I admit to be a total fanboy when it comes to author John C. Wright. Read and enjoyed all his books including short story collections along with being an admirer of his blog. So when a new book of his comes out I buy it on the first day.
His newest book is Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm. The opening paragraph from his publisher says:
SOMEWHITHER is the first part of A TALE OF THE UNWITHERING REALM, a new science fantasy series from science fiction master John C. Wright. It is an adventure, it is a romance, and it is a coming of age story of a young man who is not a man, in a world that is only one among many. It is a tale of a greater and darker evil with longer reach than anything he could imagine, of despair without bounds, of pain beyond measure, and of the faith required to surmount all three. It is a story of inexorable destiny written in the stars and the stubborn courage that is required to defy it.
This takes some fantasy tropes and expands them. The young man who doesn’t really fit in and whose family seems different from the surrounding. A father who disappears one trips for an expanded period of time who job is really not known. So from the start you know the main character Ilya Muromets is going to find out who he really is and go on some epic adventure. What follows though could only come from the mind of John C. Wright and of course there is a Space Princess involved.
Trying to pin a genre on this novel is rather difficult. His science fiction has a pagan mythos and his fantasy has scientific aspects. So there is often a blend of these genre informed by mythic elements. Finely blended so that it seems natural. Especially true here where there are many worlds and travel between them, but also a full range of mythical creatures.
There was so much I like about this story. There is a certain playfulness in his characters such as lya Muromets here or Montrose and del Azarchel in the Count to the Eschaton Sequence. Perhaps my only criticism of this book is that these two characters are reminiscent of each other with the bravado and inventive cursing. At first another aspect of this book was putting me off regarding an extended sequence involving escape. Later I realized how necessary this sequence of this book was to the plot involving a Calvinistic world that is a deterministic nightmare. Again I am amazed by how inventive he is with plot ideas. There are several here where a competent author could take just one of them to make a good book.
As a lover of SF and Fantasy, along with being both a geek and a Catholic, there are not many books that bring satisfaction on the geeky Catholic level. There are tons of geeky references in the book and I think I caught on to most of them, but doubt I caught them all. This was part of the playfulness of the book. Still it was a pleasure regarding all the Catholic aspects. Ilya Muromets as a hero is a Catholic and one that prays and calls to saints whenever he is in danger. He has to appeal to saints a lot. Even better it is an appeal to an appropriate patron saint regarding the situation. So I enjoyed how this was weaved into the story and was a natural part of it and really added to the character.
There is so much to discuss about this book, but too hard to move into spoiler territory in any discussion. So I will leave it at that. I enjoyed this book immensely and like every start in a new series eagerly await the next book.
Still I feel kind of like I had shoplifted this book since the Kindle price was only $4.99. Just doesn’t seem right considering how much enjoyment I got.