ORPHANS OF CHAOS introduced five boarding school students who discovered, beneath a physical and conditional facade, they were far greater beings than the awkward human teenagers they thought themselves. They were actually gods (as in Greek; as in thought to be mythical and thus unreal by twenty-first century earth dwellers; as in not unreal at all in this John C. Wright universe) taken hostage in a Titanic war! Spying on their "elders," the band of five learned of the Machiavellian motives for their forced confinement and amnesia. They fought their captors valiantly but appeared vanquished as Part One cliffhung.
FUGITIVES OF CHAOS portrays the fives' struggle to regain lost memory and powers, escape their god-too jailers, and penetrate the maze of politics and strategy underpinning the cataclysmic struggle between Cosmos and Chaos that holds the key to their fate.
Or perhaps it is the reverse, and the five "young people" hold the true key to the fate of the struggle between Chaos and Cosmos? They may also be mankind's and all life's only hope for survival!
Victor, the "robot" man; Amelia, the dimension-crosser; Vanity, the dream tunneler; Colin, the psychic; and Quentin, the witch (he may really be a she), all risk life and limb to breach the boundaries of the only place they remembered as home -- the old-fashioned school by a fishing village called Abertwyi. Believing themselves freed, they experience bits of the world such as hitchhiking, "Jerry's Fine Cafe" on Christmas, Paris stores, Vanity's magic sea craft, and luxury on "The Queen Elizabeth II" sailing for New York.
As in ORPHANS, FUGITIVES serves up a cornucopia of sci-fi/fantasy ideas. Since all five "teenagers" interpret the world from their own separate paradigms, they describe their perceptions differently. Amelia, for instance, is the geometrician of the group, while Colin reckons through the psychic's angle of personal responsibility. These differences require a great deal of group communication to enable understanding and cooperation.
Indeed, a large component of both CHAOS books published thus far is talk; the old writer's saw about showing rather than explaining isn't always observed. Not only "must" the five engage in long discussions with each other, but the sheer complexity of Wright's theme relegates other gods besides the teens to protracted explications. Although Amelia is the primary first-person narrator throughout the novels (so far anyway), other characters tell of adventures they had away from Amelia. Vanity, for instance, tells her companions about overhearing two Cosmos-camp gods -- Boreas and a Centurion Infantophage -- speculate at length about which Chaos god might try to seize the throne of "the entire sidereal universe." This dialogue means to enlighten the readers, along with the five, about the cast of potential threats in and the direction of the third volume of CHAOS. It does, but keeping track of all those gods (a single entity is often referred to by several monikers) is a bit mind-spinning for readers less conversant than Wright with mythology.
And since the young heroes of this trilogy are ostensibly teenagers, they retain that maturity level by and large. So, there is a lot of adolescent ribald ribbing and sexual innuendo (though serious sexual aggression is left to the "adults" and even then is more threat than act), as well as general silliness and cluelessness. Usually, this banter is welcome, but at certain crises stages where the five waste precious time debating and smart-mouthing, one wonders why their adversaries don't press full advantage to smartly subdue them! One wants to cuff the kids into faster action. At least, I did.
The concluding threat in FUGITIVES OF CHAOS is a beaut! The five do engage in a bit of their usual fumbling and arguing, but they spring to action pretty fast. And what action. Kudos to the author for a riveting springboard into TITANS OF CHAOS. I can't wait. April 2007 isn't that far away.