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Friday, August 12, 2016

A tale of the Unwithering

Given the number of new readers who may not be familiar with it, I thought its recent Dragon Award nomination for Best Science Fiction novel justified posting this recent Amazon review of John C. Wright's Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm. Congratulations, John, on your Dragon Award finalist!

Just finished rereading Somewhither, a grand tour through John C. Wright's daunting and vivid imagination, wherein dwell creatures eldritch, fell and fantastic beyond anything any one, or even any small number taken together, of earth's many mythologies ever dreamed. Plus all the worlds and trained warriors and assassins and spies and superheroes from a dozen cultures, comics and RPGs kicked up a notch or two by Wright's deft muse, and all tossed into one epic blender of an adventure, of which this is only Part I.

Which is why I needed to read it twice. At least.

Illya Muromets is a odd teenage boy living in rural Oregon with his even odder family. Illya has grown very large and very ugly - heavy brow ridge, huge teeth. He looks nothing like his 2 brothers or his parents. His homeschooling includes rigorous physical and combat training, as well as Latin and Hebrew. He doesn't see this as particularly weird, just sort of odd like everything about his life. His best friend is Foster Hidden, fellow Boy Scout and champion archer.

Dad takes 'business trips' that involve getting armed and armored to the teeth, which arms and armor include any number of holy relics and silver bullets, and and hiking up the hill to the ruins of an old monastery and disappearing for days on end. His mother went on one such trip, and never came back.

Illya gets a job doing grunt work at a nearby 'museum' for the mad and colorful Professor Dreadful, who has an inexplicably beautiful and brave daughter Penelope. Penny Dreadful tries to become the youngest person to sale around the world alone, but her yacht goes down and troubles beset her. She doesn't get the record, but she survives and returns in time for Illya's raging hormones to inflict the world's worst crush on him.

Professor Dreadful gets locked up in the local nuthouse, to the surprise of few. He had been working to decipher a set of what might be cuneiform letters that appeared mysteriously on a wall at CERN after a fatal accident.

Illya gets a desperate message: Professor Dreadful has deciphered the cuneiform, which contained instruction on how to build a gateway between worlds in Ursprache, the one language spoken before the fall of the Tower of Babel.

He has constructed the gateway. He left it running in the museum basement....

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60 Comments:

Anonymous The Next Big Thing August 12, 2016 10:42 AM  

Buy it now and read it today. You'll be glad you did.

Blogger TJR August 12, 2016 10:50 AM  

OK, I am buying this book as soon as I get done typing this.

Anonymous Stickwick August 12, 2016 10:56 AM  

I'd lost interest in fiction in the last few years, but based on that description alone, I'm actually excited to check out Somewither.

Blogger Were-Puppy August 12, 2016 10:59 AM  

Sounds great, I'll have to get it next, after finishing CA revolution, skin game, etc.

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr August 12, 2016 11:17 AM  

It's a brilliant, entertaining read. Right now, Wright and Larry Coreia are dominating fantasy.

Anonymous Slammer64 August 12, 2016 11:19 AM  

Based on this review alone, just purchased this on Amazon.

Anonymous 360 August 12, 2016 11:22 AM  

It was a good book. The main character was a bit annoying, but he is a teenager so it makes sense. Highly recommend it!

Blogger Nick S August 12, 2016 11:25 AM  

Yes. If the reviewer's description is accurate, Wright has written the book I've been thinking about writing for years. It's not unreasonable to assume he's done a much better job of it than I or anyone else could have ever done. Thanks, John. I hate writing. Besides, in my head the backstory always outpaced the front story. I'll finally get to see what happens when it's done properly by a master story teller.

Anonymous Leonidas August 12, 2016 11:41 AM  

@1: Can confirm.

@2: You won't regret it.

@3: You should be.

@8: The reviewer's description is very accurate.

This is seriously my favorite book of last year, and my favorite for a very long time. When I got my Dragon Award ballot, this category wasn't even a contest.

Blogger Cataline Sergius August 12, 2016 11:45 AM  

This story has everything. And I do mean everything. It is Star Wars without the garbage, It is a Game aware love-story. It is a quest to find the Missing Key on the Golden Road to Samarkand. It is a tale of hope in the deepest heart of darkness. It is a Christian Rock-opera.

The one thing I hate about it is the ending. There was no book two I could immediately buy.

Anonymous Be Not Afraid August 12, 2016 11:47 AM  

All right....all right. Finished The Last Witchking yesterday, very good stuff, my first foray into Selenoth. I'll mix this with MH:Nemesis, which I'm reading for about the fourth time.

Blogger Karl August 12, 2016 11:50 AM  

sounds like a great read.

OT but book related - if you don't mind giving clicks to Gawker, their Foodspin writer explains how he first sabotaged himself then torpedoed his book project by writing a smear blog for Gawker attacking some people who post Youtube parody videos. Somehow I don't see Castalia authors getting in the same position. I thought it was interesting that he turned down the indie proposal because no advance.

http://adequateman.deadspin.com/1-i-don-t-think-that-post-qualifies-as-full-nuclear-a-1785059014

Blogger RobertT August 12, 2016 11:59 AM  

If this guy isn't a writer, he should be.

Blogger RobertT August 12, 2016 11:59 AM  

If this guy isn't a writer, he should be.

Anonymous Pittsburgh August 12, 2016 12:03 PM  

I have never read anything by Mr. Wright, but would be interested to try. However some of the reviews on Amazon make it seem like this book has a strong Christian narrative/message. I don't really want that in my fantasy. Nothing against religion, I just try to avoid any fantasy where the author tries to preach too much of their own message. Should I be worried about that in this book? Or shpuld I avoid it and try something by him?

Anonymous Susan August 12, 2016 12:04 PM  

As a resident of Oregon, and having lived about 1/2 hr north of the late Bane, there are indeed parts of rural Oregon that are capable of producing just this kind of teenager. Rural Oregon can be a very odd duck if you aren't careful where you roam.

Blogger ÆtherCzar August 12, 2016 12:04 PM  

Somewither is truly superb. Read the first chapter for free
here.

Anonymous Pittsburgh August 12, 2016 12:05 PM  

That should say try something else by him.

Blogger residentMoron August 12, 2016 12:12 PM  

Cataline Sergius has the right of it. By far the most original, seductive, and enjoyable work of fiction I've read in years.

Blogger residentMoron August 12, 2016 12:16 PM  

Pittsburgh

Wright weaves elements of scriptural history into the plot, in a quite novel way (forgive the pun) but does not preach.

Don't miss this. You will only kick yourself later if you do.

Anonymous Bob August 12, 2016 12:17 PM  

"He left it running ion the museum basement...."

That was the clincher. Going to get the book.

Anonymous Steve August 12, 2016 12:39 PM  

SOMEWITHER is excellent and I envy new readers who are going to experience it for the first time.

I was a little bit unsure whether I'd like it at first, but after the first chapter or two the story kicks into high gear and takes you on an incredibly imaginative, action-packed and surprisingly violent* adventure that you won't soon forget.

It's a terrific read, and if you liked GLORY ROAD, or if you just like stories about weird places full of fantastical creatures and bad guys who are truly evil and good guys who are fighting for things that really matter, you'll love it.

* in the best way, there's nothing gratuitous about it, but neither does the story sanitise the depravity of evil or the visceral thrill of swordfighting. Seriously, it's the cat's meow.

Blogger Dave August 12, 2016 12:44 PM  

I absolutely loved reading Somewhither! When is book 2 coming out?

Blogger VFM #7634 August 12, 2016 12:48 PM  

However some of the reviews on Amazon make it seem like this book has a strong Christian narrative/message. I don't really want that in my fantasy.

@15 Pittsburgh
The main character is a practicing Catholic, but the novel is much more Tolkien than a C.S. Lewis-type religious allegory, if that's what you're worried about. At least if it is an allegory, I completely missed it.

Blogger Positive Dennis August 12, 2016 12:49 PM  

I was expecting to like this book. I did not. I will probably buy book 2, but it just wasn't what I like.

Blogger Franz Lionheart August 12, 2016 12:52 PM  

Oh shoot. I came here for my daily fix of Vox blog, and I've seen immediately the top story ... Unwithering realm" .... Wowowow, and I jumped to the conclusion this is an advertisement for Part 2! Alas, it is not to be, it's just a review of Part 1.

Which obviously is such an excellent book, fully deserving of the 5 stars, and of it's Award nomination. And I hope and expect it wins.

But Vox, John ..... Impatiently I ask, when does Part 2 come out? Do we have an ETA?

Impatiently, and kind regards, Franz

Blogger L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright August 12, 2016 12:55 PM  

@15

Think of it not as a book with a Christian message, but as a fantasy where the background universe happens to be Christian.

Very different effect on the story.

Blogger L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright August 12, 2016 12:56 PM  

Book Two is being worked on, in and around Moth and Cobweb books. John was working on it just today.

Blogger Franz Lionheart August 12, 2016 1:01 PM  

Thank you Mrs. Wright.

Blogger Happy Housewife August 12, 2016 1:08 PM  

This book was nuts. In the best of ways.

Blogger GK Chesterton August 12, 2016 1:15 PM  

"Penny Dreadful tries to become the youngest person to sale" should be "Penny Dreadful tries to become the youngest person to sail"

Anonymous The Next Big Thing August 12, 2016 1:20 PM  

You're not very positive today Dennis.

I am.

Anonymous Bz August 12, 2016 1:21 PM  

I think it would be fair to characterize SOMEWHITHER as an action movie with some incredible world building behind it. P J Farmer used to get the same classification, but I consider our Wright to be decidedly better at the job.

Anonymous Nathan August 12, 2016 1:24 PM  

@15,

While Somewither is quite good, if the setting isn't your cup of tea, try Wright's Awake in the Night Land.

Anonymous Pittsburgh August 12, 2016 1:55 PM  

Thanks to those who answered my question.

Anonymous Be Not Afraid August 12, 2016 2:06 PM  

@15
Wright, as an author, strikes me as essentially an Inkling, much as Tolkien and Lewis (and, like it or not, almost certainly J. K. Rowling, in her own way). As with them, there are Christian themes in his work.

Simply saying there are Christian themes in a book does not mean reading the book is like reading "Left Behind." I've read Wright's "Iron Chamber of Memory", the "Night Lands" works, and "One Bright Star to Guide Them." It took me a while to figure out where he was taking "Chamber," but the end just flattened me. The "Night Lands" works are stupendously good, and I wonder if they'll be recognized one day as true classics. "Bright Star" was written in a very Lewis-esque voice, it seemed to me, and since I prefer Lewis' nonfiction "voice" to the way he wrote fiction (except for Screwtape) "Bright Star" was not my favorite of the three. I've bought Somewhither and will start reading it later today or tomorrow, and I do not expect to be disappointed.

Blogger Cataline Sergius August 12, 2016 2:14 PM  

If Somewither wins best novel, the Dragon Awards are off to an awesome start.

If Ancillary Crap wins they are off to a horrible start.

However, I think Somewither may have a decent shot at the title.

This from our friend Larry Corriea on Facebook:

I've got to say, I've been watching social media since the announcement of the Dragon Awards, and it has been awesome to see authors actually excited about awards for once.
The authors are so enthusiastic they look like the Ewoks singing the Yub Yub song at the end of Return of the Jedi.
Fans keep saying "Whoa, I've actually read/liked most of these!"
And the CHORFs are having a giant flaming come apart. :D "You guys should go start your own wrongfan awards!" "Okay." "NOOOOOOOOOOO!"
It has been a thing of beauty. Rock on, noble Dragon. Rock on.
(and any fan can vote. Just go here to register and they'll email you a ballot)

Blogger Pseudotsuga August 12, 2016 2:32 PM  

Dear editors: niggling error in Chapter Two.
From Tillamook to Marion county is not southwest. That would put you in the ocean.
The correct direction is southeast.

Blogger John Wright August 12, 2016 2:55 PM  

@15

"However some of the reviews on Amazon make it seem like this book has a strong Christian narrative/message."

In my original draft of this book, called SAINT ATLAS SHRUGS, my idea was that the Pope was running a railroad called Christ-in-your-face Transcontinental, and the daring yet brilliant young priestess and railroad executive Dagny Christian, S.J., was fighting against the gray and dreary satanists, led by Elsworth Tooey of Boskone, who were undermining the Catholic Church.

The inventor and super genius Saint John Galt the Awesome Baptist gathered all the brilliant geniuses in society in a monastery in Egypt, including St. Spock the Logical and the Venerable Gray Lensman, where they retired from the cares of the world, and the whole world goes to hell because the awesome Christians are not present to save the heathens from their own fumble-fingered incompetence.

In an awe-inspiring dramatic scene, I have the cyber-Aslan orbiting the earth in the New Jerusalem and take over all the radios world wide, and give an hour long sermon telling everyone to eat his vegetables.

He then lands the New Jerusalem atop Mecca, crushing it, and resurrects the corpse of Mohammed, draws a cartoon of him, and rips him to shreds with bloody teeth and claws, using the Deeper Ninja Martial Arts from Before the Dawn of Time.

And then he joins together with the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Greek Patriarch, and Reverend Sun Myung Moon to form a giant robotic lion that fights Mechaantichrist and Monster Zero both at once.

All the Satanists turn off the lights of New York city, society crumbles to nothing, and that is the happy ending.

And Eddie Willers is left alone on an abandoned train to die without benefit of the sacrament of confession.

But after talking it over with my editor, I decided to cut out the hour long radio speech, ditch the character of Saint John Galt the Awesome Baptist, and write a story where all the Catholics are flawed and unworthy servants, and the bad guys are really, really bored astrologers. With dimension-crossing superdreadnaughts, snide werewolves, and the ghosts of Pharaohs are their command.

So the in-your-face Christian message is not as blatant as it should be, if that is what you are worried about.

But I kept in the prayer-powered mecha and the fight with the Seven Headed Beast. That will show up in the sequel, which I am busily writing as we speak.

NOTE TO THE HUMOR IMPAIRED: Some of the comments and remarks above are exaggerations. The book I actually wrote is actually weirder than that.

But I am actually writing the sequel NOWITHER.

I have reached the chapter where the heroes find the underwater city of the beautiful mermaids under attack by the sinister Captain Nemo, who may be an ally or an enemy of the remote descendants of Noah who live in a fleet of arks with boatloads of sleeping land animals otherwise extinct on an entirely flooded waterworld.

Anonymous 5343 August 12, 2016 3:29 PM  

@39.

My brain just shut off. Go John!

Blogger Ingot9455 August 12, 2016 3:39 PM  

@39 Dude, spoiler warning!!!

Blogger Dave August 12, 2016 4:09 PM  

@39

I'm flabbergasted; all I can do is echo @40: Go John!

Blogger residentMoron August 12, 2016 4:31 PM  

The Awesome Baptist!

What about the Wright Brother, Saint John the Withering Keyboard Warrior?

Blogger Aeoli Pera August 12, 2016 4:54 PM  

@39, that was awesome. I needed that after reading the millenial thread.

Blogger John Wright August 12, 2016 6:16 PM  

@41
No spoiler warnings are needed, since I did not actually write that book. Some Russian woman from the 1950s did instead, and using Objectivism instead of Catholicism.

She has vampires in her book, as mine does, but no Latin werewolves, so my book is better: but she had a viking pirate named Ragnar Danneskjold, so her book is better there.

Anonymous Steve August 12, 2016 6:31 PM  

Dear John Wright, please include more pirates and pirate-related activities in the sequel to SOMEWITHER.

Yours Arrr

A Fan

Anonymous Geretrudis August 12, 2016 6:41 PM  

I'd totally read the book you did not write, Mr. W.

Blogger Cataline Sergius August 12, 2016 6:49 PM  

@39 John C. Wright

Yeah, they stole most of that for the third Atlas Shrugged movie.

Do. Not. Watch. The. Third, Atlas Shrugged Movie.

Dreadfully bad.

Blogger Cataline Sergius August 12, 2016 7:01 PM  

@ John C. Wright

Also, it sounds an awful lot like the Muslim version of the Apocalypse.

The Salafist version of the apocalypse goes something like this. The armies of the Caliph defeats the armies Rome on the Plains of Dabiq. The Caliphate then proceeds to sweep all before them until in Eastern Iran a (sort of) Anti-Christ arises; the Dajjal. The Dajjal will hammer the Caliphate until there are only 5,000 of the faithful remaining hold up in Jerusalem. Just as the Dajjal is about to destroy them, Jesus Christ will return to Earth and spear him.


Anonymous Bastiat August 12, 2016 7:24 PM  

Somewhither is fantastic!

So glad that the sequel is in progress, with all the other series he is concurrently working on! I'm also looking forward to all those as well.

Anonymous Frankenstein McBadperson August 12, 2016 7:40 PM  

Professor Dreadful is a pretty good name. I'm a big believer in the value of titles and names. Except my own, of course, which is just mildly amusing and slightly okay. ("A Man Disrupted" is a great title, "A Throne of Bones" eh, meh, so-so, "A Controversy About the Elvish Question, A-plus. "Awake in the Night Land" is one of the best titles I've heard in ages. So is "Gravity." "Frozen" is one of the best movies I've seen in years, but that's a terrible title, and they had a great thing like "The Snow Queen" to pick from? Lucky they had fantastic songs and stupendous lighting, and a fascinating story twist, or else a lot of people would be unemployed now. Not Lasseter, though. The man's got vision like nobody's business.



Anonymous Ellipsis Lacuna August 12, 2016 8:11 PM  

"At Deadspin we have an unofficial practice called “Slack Law”: When a topic consumes the staff’s attention for more than a few minutes in Slack, Slack Law says that somebody has to take it to the actual website where we get paid to do our work, so that it will not be a complete waste of time and will not intrude for too long on the actual work-related use of Slack. Thus, for example, if we are bickering about whether a hippopotamus could take a rhinoceros in a street fight, someone can invoke Slack Law, at which point the bickering must end, and a blog must be produced."

Not a bad idea!

Blogger VFM #7634 August 12, 2016 9:12 PM  

If Somewither wins best novel, the Dragon Awards are off to an awesome start.

If Ancillary Crap wins they are off to a horrible start.


@37 Cataline Sergius
That's putting it mildly. If Somewhither doesn't win, I'll be scrutinizing whichever novel does win with extreme prejudice. And if it's an Ancillary novel, I'll write off the Dragons as converged.

Anonymous Frankenstein McBadperson August 12, 2016 9:35 PM  

JCW is really quite on a roll, isn't he? One great lovely thing after another, here's hoping he can keep it up. (No one keeps it up forever, but some last longer than others.) I admit I read some of his earlier work, and while I admired the quality, I thought it lacked something, maybe you'd say like metaphysical grandeur. That's a hard quality for anyone to have, to be sure: Gide had it, Don Van Vliet did, Brendan Behan did for a while at least, Joyce did, Ionesco did, Schuyler and O'Hara did (F not J), Ashbery has it from time to time but not always, and now it looks like JCW has got it in spades. Congrats, dude, you're in grand company. Keep it up. I don't know what's cooking inside you, but it's pretty rock and roll.

Blogger D. G. D. Davidson August 12, 2016 10:39 PM  

I wish Wright didn't have so many projects, because I really want the sequel to this.

Sometimes, his work is so heavy with awesomesauce that it becomes downright unwieldy, which is why I gave up on the Count to the Eschaton and took great delight in his return to a more streamlined storytelling in Iron Chamber of Memory.

But Somewhither is one place where his tendency to pile mind-blowing ideas one atop the other in a massive, tottering heap really pays off. It's a universe perfectly designed for exactly the kind of concept clutter he excels at.

Blogger The Overgrown Hobbit August 12, 2016 11:43 PM  

If it weren't for Vox Day & Castalia House, our JCW fixes would be few and far between.

Long may they publish!

Blogger John Wright August 13, 2016 3:10 AM  

@46

"Dear John Wright, please include more pirates and pirate-related activities in the sequel to SOMEWITHER."

I will try my best, but I can make no promises. The muse is fickle and sly. Does Captain Nemo count as a pirate?

Blogger Dave August 13, 2016 8:12 AM  

Give him an eye patch and a parrot and he'll pass.

OpenID anonymos-coward August 13, 2016 9:31 AM  

Does Captain Nemo count as a pirate?

Certainly. He routinely hijacks ships and kidnaps people in the original.

Blogger tymbrimi September 18, 2016 2:06 PM  

Is the sequel "Nowither" as you wrote above, or is it "Nowhither"?

I thought the spelling was: Unwithering, Somewhither, Nowhither

But if you google "somewither" and "somewhither", you can find images of the book cover with both spellings. What???

I am ordinarily not a person who worries about spelling, but in this case, it being titles and all, I want to know what is correct.

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