Just finished the Judge of Ages, the third of 6 books in John C. Wright’s epic Count to a Trillion space opera.
Short form: This book ends well, but, even though the pages kept turning, was less satisfying in the middle sections. Still, there’s enough momentum to keep me eager for book 4.
When we last left our intrepid hero Menelaus Montrose, he is witnessing the destruction of one of his carefully guarded cryogenic tombs, in which are stored members of each of the races of men that have inhabited the earth over the past 8,000 years. Everything seems wrong – all the elaborate defenses, both machine and human, that have guarded his tombs for millennia are failing. Worse, his careful interventions in human history, in which he counters every move of Blackie del Azarchel and his henchmen, seem to have failed and left a dead, frozen world.
Through enhanced human and computer intelligence, and the bioengineering and gadgets such genius produces, Blackie is trying to manipulate mankind into becoming perfect slaves for the alien from Hyades, who are due to arrive in 400 years. Menelaus wants men to be free, and wants to fight the Hyades. And he wants to survive the 60K+ years it will take to get his wife back, the wife Blackie thinks he stole from him.
The book opens with Menelaus, captured, being lead down into the tombs. in the hands of Moreaus, enhanced dog-based near human guards. Can he somehow get free, defeat the tomb robbers, and face Blackie in the gun duel for all the marbles?
In the Hermetic Millennia, we got the back stories on all the races created by Blackie’s henchmen, which were interesting and inventive. However, in this book, a hundred plus pages are spent in a fight scene that read like I imagine the climax of a really huge and imaginative RPG would come down. I myself have never played, but my kids do, and I’ve heard them in their sometimes hours long set up, where characters and powers and weapons and vulnerabilities are chosen, a setting is created – and then, eventually, a battle takes place where a skillful dungeon master uses all the set up to create as epic a battle as possible, wherein the players get to use all that cool stuff. Maybe that’;s totally wrong, but that’s how both RPGs and huge part of this book appear to me.
It was interesting enough that I read right through it, but I was less than fascinated or thrilled. From a moving the story forward perspective, it could have 1/10th as long. Then comes some very dramatic plot twists – and another 50 pages of people standing around talking, then we get more plot twists and another cliff hanger.
Now, I *like* the philosophical digressions and reveals. I liked all the back story stuff in Hermetic Millennia. But here, riding on the heels of the long battle scenes, it was a bit much.
None the less, by the end, Wright had recaptured the sense of wonder and surprise that is so much on display in this series. He has a wonderful talent for leaving enough clues that the reader can figure out some of what’s coming next, yet he always adds a twist or 6 – fun.
Conclusion: worth reading, and didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the next book, but not as good as the previous 2 installments.