, while sometimes letting you lag behind to fully experience the pelasure of their epiphanies The book is a future hero story, a kind of fin de siecle in a wildly advanced earth civilization, with various forms of consciousness including machine living and governing through several collective judicial and social conglomerates War has been abolished, crime does not exist, the mind is propped up and perfected with software and machine intelligence, and people mainly live through a projection of into a reality which is divided into different schools of thought Such is the glory of their technology that each man can program his reality to be translated into the forms and aesthetics which most please him The main character, Phaethon, is brilliant, exuberant, and heoic, all while managing a charming naievete which seems exaclty in place for a world where people are so dependent on technology While he is super human in many ways, he has rarely never had to experience life without first having it filtered, rendering his perspective a bit skewed The book is set up as a mystery, so I ll not get into the plot, but Wright has created a deeply compelling book he brings mythic themes into future that is not entirley new, but which has been solidly made, and his character development and technical skills are excellent It is a psychological novel set in the far future which is about man and his eternal revolution than about sw33t laz3rz I highly recommend this book to pretty much everyone It is the smartest sci fi I ve read in a long time, and I am thrilled to note that the entire trilogy is available the middle of teh 2nd book still hs me craving , and has written a fantasy series which is purported to be just as excellent as his first SF work here has been hh basically, this is one of those books that when you re reading it, makes you want to sneak into the file room to get a hit of during work the type that sick days are made for.


  6. says:

    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 wouldhave 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 of 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 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 FTL 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 than an adventure story The prose is also excellent, a well crafted piece of work reminiscent of Jack Vance whom the author has sited 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 this was 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.


  7. says:

    When reality is only perceived through multiple layers of filters, what is truth When memories are readable, writable, and editable, what is an individual When superintelligences are capable of predicting the vast majority of our decisions, what is free will When biochemistry and emotional states are hackable and therefore suppressible , what is discipline When every human has the option to plug in to their own custom virtual world, what is humanity If these questions sound like philosophical mumbo jumbo, you may want to treat your mind to the whiz bang, action packed books of Michael Crichton, Dan Brown, and other less thoughtful authors.If these questions consistently keep you and your geeky friends in heated discussion until 3am, then prepare to be seduced by John Wright and the deepest and most thorough picture of a transhumanist future ever scribbled.By the way, don t expect to have any of these questions answered At best, you ll come away with a deeper concern and perhaps excitement for the future of humanity.Some of these questions even play with your sense of what is to be human today For instance, plenty of psychological research is revealing just how fallible and influenceable our memories are If our sense of personal identity relies on our memories of what we assume is the true reality of the past, what does it mean when these memories are so sensitive Warning The first hundred pages or so are tough Wright drops you in the middle of a world of sensory filters and altered memories and it s not clear what s real and what s not Treat this confusion as part of the experience of living in a future of hacked realities and keep reading.


  8. says:

    Wow This was truly one of the weirdest books I ve ever read Far future, everyone is immortal, godlike Thoughts of Zelazney s Lord of Light , but this was not sixties new wave, it was, rather, the modern sort of scifi I have yet to grok I understood and somewhat like the story, but man, what a chore to read all this so wordy my biggest complaint with newer works I thought we were in a era of short attention span 2 3 minutes and we switch I tend to prefer the Twilight Zone type stories Short, to the point and with a twist at the end The latest trend are these long meandering stretched out novels that do not end They are but a prelude to something else Okay fine, I will keep on with itOverall, it is an original work worth reading if you are up for long drawn out epic scenarios The writing was odd in the way that it was at times brilliant and at other times rather sloppy My reason, by the way, for even knowing about this author was that he wrote a sequel to A.E van Vogt s Null A series I wanted to read some of his other works before getting into his Null A Continuum.


  9. says:

    In my original review I wrote, The four stars are probably conservative I m loath to bump this up to five until I give it at least a second reading, but my gut instinct is that it would not only survive one but a second read through benefiting from hindsight would be enriching Ultimately, I found this satisfying that the original Foundation trilogy, and it should definitely rank highly among any sustained science fiction stories of similar length Well, we are now on the third reading and while the story isn t perfect, I still think it among the best sustained science fiction story of all time It s certainly the best far future science fiction work of all time, and one of the best works of the last two decades Since I ve indicated in other reviews that I consider the mark of a five story work that it begs to be reread, I m bumping this up to five stars It s hard to talk about this work without drawing some point of reference to similar works by writers that might be familiar To begin with, it s obvious within just a few pages that John has read Gene Wolfe and like so many that have read Gene Wolfe is adopting his style and tropes as the best form of flattery What s amazing is that unlike almost every other imitator, he almost pulls it off Please do not read that as damning with faint praise It s like saying he s almost pulls off as great a command of the English language as Shakespeare, and has almost as great of mastery of plot as Victor Hugo Almost pulling off Gene Wolfe is so amazing, that if you have read Wolfe you ll almost certainly think I m exaggerating But JCW isn t Gene Wolfe, because who is, he is still clearly ferociously intelligent from page one with an imagination that rivals the very best in the business He not only imitates Gene Wolfe on a superficial level, he is also imitating Wolfe s layers of meaning, deft sleight of hand, and rich allusions Where the style will seem familiar from Gene Wolfe, the adventures in a far future setting with its sufficiently advanced pervasive technology and hyper competent AI will remind the seasoned reader of science fiction of Iain M Banks and his Culture But where Banks is goofy and fun, or cynical and jaded, or both at the same time, Wright s passion comes from deeper and serious places And perhaps even strikingly, Wright s super science for me never descended to mere magic but was grounded deeply in science OK, so not all of the science is exactly plausible, but it s mostly at least theoretically possible using mostly what we know at present, and it s certainly believable extrapolation of what we know into the unknowably distant future Wright refuses to push aside the speed of light as if it was an annoyingly inconvenient plot element He eschews action at a distance unless he can actually explain the mechanism Most incredibly of all, he seems to actually pay attention to the fact that technology of any sort needs energy to work Alone of all the far future science fiction writers I can think of, he s actually trying to work out where all the energy for this bling is coming from I feel that in comparison to Banks, Banks was making the technology serve his desired plot, so if the plot and the physics are in a contest, the plot wins and it just happens as if by magic Wright on the other hand is actually making his plot follow from or at least be constrained by the physics Some of it may literally be unobtianium imagined far islands of super stability in super heavy virtually unsplitable isotopes for example but at least it s clearly science fiction and not merely a fantasy story wearing a lab coat There are at least some reasons to believe it beyond wanting it to be true, or needing it to be true for the purpose of the story, and I can t help but think that in Wright s case, knowledge of the science came first and the thought, How can I use this in a story came second Much like how I found the hard science fiction of The Martian refreshing, so I also found the relative discipline of having a far future setting that was still constrained by reality as far as we know it refreshing Some of my favorite science fiction is soft sci fi, but over the past few decades hard science fiction had increasingly dropped into disrepute and so slightly rebellious reaction to that is very endearing The other author that he reminds me of is somewhat regrettable, because he reminds me of this author s flaws than his strengths, and that is Robert Heinlein While most of his story is thick in the layers of narration and imagination of Gene Wolfe, right down to the highly unreliable narrator, every once and a while Wright allows his inner pedagogue to the surface, gives his author s voice too much freedom, and he gets a bit preachy In my case, he s preaching to the choir so this is mostly just a bit boring, but I m willing to bet that if you don t largely agree with Wright he s going to be than a bit abrasive at times And this is my biggest worry Because I don t know one science fiction author in the history of the art form that didn t get worse and worse in this regard as he got older, and I ve seen links to his writing since I started reading this that suggests he s no exception to the rule My wife hypothesizes that write good science fiction, you ve got to be a little bit weird in the first place, and that eventually they all go nuts So with Wright I would say, Hear ye Hear ye Early works by a Grand Master Enjoy them while it lasts because it inevitably won t.


  10. says:

    Extremely hardcore sci fi, and very hard going at the start I admit I came close to giving up, and did not enjoy the first parts of the book I persevered only because I had nothing better to read and because I don t like leaving a book unfinished, but I m very glad that I did The first two books in this series are unequaled in page turning power it took me a fortnight to read the first half of this book, and about two days to read the second half Once you learn the terminology and can tell what the hell is going on, the mysteries of the plot will have you hooked I didn t realise this was part of a series when I began it, and was highly disappointed to have to wait several months for the story to resume The pattern continued when I finally got my hands on The Phoenix Exultant.I highly recommend having all three books at hand or at least able to be procured at short notice before beginning the series.