I am the Millennial King, before I go into this review, I will say that this book and the Count to Eschaton series has earned a choice place in my bookshelves, which I took for a song from a dying church building. Over them, I place my Bible, which I take out to read at day and night break. NO MATTER WHAT I SAY ABOUT THIS BOOK, NEVER FORGET IT IS WORTHY OF MY BEST SHELF. Five stars, fantastic, no real complaints about craft, direction or any other number of things, a really great work. BUUUTTT I do have things to say about it.
Spoilers. HELLA SPOILERS. THIS IS THE DARK CARNIVAL OF SPOILERS. THERE ARE A POSSE OF JUGGALOS HANDING OUT ‘SPOILER FLAVERED FAYGO’ WICKED ELIXIR AND HAVING A WET T-SHIRT CONTEST WITH IT. THE RESULTS? SPOILERS WRITTEN IN MONUMENT NOTATION UNDER THE FLIMSY WHITE SHIRT. NORMAL MEN WOULD BE DRIVEN MAD, BUT NOT JUGGALOS.
I will summarize and intermingle my summary with personal thoughts as to what was and wasn’t done well. The wasn’t done wells are nitpicks – but still deserve notice. It should be noted I only have a slightly above average IQ and the actions of some of the characters are a little over my head in general. I am a man of writing ambition, and through that lens I will interpret these things I have read. I stated these things in hopes that you might understand my own thought patterns.
The Architect of the Aeons begins with the Judge of Ages, Menelaus Montrose and his arch-nemesis, Ximen Del Azarchel, once and future Master of the World traveling about in their ship, The Emancipation. They go to earth and learn about what happened when the Living Gas Giant ‘Asmodel’ showed up to conquer earth. It didn’t end well. A Swan, a second tier of humanity improved via techniques derived from the alien MONUMENT, tells them their ass got kicked. They fought it, but at every turn Asmodel got around it. The pair then go to the moon. It should be noted that Ximen has a sword ‘Ultima Ratio Regnum’ which I was just tickled pink by.
This is the beginning part of the 3 best written passages in this book. The description of the ‘fight’ with Asmodel is fantastically described. The Siege of Earth is well written, and, though I had no prior knowledge of how such a siege should be done (though, logically, blocking out the sun and starving them out is simply the most efficient way there is. if you’re a gas giant) yet I never thought that it was simply too far fetched. The Hyades tactics are bound by rules, and, even knowing those rules, there was nothing we could do. There is more later, to this long scene, and so wonderful it is.
I felt that the end result was hideously wasteful by Asmodel, not just in lives lost, but in the random chance of it. There were consequences later, but this brings up something kinda stuck in my craw about the series. Why would a superintelligence made up of smaller than nanite tech leave so much to chance. None of the colonies survived for long. None of them were profitable to anyone. They had plenty of stuff in a weird mud they could work with in a unanchored Space Elevator called a Skyhook. But that was an ‘intelligence test’ and killed more than it helped. I don’t know how much those skyhooks cost, but that must have been a terrible return on investment. They needed to do something more than seed like a farmer who’s given up on being good at his job. Intelligence brings greater thoughts, and while I am under no opinion that it brings enlightenment, it should at least cause a man to say: What could go wrong? Or, in the case of the humans, isn’t there a saying: Beware Greeks bearing gifts? (or future equivalent). Personal Theory: This was Asmodel’s last chance at being profitable to the Hyades, and bet on desperation. It failed and he paid for it, but that’s what he gets. Even if we are insects, we still cultivate bees and in some cases, ants. Perhaps their separation from organic thought-structures brought it on? who knows.
They go to the moon, which has a basilica for Luna, now Selene, is a holy nun, and has set up shrines for the apostles and even the two rivals, Master of the World and Judge of Ages. She teaches them many things, enhancing their intelligence, and tells them to speak to Tellus the earthmind, which they do. All mankind come to beg that what Tellus asks, the creation of Jupiter as a Gas Giant mind as was Asmodel, not be done and mankind be allowed to die. However, their request and the Judge of Ages desire, to see his wife Rania, are equally selfish, but Menelaus is willing to sacrifice, mankind is not, so he helps the Master of the World create the Jupiterian mind. (So ends the first part!)
The description of the Basilica brought me to tears. I can say nothing less. It tapped into the part of me that loves art, and I could see it. Every part. Those who have no love for Christianity, you may understand part, and the more then better! but it is not the same as having your own iconography portrayed beautifully and properly. This is not a piss-crucifix, but magnificent statues and art pieces with music (read it to Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade!) lovingly detailed. Best. Scene. In. The. Book. Hands down. The plea of the first men to Menelaus is also moving. All bowing to him, so that he does not destroy an era of peace. Problem is that their children’s children will pay for it. They are not willing to pay the price. And so he creates the Jupiter brain. Well made and well done. Mr. Wright created a true moral dilemma, but at the end of all things, when it comes to how a man views liberty and slavery. Liberty has a cost and someone has or will pay somewhere. And sometimes the cost is immense pain for a time.
The second act follows Menelaus being awoken by a series of Third Men (Swan’s being Second Men) called Myrmidons, who wish him, in the absence of both Jupiter and the Master of the World (who is creating an empire elsewhere in the galaxy), to help them fight Cahetal, a vast cloud who is from the Hyades and will be the next colonizers. Menelaus does so, but, due to reliance on tech from Asmodel, they are defeated easily. Menelaus has created copies of himself, including a giant created of some sort of Computer Crystals (I never really figured them out) with 10k+IQ. Cahetal takes it over and an agreement is reached between the two. Mankind will recolonize (on a stronger footing) and Cahetal will prevent total Jovian domination.
I have mixed feelings about this part. It is well written, and Giant Menelaus is a fantastic character, with pitch-perfect descriptions. I felt that, while Mr. Wright went a little ‘rule of cool’ on us, but didn’t back it up properly as he usually does. I felt that all parties except Cahetel had issues. Namely, no one thought to question murk seriously. It’s handwaved in that (to paraphrase) “We don’t have the tech to know what it is or make our own” which is like, to me, using someone else’s unknown gun in a duel. It ain’t gonna work, buddy, it isn’t battle tested. My main issue is that this is a harsh departure, for me, from Wright’s usually tech style. He’s what I call ‘medium’ hardness. It’s got a lot of decent and well laid out science, but things can be handwaved. Murk is a little to ‘soft’ for me when used in this setting. It doesn’t really show up in the first part, except as weird forces of nature, and I worry that it was a bit of nonsoleum logically needed to make the plot move forward. Now, I don’t doubt it could exist. BUTTTT… no one questioned the fact that the Hyades agents just left the damn stuff without purpose or reason. No one thought, dang, is it a good idea to fight someone with their own stuff they base a lot of tech on? Giant Menelaus turned it around, but it was a giant build up for a giant fizzle and if that was the entire story, Excellently written, but I didn’t get my money’s worth.
Now, until this point. When Cahetel the character shows up and haggles mini-montrose about the future of the race, and the death of Giant Montrose, fantastic scene. The myrmidons were handled well, even if I think that their dependence on the Master of the World’s thought templates a little dumb and not nearly fleshed out enough, a told not shown deal. However, Cahetel makes up for it. I am a sucker for Kempler’s Rosettes, ever since I read Ringworld.
The third part is a shift of character, with Norbert the Assassin being our main character, but with a focus still on the relationship between the Judge of Ages, Master of the World and the Swan Princess. After discussing that Jupiter is betraying all three (especially its maker, Master of the World) by not sending out the braking laser needed for Rania and instead creating a back up in the Hyades, they infiltrate a carnival (I AM A SUCKER FOR CARNIVAL DESCRIPTIONS) and meet the Judge of Ages and Cazi, Queen of the Kitsune. Here we meet the Fourth Race of Man, the Fox Maidens, or kitsunes. They are the masters of genetic manipulation and are a sight sexy. There are hints of a fifth race, called ‘patricians’ but not enough is said that I’ll say anything about them. The Master of the World is revealed to be Norbert’s squire. Jupiter is summoned by Norbert the Assassin, and is dueled by the Judge of Ages. Jupiter itself is slain and dissolves itself, as both duelants put everything they had on the line, no backups. Rania preserved, Cazi, queen of the Kitsune, decides to marry Norbert. Judge of Ages and Master of the World declare pax for the next 10k+ years until Rania comes back and settle down to wait. Hot damn. What a ride.
The description of the carnival and the duel with Jupiter make up the second best and last of the three great scenes (Asmodel’s siege, Selene and the Plea of Man, Cahetel’s negotiation for the human race and Carnival, Duel and Death of Jupiter) of this book. Jupiter is suitably arrogant and proud. His intelligence counts him nothing, for though a gas giant, he is not anything more than a pretend man who thinks himself a god. He fails because of his pride. Outstanding. Over all, Jupiter was a character I wish I saw more of, but was glad to see him die. Perhaps a little more flesh would have suited him better. He is feared and made in part 1, reticent in part 2 (but feared and stated to have been breeding humans) and in part 3… he goes down. Dang. The Hyades, the Master of the World and, I would suppose, M3 (depending on how Rania gets back) would be major villains, but even Ull and the Hermeticists had more going for them character wise. In the second book, there is an entire chapter devoted to their beliefs and how they will manipulate mankind. Jupiter doesn’t get that treatment, and I feel that that’s a missed opportunity to make a bit more felt his influence. Still impressive, mind.
Norbert and Cazi are excellent, being bit characters compared to the other 3 in their chapters. The flying monkeys were well received. Mr. Wright well captured the spirit of tricksy fox girls, making them both feminine, dangerous and powerful yet obviously human if they were a little more sane. So, women. They are characters who left the biggest impression next to Selene, Cahetel and Jupiter, who are in the minor character range. Norbert’s descriptions of other worlds is suitably detailed and enjoyable. I wasn’t really sold on the premise of this part until the Carnival showed up which made me very sold indeed. The Forever Village was nice, but I’m having a problem remembering it as well, but that might well be taste. I also tamely enjoyed the bureaucracy and rules of how the star-farers treat earth, and that Oaks are sacred to Jupiter was a perfect touch.
This series is heading into one thing. The final duel between the Master of the World and the Judge of Ages. And sometimes, while waiting for the climax, books like these have to be written. These books fill in gaps and flesh out a universe that would otherwise be missing very important points. How the two change are important to how the climax will turn out. It must be done or else we will not know the stakes. All 3 of the parts could be their own book (though the second one would leave me disappointed as a whole), but are made stronger because all three are moving into one another. Dots must be connected, and there’s no way in hell that the Master of the World just let the Judge of Ages sleep until Rania comes back. It was worth the read and the buy.
This end the normal review.
So, two things bother me, but accept as matter of course.
First, intelligence. Now, I know there are peeps smarter than me, just as I know I’m smarter than some other peeps. But here’s the thing. What was stopping people from going “No, screw you Jupiter” and not doing what he says. All they have to do is block his signals with materials they have access to. Most of Jupiter’s power derives from agents and whatnot. What did the others see or know that I won’t see for 2 or 3 read throughs? Being only slightly above average, it strikes me that it’s in my best interest NOT to work with Jupiter. What influence did he have over them? It’s implied that, later on, he controlled certain rings and power supplies, but couldn’t Selene or Earthmind Tellus do the same? I recognize that Selene was a nun, but still. There’s some step I’m sure is there but I don’t know it.
My take on intelligence is this, that they can take the step. Take Rabid Puppies, promoted and planned by Vox Day from the Sad Puppies template to be a Xanatos Gambit, so that no matter the outcome he and his goals win. I laughed as soon as I saw it – I saw it as soon as he said ‘Xanatos Gambit’ but not before – and what outcomes there could be and would likely be. Personally, I’m betting on them burning the Hugo’s down, but then, as an aspiring conservative author, a reshuffling of the powers would be in my favor. However, I’ve never been comfortable with authors voting for awards their books are in the running for. But I promote the idea of ‘slates’ as an alternative. Of course, I might not be intelligent enough to properly support the ideas. Hell, most of what I think comes down to ‘I don’t think we can trust corrupt man to fairly judge his own made books’ and ‘Because man is corrupt, allow a system by which vote rigging can be recognized and countered. If all support a slate, it is a good slate. If there are divisions on slates, then there might be an entertaining war of fandoms or too many works are unworthy.”
Intelligence, especially, machine AI intelligences, have never been properly managed without that wonderful human intervention. Mr. Wright has done it wonderfully, as I believe nothing can be ‘coded’ Ex Nihilo to have a soul. Selene was created and made sentient (can’t quite remember how, but based on Rania/monument stuff) and immediately cannibalizes the predecessor Diana. She becomes a nun in grief of her sin. She murdered, and recognized it as such. Making her human. Likely, more human that any of the other of the planetary body based intelligences. It was one of my favorite parts, above much I have read this year. This could have only been conceived by someone with a deep understanding. I have not read its like, if it exists elsewhere, I would love to compare.
I still don’t understand why Asmodel did the things he did so wastefully.
The second bit is all the changes that go on. People are desperate to be not normal humans, mostly. It bothers me a bit, as mankind lost sense of self and too easily gave into the like of Jupiter. The main characters start the series as the most intelligent peeps around, but by the end they describe themselves as children… well, boyos, sorry to bust your bubble, but you kinda messed with everyone else and outwitted Swan, Myrmidon and the Fox Maidens are allied to the Judge of Ages as much as they can be. You killed Jupiter. I’m having a hard time agreeing with you. Now mind, if you are children, I am a battery driven video game console. I.e. Game boy. Generation 1. And I could see things coming faster than the augmented individuals so proud or humble of themselves. People get more intelligent but become more extreme with who and what they are. The Fox Maidens are mad, and give birth to the Patricians, who are implied to be intractable because they can manipulate or understand Cliometry or, Psycho-history. Why? What makes those people tick? What were the foxes but perfected Witches nymphs and Hormagaunts? What were the Myrmidons but perfected Ghosts and Savants as one with a hint of chimera for taste? The Swans the culmination of the Noosphere being mind? People are nature and nurture, but I would suppose that Cliometry affect nurture and genetics affect nature so that man is perfected. But man is so dedicated to find his own future that a Fifth race, the Patricians, are made to handle and create new destinies?
To me, this thought stream is culminated in the Plea of Man, where all man begs Jupiter not be awakened, though it must be done. None are as another, and a good 7-11 species are represented in the plea. But why did they not just kill the Judge and Master of the World, and so definitely prevent the awakening of Jupiter? Or rather, was the Plea to find another way? But they were not willing to change then, in the bad way. Rather than try to preserve themselves by actions, the Giants being an equal to either main character IN THEORY and the Swan being superior by a power IN THEORY, they can do nothing but beg. They forgot that a man would move mountains for a woman. And so they doomed themselves.
Who the old hag was? I dunno. Doesn’t really matter. she was a Momento Mori, but rather, not for Immortal Menelaus Judge of Ages, but for Rania herself. But no one said, is there another way? But no, binary choice was offered and taken. Or maybe that is part of their curse. The lessers can’t take the steps they can, just I did not even dream of what Vox was up to, other than an explicit loading of the board in books he and the Dreaded Ilk deemed worthy, until it was explained. But then again, greaters have the weaknesses lessers cannot have due to their intrinsic stratification. In that, Pride, being biggest of all, multiplies as the powers of their intelligence do. Jupiter’s fall was pride and stubborn mindedness. But could not Jupiter have waited, done both, gotten Rania back and thus both Judge of Ages and Master of the World, off his back however it happens? Is there something he can see that terrifies him.
Why are the intelligences acting impatiently and even against their best interest? The least of them, Mother Selene, is able to not work against herself and even set up Neptune as a growing power later on by simply sending out a person to due penance in the outer rim. It doesn’t come back to bite her, as far as I could tell. Because Pride changes a man, no matter his intelligence, which only feeds it, man refuses or too easily changes. So, something like the Church, which Mother Selene more or less runs, and promotes humility, counteracts that pride. Neither Jupiter, Menelaus or Master of the World had it, each having goals of their own and unable to accept anything but the end they personally desired. This is something to ponder.
These two thoughts bother me, in my own way. Transhumanism is still in the beginning stages, from fantasy to reality. Pride is dripping from the ceilings. Supposed intelligences are congregating on Tumblr shores to laugh and mock at great bonfires. And others more truly do battle or leave or just laugh. Wars are fought online and in real life and everywhere I see new generations, war, man and machine. My bloodlines are of the soil and the soul, and so I feel urges to return as such. Dig myself in and use what means I can to earn land and tie it to my blood. Wait out the battles and sieges and counter-marches. But of course, that is a foolishness. Did not man attempt that to wait out Asmodel? And did not Asmodel cast a piece of the sun at earth, driving man out to be captured. There is no victory for a lesser when powers, principalities and the rulers of this world do battle.
These books inspire me. I look forward to the VINDICATION OF MAN. I look forward to Castalia House’s SOMEWHITHER a trifle more eagerly. May John C Wright’s sword-cane be sharp, the virgins lemony fresh for the dark sacrifices and that his pen never run out of ink.
If you’ve read this long and still don’t own the book, go buy the sucker. On sale if you have to. If you’ve read my ramblings you can read the damn book!