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The Golden Transcendence [Mass Market Paperback]

John C. Wright
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Jun 2004
The conclusion of the grand space opera begun in The Golden Age and The Phoenix Exultant is a story in the tradition of Jack Vance and Roger Zelanzy (with a touch of Cordwainer Smith). It is an astounding story of super science, a thrilling wonder story that recaptures the verve of Science Fiction's golden age writers. Violating the sanctions against him, Phaeton has travelled across the solar system to recover both his memory and the marvellous Phoenix Exultant, the first true star ship. Should the minds of Earth break out of the safe confines of the solar system and reach for the stars? So Phaeton argues at his trial, but a new enemy would deny them either choice, unless he can stop them.

Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; New edition edition (25 Jun 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765349086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765349088
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 10.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 291,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A movie based on Wright's modernized space opera could easily appeal to fans of The Matrix.... Such a film would, however, lack the grand polysyllabism that sets the tone of this volume and its predecessors ... language both deeply literary and deeply essential."--"Publishers Weekly" "Set forth with such effortless intelligence and confident verisimilitude that the author might be a denizen of the remote future, reporting back to us in the distant past."--"Kirkus Reviews"

About the Author

John C. Wright, a journalist and a lawyer turned SF and fantasy writer, lives with his wife and son in Centreville, Virginia.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!!! 24 Nov 2006
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I read a lot of sci fi and this series was the best I've read in years and years. I look for what you could call the "wow" factor. That moment when you look up from the book with a look of wonder on your face. In a word, "mindblowing".

Check out his "everness" books as well. Reminscient of Tim Powers - very very good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Stuff 15 Nov 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a worthy end to this series.

The ideas are just great and keeps you thinking long after the story ends.

One of the best and most memorable sci-fi book I have read in a while.

Most sci-fi these days I find pedestrian, but this series ranks up there.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If I want Ayn Rand, I take the original 13 Aug 2009
By Alex
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was given this book by a friend who raved about it, but actually reading this turned into such a chore. The man writes like a total Ayn Rand fanboy, and, sorry, but a lot of his conservatism, homophobia and other distasteful attitudes completely spoiled any pleasure I might have gotten from the book. This one went into the recycled paper box, immediately.
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Elaborate, yet disappointing 10 July 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback
John Wright has meticulously designed the technologies and societies in the series of books ending with The Golden Transcendence and they seem workable and reasonable in their context. Yet the books leave me cold - the characters are flat and I feel no empathy towards them, except for the few times Daphne Tercius [sic] gets the chance to put in a few words sideways, she has the irony to take down the puffed-up male protagonists, but in the end she is also reduced to just a scantily-clad, high-heeled female admirer of the mighty Phaethon, engineer and capitalist entrepreneur par excellence. Laurie Anderson once hoped that there would be at least economic equality between men and women by 3888, but it seems that in Wright's future many thousands of years in the future, Big Important Jobs are strictly reserved for Real Men powered by Mighty Drives to Change The Future of the Universe, while women are only allowed to work as artists, mothers and sex objects.
When Phaethon in the second book (The Phoenix Exultant) is exiled and turned to a pauper, there would have been a chance for some kind of reflection on the society he lives in, but no, the Poor People really deserve their lot, though they can (in some instances) be improved in a day or two by the imposition of discipline, hard work and sound capitalistic principles. Little Orphan Annie contained the same level of social commentary. The stinging comments by Daphne would seem to hint that there could be some deep irony intended by the author, but it is not born out by the rest of the book, it is as if they were written by someone else.
The time scale is also strangely compressed for such a long-lived and far-planning society, Wright speaks about messages taking hours, days and months to move between outlying nodes of the Solar system, yet events move as if everyone could communicate instantly and all the events of the three books apparently take place within a few weeks at the outmost.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  36 reviews
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying conclusion to a great series 11 Jan 2004
By Michael Pusateri - Published on
I recently finished reading The Golden Transcendence by John C. Wright. A great novel that serious science fiction readers should pick up.
The Golden Transcendence is the third book in The Golden Age trilogy. The first two books were The Golden Age and The Phoenix Exultant.
The book are firmly in the space opera genre with a dash of Heinlein libertarianism tossed in for good measure. The story takes place in the far future when artificial intelligences (known as sophotechs) and humans live immortal lives in a libertarian society of near unlimited technology. The experience of real physical interaction is replaced in many cases by remote bodies, recorded experiences of others, and complete control of what a person perceives. Humanity has moved beyond the one body - one brain system and has adopted many different systems of thought and even physical form.
Mr. Wright puts forth a brilliant vision of technology and society in the far future where wealth is measured in seconds of computer time and physical labor is non-existent. In this future, there is are still wealthy and poor people but in a different way. In a good interview, Mr. Wright explains:
"There would still be rich and poor, even if the poorest of the poor were absurdly well off by our standards. No advancements can eliminate differences in the abilities of men, or the differences in how men value the abilities of their fellow man (which is what causes inequality of prices and hence of incomes). If only by comparison, there will be poverty, even in Arcadia. My characters Ironjoy, Oshenkyo, and the Afloats [...] are meant to represent this idea of future poverty; the Seven Peers represent wealth."
As an example as just one of the concepts presented, we can look at the idea of 'sensefilters'. Perception is no longer what organic senses directly tell the mind. The signals received by the body or remote bodies are processed to be acceptable to the person's particular preferences. If a person doesn't like to see advertising, their mind eliminates the advertising from their vision and fills in the scene with what would be there if the advertisement wasn't there. Consciously, the person isn't aware of this, only that they have requested not to see advertisements. Sensefiltering can be used to remove (or add) objects, people, and even ideas from an individual's perception. The plot devices are interesting stuff that Mr. Wright explores in just enough detail to keep you wanting more throughout the trilogy.
The protagonist, Phaethon, is the son of one of the most important people in the society (known as the Golden Oecumene). In the first two books, Phaethon struggles against first the realization that he is missing parts of his memory, his struggle against society, his fall into exile, and his return to strength.
The third book finds Phaethon poised to fight against the true enemy that has been revealed to him. Without spoiling too much, Phaethon is forced to fight for the very survival of his society (which tossed him out) or allow it to be destroyed.
The author, John C. Wright, obviously has a libertarian heart and embodies the attributes of individuality, resourcefulness, ingenuity and desire for progress in Phaethon, the hero. In the opening novel, we find a society content with things how they are, willing to simply stop progress to prevent anything from changing their utopia in any meaningful way. Phaethon is a man of action in opposition to the statist Golden Oecumene. The underlying theme is that without mankind's strive for exploration and new goals, it is doomed.
Overall, an excellent book and series for the science fiction reader looking for something more than blasters and evil six-legged aliens. Getting used to the terminology and concepts is slow at first but well worth the effort.
If you enjoy Iain Banks's Culture series, Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn, or John Varley's Eight Worlds, you will enjoy the The Golden Transcendence and the entire Golden Age Trilogy.
The author, John C. Wright, is a retired attorney and is working on the upcoming novel, Orphans of Chaos.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing 20 April 2004
By Brian A. Schar - Published on
"The Golden Transcendence" is a book of ideas that works--a rare bird indeed. Wright weaves philosophy, action, and character skillfully into a wildly creative novel that is very hard to put down. It's refreshing to read a good optimistic space opera that isn't all about galactic-scale battle strategy and tactics.
Most "books of ideas" at some point become talky at best, or preachy and didactic at worst. Wright avoids these pitfalls and integrates the ideas pretty seamlessly into the story. For those familiar with objectivist philosophy, you will be on familiar ground. In some respects, the hero Phaethon, more so in than in the previous few books, is reminiscent of the architect from "The Fountainhead." Both have similar values, and both have constructed a magnificent structure to express those values. However, this novel is far from a clone of "The Fountainhead," and any baggage the reader may have with regard to Rand's novels should not affect his or her opinion of this book.
The glossary at the end does clear up some of the terminology and naming conventions used in the three books of this Golden Oecumene trilogy. However, I recommend waiting to read it until you're done, unless you are completely baffled, because there are potential spoilers in there.
A great read--don't hesitate to read all of the books in this trilogy. You'll be glad you did.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Climactic and Moving 7 July 2005
By - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"The Golden Age" as a trilogy will take its place among notable space operas but should exceed them in importance and influence. Particularly, fans of Alastair Reynolds, Peter F Hamilton, Dan Simmons, and other notable space opera, hard-science enthusiasts should embrace Wright who will quickly supersede these other authors. He will do this precisely because he will take on literary themes that are ignored in favor of the action and the special effects that publishers believe the audience demands. Where Wright's influence will extend is in the notions of artificial intelligence, legalistic understandings of individuals in an age where consciousness can be transferred, manipulated, and quantified, and in the freedom to explore the Golden Age of times rather than dwelling in the aftermath of some collapse as is so often the case in science fiction.


It is often said that Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is re-telling of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. In many ways, The Golden Age trilogy feels much like the golden age of classical Greece just before its absorption and transmogrification in to the Roman Empire. Only these people, with the transcendence at hand, are able to foresee their own long age of warfare. It's a beautiful moment and concept; it is what we would call a worthy triumph to a series that has been besotted with notions of immortality, super-intelligence, and cosmology. It is unthinkable that those who have started the series should not finish it.


For those people who were not impressed with the philosophical speculations of the first novel The Golden Age and are reading ahead in reviews to see if there is any change let us be blunt: there is not. The debates do not slacken though neither does the action. However, the importance of the action takes a far second place to the outcome of the ethical dilemmas faced by these protagonist. Those readers who were hoping for serious warfare to break out (at least the kind with guns, bombs, and the like) between the Golden and Silent Oecumenes will be disappointed and should avoid this novel. It is the case, though, that Daphne provides a levity lacking in the first novel that was introduced in the second and comes to full flower here in the third. Yet in the end, when the last page is turned, this novel is somehow more like a classical symphony or a poem and those looking for something besides poetry and music should seek elsewhere.

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wright is a Master 1 Aug 2004
By Nick Pilon - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Those that try to pidgeonhole Wright by claiming that his work follows in the footsteps of whining intellectual infants like Ayn Rand or Robert Heinlein do this author a great disservice. Unlike Rand, who claims that all philosophies other than her own are innately evil, Wright draws from philosophical works throughout history in creating this masterpiece. The viewpoint of his main character and the hyperintelligent Sophotechs is about as far removed from Rand's Objectivism as it is possible to be. The fact that many of the characters have Greek names and the presence of a reconstruction of Socrates should give the reader a clue as to what Wright considers his philosophical roots.

While they initially appear similar, the philosophy Wright's characters espouse demonizes neither the spiritual nor the compassionate. Individual freedom is the word of the day, as is small government, but his ideal society is decidedly socialistic - none of its members are left wanting as it's overabundant resources are shared so that none are left wanting, save through crime or their own willful negligence. He does advocate market forces, but in his writing, they work out only through the benevolent intervention of the godlike Sophotechs, who are able to direct the market towards both efficiency and fairness while allowing humans to do their own thing. In many ways, it is, in fact, an argument against laisez-faire capitalism which, as shown by the demise of the Silent Ocumene, Wright believes to be a destructive force rather than a constructive one in the presence of plentiful wealth.

Make no mistake, however. Despite the liberal use of philosophy, this is space opera on its grandest scale, wrapped in the trappings of hard sci-fi. Whether you're looking for a simple adventure or a philosophical discourse and examination of mankind's future, the Golden Age books are just what the Sophotech ordered.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Needs a better editor 20 April 2008
By L. Hurst - Published on
After reading The Golden Age, I quickly went out and bought the next to books of the trilogy. The Golden Age started a little slow and then by the end I was blown away. Then the last two, for me, spent more time treading water than getting anywhere.

Before I was halfway through The Golden Transcendence, I found myself wishing that Wright had a strong editor. This trilogy really could have been one masterful book, or even two. But the material, as brilliant as it is, was just stretched too far.

If you liked the first two, buy this just to end the story. But be warned, I found myself seriously just skimming pages. This is something that I almost never do.
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