Not only do I have a week at least to wait until Amazon delivers The Judge of Ages, the third book in John C. Wright’s epic space opera and the resolution of yet another brutal cliff-hanger, I seem to have picked up a late summer cold, so I’m not firing on all cylinders. (To my cold-enshrouded mind, ‘cylinders’ is the most non-word-looking word I’ve ever seen.)
On the bright side, I do have some other books to read:
So I’m starting on the Wreck of the River of Stars by Michael Flynn which I hope to review by the end of the week. I fear I might next need to go to:
On to the Hermetic Millennia.
I will assume you’ve read the first book here, so, if not, there are minor spoilers ahead.
Menelaus Montrose survives his duel with Blackie – sorry for the spoiler, there, but c’mon – and has retreated to the lair of cryonic tombs spread around the globe he was building in Count to a Trillion. The Hyades aliens are coming in 10,500 years to enslave the earth. Montrose, true American cowboy and superlative genius that he is, figures humanity must stand and fight. The Hermeticists merely want to engineer races of men worthy of being enslaved, for the Monument says that an enslaved race will eventually be freed if it turns out to have made it worth the trouble of travelling for 10 millennia to enslave.
In the same way as in that first book, the story is told mostly inside-out: As on his round-trip to V-886 Centari, Menelaus has been sleeping the centuries away, and so every new awakening is a mystery story where he has to catch up on what’s been happening.
Pellucid, his global AI, hidden and distributed deep in the earth, has algorithms for waking him up: when events have reached a point where his personal touch is requires to set them straight. The Hermeticists, lead by Blackie Del Azarchel, have retreated to the far side of the moon, where they brood and plan and manipulate the races of man to their purposes. Through the centuries, Menelaus must awaken once in a while and have a classic Western showdown with a Hermeticist. So far, so good.
But something has gone very, very wrong.
Only 400 years remain until the enslaving aliens are to arrive, and the earth is a mess: an ice age has gripped the planet, and, except for some bald blue grave robbers who have inexplicably gotten past Montrose’s layers and layers of defenses to rob the tombs, no one seems to be around. By some miracle, no one recognizes him – he’s pretending to be a Beta Chimera, one of the past races of men. It is only a matter of time before he and the other Thaws are of no use to the robbers – and Motrose has to figure out what to do and how to do it before they are all murdered.
The chief ‘whoa’ of this book: Montrose has a standing offer to all the intelligent life on earth: come to the Tombs, and ride out the manipulations of the Hermeticists, to be thawed at some future date. This offer has resulted in the Tombs containing a collection of humanoid life forms that make the bar crowd at Mos Eisley look like a drill team. Each form, from Giants to Sylphs to Nymphs to Chimerae to Witches to Savants to Hormagaunts and so on, is the result of one or another of the Hermeticist’s attempts to control human development, and reflect the plans, biases and flaws of their creators. Each subspecies has its own languages and customs, and hatreds based on what prior species they conquered and what subsequent subspecies supplanted them. The Thaws awakened by the tomb robbers are a mix of these races. Montrose has managed to become the main translator for the Blue Men, who are apparently in charge of the tomb raiding. Thus, he gets to interview the various races, and we hear their stories. Wright is both playful and humorous as well as serious and scary in his incorporation of ideas current now and his extrapolation to where those ideas might lead, if the whole world were to commit to them.
In order to save them, Montrose has got to get them to pull together. He is honor bound to protect anyone who voluntarily entered the Tombs. Co-conspirators are recruited and schemes are hatched….
Of course, after the manner of its kind, we have another cliff hanger. And I only have to wait a week or three to see how it comes out.
So, go read Count to a Trillion and Hermetic Millennia! What are you waiting for?
SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!
You’ ve been warned!
OK, I here here foolishly test my wits against John C. Wright, as a pygmy taunts a giant:
I can see several clues and directions laid down for how Menelaus escapes from the pickle he is in. I fully expect Wright to do something else entirely, but here goes:
1. Menelaus believes the gig is up, because once the lower levels of the tombs are breached, his identity will be revealed. But:
– he has helped a Hormagaunt and a super-spy Nymph to get into the tombs. The Nymph has a mantilla (not a scarf or shawl – ha!) that is a super-advanced biotech devise. Perhaps she has used it to wipe the the tomb clean of evidence of his presence?
– maybe Oenoe and Soorm manage to release the Hospitaliers right about now?
– maybe both of the above.
2. Pellucid told Menelaus he was not recognized. Perhaps Pellucid was compromised all along? The entire scene, as all earlier scenes, was set up so that Menelaus might be manipulated into revealing Rania’s remaining diveracation solutions? (Are there any? I couldn’t tell from the text if all seven had been revealed – seemed they hadn’t yet been.) Thus, his ability to hide the last solution(s) keeps him alive – Blackie has to have it, and can’t force it out of him. Yet.
3. Soorm is the double agent hinted at:
– he neutralizes Oenoe (oh no! is that how it is pronounced?) and is really how Franz get in –
– he’s a triple agent – his pent-up hatred for those who engineered him is mentioned – and so, singularity-like, dashes Blackie’s well-laid plans.
4. After the manner of Verbal Kint, Franz is Blackie.
and many more. Just thought I’d throw a few out there, on the off chance I get close.