The BookShelf: John C. Wright

I generally don’t write reviews of the SF/F I read on here, as I try to keep my reviews focused on the blog’s topic, but I’ve been reading John C. Wright’s blog and linking it here for a while now, and so I’m going make an exception. The reason being that I’ve lately read the first three of Wright’s major series and he is definitely worth the exception.

To kick things off, Wright is simply the best living SF/F writer I’ve read; the only living writers whose abilities possibly compare are Orson Scott Card at his peak (ie. back in the time of the original Ender’s game series) and GRR Martin at his peak (ie. the first three books of a Song of Ice and Fire), and I’d say Wright even surpasses them. Wright’s writing style is amazing, and the only criticism I could possibly make of it is he does not write quite as well as Tolkien.

I read his first three series in order of publication (with the exception of Orphans of Chaos which I read right after Golden Age), so I’ll review them here in that order:

The Golden Oecumene

This is the best SF series I’ve read in a long time, possibly ever. I bought the the Golden Age and waiting two weeks for Amazon to deliver the Phoenix Exultant was almost agonizing. I would put the series almost on par with Dune and Starship Troopers (ie: my second and third favourite SFF books ever, after LotR). The scope of the series is huge and he fits so many ideas, ideas which would require whole books from lesser writers to address, in perfect harmony within the series. It is mind-boggling how much he managed to fit so together and how perfectly he managed to do so. The plot is a fantastic and novel take on the fallen scion archetype, weaving numerous story threads together seamlessly, and capping it off with an amazing final confrontation combining logic, philosophy, and science perfectly.

I’d need to be able to write as well as Wright to be able to describe just how great the writing is, so I’ll just say it’s excellent. Wright uses a quasi-classical/Shakespearean English style which he combines with future-jargon that sets a unique tone to the writing that brings the story alive. I can not adequately emphasize how good the writing is. On top of this, he even threw in strong characterization and character development, something sometimes missing from hard SF, which tends to focus on ideas over characters.

Also, Wright demonstrates exactly how to write good ideological fiction. Objectivism subtly permeates and under-girds the series and this underlying philosophy is even essential to the final confrontation, yet at no time does it feel like Wright is preaching or shoving ideology down your throat. The objectivist philosophy is there, but not explicit; it exists in the background, central to the plot and theme, yet barely noticeable and never preachy. Writers of both the right and left should read this and understand how Wright did it; this is how your write ideological fiction.

I guess I should make some criticism, so here’s the only criticism I could come up with: There was a formatting error in what I think was the second book, where a couple extra lines spaces where added in the middle of a sentence. That’s really the only criticism I could come up with and how petty it is should illustrate just how good this series is.

On the other hand, there is one possible warning for this series: because the scope of the ideas presented are so wide and so deep, someone new to SF might struggle with keeping up. Related to this, there’s a lot of future-jargon thrown at you with minimal explanation; everything makes sense in context and is understandable if you are familiar with basic SF concepts, but if you’re not used to SF-jargon or standard SF ideas it may be hard to comprehend. This is not written for SF newbs: if you do not have a basic familiarity with SF staples like super-AI’s and mind-uploading it will be a tough go. And if you’re like Matt Forney and hate “fantasy babble” this is not the book for you. In other words, if you dislike science fiction don’t read this, because it is hard science fiction for hardcore SF fans.

If you have any like of SF at all, read this series right now, and get all the books at once. (I only bought the first book to test it out, and I greatly regretted it during that overly-long two week wait for the second). I can not overstate how great it is. If you hate SF, this is SF. You can buy the Golden Age, Phoenix Exultant, and the Golden Transcendence at the links.

War of the Dreaming (Chronicles of Everness)

This two part series blends pagan, classical, Judeo-Christian, and English mythology together in an epic fantasy tale. The story is unique and avoids fantasy tropes, while at the same painting an unworldly, fantastical version of our own world.

The plot  and characterization are solid: the two main characters, Galen and Raven, undergo well-done coming-of-age and redemption, respectively, arcs, but the highlights are the world-building and the writing. The writing is excellent, once again having a tinge of classical/Shakespearean English to it. Again, there’s some ‘fantasy babble’, although far less than in the Golden Oecumene; it should be accessible to those with a passing familiarity with mythology.

The world John C Wright builds is fantastic in both sense of the word. The breadth of the mythology used and woven together is fantastic, and one would need a strong classical education to get it all, far stronger than the one I got in the public education system. I understood many (most?) of the references. but repeatedly, a mythological reference would be made that I would realize I was missing; I ended up consulting wiki a number of times. The breadth of references and the ease with which they’re worked in demonstrate a very high level of knowledge of myth by Wright. Yet, despite the depth of knowledge required to understand every nuance of the book, missing a reference never detracted from the story. Knowing the mythology added to the enjoyment, but there was never a point where a lack of knowledge made you miss a part of the story. The integration of mythology characters and themes was well-done indeed.

This series is heavily Randian, even more so than the Golden Oecumene. The ideological underpinnings of the novel are far less subtle; one of the protagonists, you’ll know which one if you read it, could have easily been named John Galt, but even so, it never becomes preachy or off-putting. The objectivism is worked seamlessly into the plot and never detracts from the book. This is another good example of how to write ideological fiction.

I have no criticisms of this series, it was excellent. If you like fantasy, you won’t regret buying these books. Even if you don’t typically enjoy fantasy, this is not your stereotypical story of elves and dwarves, but rather a story of myth, so you’d probably like it anyways. I recommend reading books the Last Guardian of Everness and Mists of Everness. You can buy them at the links.

Chronicles of Chaos

This series is a weaving of classical mythology into the orphanage-of-fear trope. I was skeptical of this series, because these orphans-at-a-boarding-school-discover-their-powers-and-come-into-their-own has never been something that I’ve particularly cared for. I’ve always preferred focus on ideas, world-building, action, and plot to character development and characterization and these orphan-type stories tend to focus on the last to the detriment of the first three.

I did buy Orphans of Chaos at the same time I bought the Golden Age and it was excellent. The writing was once again amazing, although, it had less of the classical/Shakespearian English influence to it than Wright’s other books. The escape-the-evil-orphanage plot was OK, but only OK. Even so, the writing was great enough to really pull it along and keep me engaged. The parallel discovering-the-hidden-secret-of-the-orphange plot was excellent. The slow reveal of the hidden secrets and the world-building of the world outside the orphanage really drew me into the book. I was hooked and immediately ordered the next two books upon finishing.

Sadly, in the second book, Wright made the only major misstep I’ve seen throughout the three series I’ve read. I’ll try to avoid spoiling it, but the beginning of the second book pretty much undid the advances of escape-the-evil-orphanage plot of the first book, so the world-building and the hidden-secrets plot more or less stalled as the escape-the-orphanage plot, ie. the most mediocre part of Orphans of Chaos. took up the first half of the second book. Wright would have been far better off combining the last half of the first book and the first half of the second book, cutting a bit of filler, and reducing the series down to two books. Had he done so, I would probably be praising this as highly as his other two series.

Following this misstep I just wasn’t as engrossed in the series as I could have been. I haven’t finished it yet, I’m about half-way through the third book, but so far the second and third books have been merely good rather than fantastically amazing like his other series. I’m hoping for a really good pay-off at the end.

The reason for the books being only good is the same reason I was originally skeptical of the story, I don’t care for orphan-type stories. Wright has built a huge interesting world and has a compelling hidden-secrets plot woven into this, but instead of putting the main focus on exploring this fascinating world, he instead focused on character development and the escape plot. Even after the escape-the-evil-orphanage plot wrapped up, instead of going full bore into exploring the world and developing the hidden-secrets plot, he morphed it into an avoid-being-recaptured plot.

I want to read about interactions between the Greek gods and the titans and get enveloped in the struggle for dominion over the mortal world. Instead I’m reading ‘while hiding away from her schoolmaster will the teenage girl main character remain free? Will she win the heart of the aloof sigma or will her feelings develop for the manly alpha jokester?’. I was really getting into the world-building and the divine struggle, but Wright keeps pulling the book back to the main character’s personal struggles. There’s just enough divine-struggle plot rationed out here and there to keep me reading, but I want more. I’m really hoping the last half of the third book really dives more into this.

I may be painting an overly negative picture at this point, so I’d like to note that the last two books of this series aren’t bad, just disappointing. If I hadn’t just read his other two series, I would probably think this was a good series, but it just doesn’t compare to his other two series and the first book. After all the hype of eagerly waiting for Fugitives of Chaos to arrive ( it took two months before I cancelled my Amazon order and ordered it elsewhere), it just didn’t live up to it.

This series is good, it is well-written, with good characterization. There is very little ‘fantasy babble’ in this series and that which there is easily understandable as it is written from the perspective of a teenager.  The execution of what it does is done exceedingly well, but what it is focused on doing is just not my cup of tea and it put the parts that I really do like on the back-burner.

I’d recommend that you buy Wright’s other books first. When (not if) you like those books, pick this series up, but don’t make this your first foray into his books, as it is merely good as compared to the magnificence of his other two series.

If you do like evil-orphanage plots and really enjoy character development over plot and world-building, then this book is highly recommended, as it executes this well. Also, this is probably the most friendly series towards those who are not SF/F nerds.

You can buy books Orphans of Chaos, Fugitives of Chaos, and Titans of Chaos at the links.

Conclusion

I can not praise Wright highly enough. Wright is single-handedly making me seriously consider buying an e-reader simply so I can read his output from Castalia House as soon as it comes out. If you enjoy SF/F you need to immediately read the Golden Oecumene and War of the Dreaming series, they are fantastic series. Put off the Chronicles of Chaos series until you’ve finished those, as it’s good, but only good.

I am very much looking forward to reading his Count to the Eschaton Sequence. I’m putting it off, because it has three books still to go, and I don’t want another aSoIaF situation where I’m impatiently waiting 5 years so I can read what happens next. But the instant the publishing announcement is made for Count to Infinity, I’m buying the entire series.

Anyway, John C Wright is an amazing author, read him.

Critical Race Theory: Jewish Privilege

In all the critical theory writing of male privilege, white privilege, cis-privilege, thin privilege, ability privilege, etc. there is one major highly privileged group that no one ever writes about: Jews. So today, I’m going to add my own addition to the critical theory canon: Jewish privilege.

I started thinking about Jewish privilege a month ago when one Michael Mark Cohen wrote a paean to the word ‘douchebag’. He called himself “a white, middle class male professor” who asks his students to shout white racial slurs at him. Oddly enough, this Jewish person is not insulted by others insulting white people, saying:

The point of this sanctioned spewing of hate speech is that none of these words can hurt me. Because I am an individual. I can choose to not be offended, not to be affiliated with any group and rest assured in my sense of self.

I think the more likely answer for why he is not offended is because Cohen is not white, but Jewish.  I’m sure if people started throwing out insults like ‘hebe’ or ‘kike’ which actually applied to Jews rather than ‘cracker’ or ‘honky’, which do not, Cohen’s reactions would be much different.

Either way, Cohen then goes and advocates for the othering of white males by applying a new racial slur against them.

This is just one example of Jewish privilege: to be able to pretend to be of another ethnic group when convenient and using this position to advocate racism against that ethnic group on major media sites (the essay appeared on Gawker) without fear of backlash.

****

Jews make up only about 2% of the population yet are vastly overrepresented throughout are cultural and governmental institutions. So, here’s a small list of Jewish privilege, feel free to contribute more in the comments:

Jews are very wealthy. The average Jew’s net worth is $372k (p. 187), almost three times higher than the average American’s ($135k). Almost half of Jews have income of over $100k, compared to 18% of the general population. The percentage of Jews with income under $30k is half that of the general population.

Jews are far more educated than the general populace (p. 56). 35% of Jews have a post-grad degree, three times as many as the general population. 59% of Jews have a college degree, over double the general population, while only 3% of Jews have not graduated high school, compared to 14% of the general population. 5.4% of college professors are Jewish (religion). Jews are heavily overrepresented at the Ivy League composing “21 percent of the enrollment at Ivy League schools (30 percent at Penn, 29 percent at Yale and 26 percent at Harvard).

Jews are heavily overrepresented in the legal system. Jews make up 33% of the Supreme Court. The protestant white majority have no Supreme Court justices representing them. I can’t find modern statistics of overall justices, but under Kennedy and Johnson 10% of judicial appointees were Jewish and I’m sure the proportion hasn’t changed too significantly since. They also make up 26% of the nation’s law professors and 30% of the Supreme Court clerks.

Jews are overrepresented in government. 6% of congress is Jewish; of that, 10% of the senate is Jewish. 13% (2/15) of the cabinet is Jewish.

Jews are heavily overrepresented in cultural creation industries. According to Ben Stein, 60% of important Hollywood positions are held by Jews, while every major studio chief is Jewish. Of the 8 major US media corporations, at least 3 of the CEO’s are identifiably Jewish from their wiki page, a few more could be JEwish but are not so identified.

Jews can present as either whites or Jews, allowing them to claim both minority or majority status as is convenient. This heavily obscures their Jewish privilege, as it is simply chalked up to white privilege. Quite often I found I had to use religion as a proxy for ethnicity because Jews were simply lumped in statistically with whites.

The privileges held by Jews dwarf those held by whites. I think critical race theorists should spend more time and effort studying this understudied area of privilege.

Lightning Round – 2014/11/19

Become worthy.

Rescuing Christian masculinity.
Related: The church needs men.

Christians and identity.
Related: Identity and rebellion.

What factor best predicts the success of a romantic relationship.
Related: Buying happiness with money.

Where does a bachelor leave his legacy?

Advice for a prodigal daughter.
Related: What women can do to signal interest.

GBFM went down for violating ToS.

The Gramscian infiltration of America.

No enemies to the left, no friends to the right.

Sailer with a retrospective on the Bell Curve.

I am a: Objectivist Libertarian Total-Isolationist Nativist Fundamentalist.

Phalanx’s new Tumblr.
Related: Post-anathema: a NRx art site.

Technological advance is not inevitable.
Related: The decline of google.
Related: Kill whitey: Silicon valley edition.
Related: Technological stagnation.
Related: The decline in drug research.

The arts are too important to cede to idiots.
Related: The moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Ivy League.

What is neoreaction?
Related: The difference between Rx & NRx is thede.

What you can do.
Related: The culture war on Twitter.
Related: The left wins because they’re willing to invest the time.

Reaxxion: A gaming site for men.
Related: Gamergate hysteria.
Related: #Gamergate is waking people up to misandry.
Related: The political effects of Gamergate: driving liberals our way.
Related: SJW entryism being plotted.
Related: Never retreat.
Related: An interview with a Czech game designer about #Gamergate.
Related: #GG is doomed again.

Political projection.

A lack of formalism leads to totalitarianism. Related.

Finding common ground on traditionalism and techno-commericalism.

The Outsideness Strategy.
Related: Elections don’t matter.
Related: Political donations by industry of employer.

Kicking the debt can.

On castes.

Sovereignty and nukes.

On Carlyle’s the French Revolution.

How the liberal MSM shapes the news.

Sedatives, health care, and suicide.

No cat-calling in 10-hours experiment in Sydney. How confusing.

Progress is bad science.
Related: Two genes linked to violent behaviour. Related.

The common link between America’s four most violent cities.

The great partition and the rise of white identity.

There’s something about Teutonics.

Tips for gentrification.

Progressive support for executive orders and secession.

Lessons from the Republic of Minerva.

To Pinochet.

A new East India corporation.

On the theory of mind.

Will’s experiences with racism.
Related: The $1-million victimization pyramid.

Neoreaction and Latin. Part 2.

Dampier reviews Land’s new book.

The outlier amplification effect.

The flaw in the assortative mating theory. A response.

Feminism and housewives.

Contra Jayman, divorce does matter for life outcomes.

To answer Legionnaire’s question: Andrew Jackson because he destroyed the national bank and paid off the national debt.

Stopbullying.gov.

How the women’s vote led to big government.

Rotherham confirms the fall of Britain.

A rough foreign policy stretch for the USG.

Christianity and the boiling pitch.

A FAQ on usury.
Related: Against usury and immigration.

Traditionalism, Male Mother Need, Yes Means Yes, and Doublethink.

Students sue school for stopping them from praying.

A man realizing he’s become the beta bux.

Ladies: Take responsibility for your failed relationships.

Broken people, cats and Prozac.
Related: The end result of the sexual revolution.

A near-criminal lack of game.

A new scapegoat for failed feminist predictions.
Related: Rose Eveleth is a horrible person.
Related: Feminists won shirtgate.
Related: The termagants and harpies crap on the feast; it’s what they do.
Related: Pornographer used as moral authority in t-shirt row.
Related: SJW’s hate science too.

#TakedownJulienBlanc shows the need for the patriarchy.

Women should not go to jail.

How to get away with molesting a toddler.
Related: Lena Dunham and the moral collapse of the elite.
Related: Lena Dunham and amygdala hijacks.
Related: More on Lena Dunham and modern child sex experts.
Related: Jia Tolentino and Jezebel defend sexually abusing children.

The terribleness of the Guardian’s Zoe Williams.

Feminism thrives on attention.

A transfat activist on his daily struggles.

Time ends ‘words that should be banned’ poll because ‘feminist’ was winning.

‘The sexual harassment policy that nearly ruined my life.’

Asians suing Harvard over affirmative action discrimination.

Decorated man being punished for telling lesbians to follow Army rules.

Jonathan Gruber, architect of Obamacare, praises the stupidity of the masses.

How progressive Hollywood shackles Bond.

Wright creates a library for children.

Education departments don’t produce competent teachers.

The politically correct origins of the confederate flag.

A possible Israeli immigration strategy.

Scalzi illustrates both Isaiah and Brave New World.
Related : He also illustrates delicious irony.

Vibrant author uses SJW alter-ego to attack competition.
Related: SJW’s devour themselves.

Salon writer condemns arithmetic as racist.

The silliness of Science readers.

Obesity will bankrupt socialized medicine.

Ethnic tension and the motte & bailey.

H/T: SDA, AG, SSC, RPR, VD

Where Were You?

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

“Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb,
when I made clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed limits for it
and set bars and doors,
and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
and caused the dawn to know its place,
that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
and the wicked be shaken out of it?
It is changed like clay under the seal,
and its features stand out like a garment.
From the wicked their light is withheld,
and their uplifted arm is broken.

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this.

“Where is the way to the dwelling of light,
and where is the place of darkness,
that you may take it to its territory
and that you may discern the paths to its home?
You know, for you were born then,
and the number of your days is great!

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
for the day of battle and war?
What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

“Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain
and a way for the thunderbolt,
to bring rain on a land where no man is,
on the desert in which there is no man,
to satisfy the waste and desolate land,
and to make the ground sprout with grass?

“Has the rain a father,
or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb did the ice come forth,
and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?
The waters become hard like stone,
and the face of the deep is frozen.

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades
or loose the cords of Orion?
Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season,
or can you guide the Bear with its children?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you establish their rule on the earth?

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go
and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who has put wisdom in the inward parts
or given understanding to the mind?
Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
when the dust runs into a mass
and the clods stick fast together?

“Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in their thicket?
Who provides for the raven its prey,
when its young ones cry to God for help,
and wander about for lack of food?

(Job 38 ESV)

My Rock and My Fortress

Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;
he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.

O LORD, what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.

Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down!
Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;
send out your arrows and rout them!
Stretch out your hand from on high;
rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
from the hand of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

I will sing a new song to you, O God;
upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
who gives victory to kings,
who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.
Rescue me and deliver me
from the hand of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

May our sons in their youth
be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars
cut for the structure of a palace;
may our granaries be full,
providing all kinds of produce;
may our sheep bring forth thousands
and ten thousands in our fields;
may our cattle be heavy with young,
suffering no mishap or failure in bearing;
may there be no cry of distress in our streets!
Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!
Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!

(Psalm 144 ESV)

Hymn Before Action

No Lightning Round today, so a bigger one next week. In the meantime, here’s some more Kipling:

Hymn Before Action

The earth is full of anger,
The seas are dark with wrath,
The Nations in their harness
Go up against our path:
Ere yet we loose the legions –
Ere yet we draw the blade,
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, aid!

High lust and froward bearing,
Proud heart, rebellious brow –
Deaf ear and soul uncaring,
We seek Thy mercy now!
The sinner that forswore Thee,
The fool that passed Thee by,
Our times are known before Thee –
Lord, grant us strength to die!

For those who kneel beside us
At altars not Thine own,
Who lack the lights that guide us,
Lord, let their faith atone.
If wrong we did to call them,
By honour bound they came;
Let not Thy Wrath befall them,
But deal to us the blame.

From panic, pride, and terror,
Revenge that knows no rein,
Light haste and lawless error,
Protect us yet again.
Cloak Thou our undeserving,
Make firm the shuddering breath,
In silence and unswerving
To taste Thy lesser death!

Ah, Mary pierced with sorrow,
Remember, reach and save
The soul that comes to-morrow
Before the God that gave!
Since each was born of woman,
For each at utter need –
True comrade and true foeman –
Madonna, intercede!

E’en now their vanguard gathers,
E’en now we face the fray –
As Thou didst help our fathers,
Help Thou our host to-day!
Fulfilled of signs and wonders,
In life, in death made clear –
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, hear!

 

 

 

A Time

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV)