Do you remember a time not so long ago
When everything seemed simpler
And all that mattered was how we lived?
When love and sex weren’t just a dance
And harsh words didn’t cut so deeply
And the only way we could talk to each other
Was by letter and by phone?
Do you remember when music and film
Could touch your soul
And people actually still cared?
A time with no Guantánamo Bay
And we looked at each other the same way
And books were still gateways
To a thousand worlds unknown?
Do you remember when religion
Was still something to be respected
And trust was something you had to earn?
When terrorism was just a fear
When pain and death weren’t all you’d hear
And being safe didn’t mean
Losing who you were?
Do you remember when justice
Was still fair and true
And someone could speak their mind
Without being locked away?
When the media hadn’t sold its soul
Life was more important than money or oil
And we thought we didn’t know everything?
Do you remember when
You still had the power to dream?
All you wanted was to be free
The Golden Age by John C. Wright was originally published in 2002 by TOR and was Wright’s first novel. Since then he’s gone on to write two sequels to The Golden Age, as well as Orphans of Chaos, nominated for the 2005 Nebula Award. I’m a little slow catching up with the new wave of SF authors, but The Golden Age was worth the wait.
Wright’s story is set in a future society so advanced that no-one can die. Humanity has reached the pinnacle of its evolution, but has now begun to stagnate; if people can live forever, why should they make progress now? Phaethon has lived this way all his life, or so he thinks. But when a stranger accuses him of being an imposter, Phaethon begins a journey to discover who he truly is – and risks losing his very place in society.
TGA echoes the works of Clarke, Vance and other authors, as well as the Greek myth (the protagonist’s name references Phaethon, who stole his father’s [Helios] chariot and rode it too close to the Earth), but at its heart is the theme of identity. Phaethon’s journey of self-discovery leads him to the heart of the Golden Ocrumene itself, and to a secret he had agreed to forget in order for society to remain at peace. Can Phaethon truly be whole, when so much of his life has been taken away? Is he even the same person, without those memories? Wright handles these thoughts deftly, balancing textured characters with his science.
What’s really striking about TGA is the kaleideskope of Wright’s future society. It’s vivid, beautiful and terrifying all at once; complex, but real. Equally impressive is how Wright’s work sparkles with ideas on every page; there’s literally something new, something fresh from beginning to end. And Wright’s prose is beautiful as well, almost lyrical. He uses humour and irony to underscore his themes and nothing feels forced, a testament to how good a writer John C. Wright really is.
I can’t recommended The Golden Age highly enough. It’s not just a great novel, it’s the best debut I’ve ever read. It might not be for everyone, but if you like science fiction that makes you think, definitely check it out. Right now, I’m going to see if I can find the sequels!
Just heard about this book. Looks like it’s mostly David Brin’s brainchild, but it’s an interesting idea – there’s long been a debate in science fiction over whether the influence Star Wars has had has been good for SF, so why not put Star Wars on trial and get other writers to put forth their cases, either for or against?
No surprise Brin’s involved; he’s long disliked the influence Star Wars has had and has been particularly vocal since the prequels. What I do find strange, though, is the lack of an equally notable author on the other side. I am, of course, thinking of Greg Bear. Brin is such a heavyweight in SF that anything he says is going to carry substantial weight; Strover and others simply can’t match that – not even Rusch or Metzger. Bear however is a Star Wars fan, wrote Rogue Planet, and is probably the only other writer who can hold his own against Brin. Hell, even Zahn would bear some weight! I’d be interested to know if either were asked to take part, and if not, why?
In any case, this looks interesting – going right to the top of my must read list, I think!
Well, my predictions for the US Open were pretty good this year; Sharapova and Henin-Hardene made the final, and Federer won in 4 sets. Was surprised to see Nadal go out so early, but was glad Sharapova won; everyone talks about her looks, but she really is a great player as well, so it’s good she can remind people of that.
Just how good is Roger Federer, though? He hit 69 winners in just four sets, and only 18 unforced errors; I don’t think even Sampras did that in a final. And Federer just makes it look so easy too. Roddick played well, but he could only maintain it for so long; Federer just had to wait and he always had another gear to go to. Two gears, probably.
Federer’s getting so good it’s not funny anymore. It’s almost getting boring. For any tournament you can look at who’s playing, and if Federer’s name’s there you pretty much know who’s going to win before it starts. The only exception’s at the French, and the only person there standing between Federer and the title is Rafael Nadal. I think either somebody’s got to start challenging Federer more regularly on all surfaces (like Nadal was for awhile), or Federer’s got to win the French Open next year – otherwise people are going to lose interest very quickly.
69 winners in a final, though; I just can’t get over that. May Australia never have to play Davis Cup against you again, Roger; if we do, I think I’ll have to cry!