Science fiction and fantasy author John C. Wright has just published his latest book, Somewhither. It's the first volume in a new series he calls 'The Unwithering Realm'.
I've already bought it, and have started reading it. (It'll take a while, being a very satisfyingly long book.) It's fascinating! It's very hard to define its genre precisely. On his blog, Mr. Wright describes it like this (and I bet he had all sorts of fun doing so!):
So how would I classify SOMEWHITHER? Is is high fantasy, sword and sorcery, scientific fantasy, space opera, or elf opera, or what?
. . .
The long answer is that SOMEWHITHER will be in the same category as THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE but if, instead of being a good fairy tale and well written children’s book, the author was an anime-overdosed ex-lawyer who decided it would be way cool if Aslan wore power armor and swelled up to giant size like Ultraman to fight Godzilla, who, in this version, is the Beast from the Sea called up by the Whore of Babylon; and if the Dark Lord were a determinist materialist astrologer who is half-senile; and if Nimrod still owned the shining robe given to Adam and Eve by Jesus after they discovered they were naked, and this robe made him invulnerable; and if Serafina Pekkala from GOLDEN COMPASS were a babelicious busty blond dimension-sailing storm-witch teenager from Slytherin House, which, in this version is at the school on the Island of Roke, which is also in the dimension of Charn ruled by Jadis the White sister of Saruman the White, but her pet bird was not her familiar but instead was her horcrux; and if Ramses from Anne Rice’s THE MUMMY showed up as Black Lensman of Boskone; and if there were a plumber named Pally working in Barad Dur to fix the backed-up toilets in the Dark Tower; And if John the Baptist showed up as a character who could fly like the Nazi-punching ROCKETEER from the Dave Stevens comic of the same name; and if King Edmund were Connor McLeod the Immortal from HIGHLANDER; and if instead of a thoughtful, and funny and moving parable about the nature of sacrifice and the beauty of forgiveness, CS Lewis were a fan of pulp novels and samurai movies, and threw in a bunch of stupid extraneous junk, including The Shadow, who has the power to cloud men’s minds, and, if there were some way to swing it, end up with John Carter, Warlord of Mars and Robur the Conqueror fighting a air-to-sea duel with Captain Nemo.
I have already written the Cup of Jamshyd into the plot, and Kai Khasrow from the Shahnamah of Fardusi. Since this story takes place in a Christian background, Captain Nemo survived the Great Deluge of Noah aboard the Nautilus, with the Nephilim called Og, King of Bashan, swimming along side in the deep, his warehouse-sized lungs holding hours of air. Nemo has explored up the great river Euphrates, and has found where the Four Angels rest far beneath the waters, were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, awaiting the Sixth Trumpet of the Apocalypse, that they might arise for to slay the third part of men.
In other words, I consider the book to be, as Lewis considered Narnia, a ‘metaphysical speculation.’
There's more at the link.
Mr. Wright is a wordsmith: someone who takes the English language and carefully crafts it into new shapes and forms, unlike so many of us (I daresay including me [sigh]) who would classify ourselves more as hack writers trying to make a living. Here's an early sample from the book to illustrate my point.
“Dad, how many universes are there?”
“Only one, by definition, son,” he answered. “Hence the term universe.”
Spread out on the couch, still in his gear, my father spoke in a weary monotone, not raising his head, not opening his eyes. I was surprised to get even a grunt out of him, much less an answer, even if it was an answer that was not really an answer.
I prodded the fake log with a poker, but no sparks flew up. I tried to keep the frustration out of my voice. Depending on his answer, I would either be back upstairs asleep in ten minutes, or running wildly out of the house into the wide darkness before the dawn, at top speed.
It might be too late already. I wanted to take out my phone and look at the time but feared I might glimpse the message that was still glowing on the little screen.
“Let me ask it another way. What is reality?”
He heaved a weary sigh.
. . .
Father spoke again, his eyes still closed, “Reality is what’s not the voting booth and not the salad bar. When you don’t get to vote and don’t get to pick,” he spoke louder. “That’s reality.”
“And…” I slid my tongue over my lips, surprised to find my mouth dry. “How many? How many are there? How many … realities?”
Usually when he comes home from one of his business trips, Dad goes straight to the couch in the den to collapse in blissful fatigue before the fireplace, too tired to climb the stairs to the bedroom, and too tired to talk. So he lay now, head back, elbow over his eyes, one boot on the arm of the couch, and one on the floor.
The unmarked black helicopter that flies without lights and brings him home lands in the grove my brothers and I have to keep clear of shrub and sapling as one of our chores, way up the mountain above the ruins of the old monastery. Dad takes over an hour to trudge down the twisting paths and switchbacks. So he is not the most energetic of conversationalists right after a trip.
This time something was different, because Dad lowered his arm and turned his head, so he could catch me with his eye. I could not tell if the squint in his eyes was just fatigue, or if there was something else, a look of accusation there. Or fear.
“I have always known this day would come. Who talked to you? What did they tell you?”
I heard more in his voice than I had seen in his eyes. His look was one of accusation, but his tone was one of self-accusation. It was the fear of a father wolf who had failed to protect his cubs.
He was afraid for me.
The moment felt like the whole earth and sky together had just missed an expected bottom step, and was jarred to an ankle-spraining halt and bit its tongue.
There are almost 600 pages in the book, according to Amazon's count, so you'll have to buy a copy for yourself if you want to read more. On the other hand, at $4.99, it's a very cost-effective purchase. (Yes, I'm shilling for Mr. Wright. Having met him and his charming wife, L. Jagi Lamplighter [also an author] at LibertyCon a couple of weeks ago, I'm now honored to number them both among my friends - and I support my friends. However, with a book this good, that's no hardship at all!)
I recommend this book to all who want to be challenged to rethink their perspective on life, the universe and everything. It's certainly having that effect on me!