on 8 November 2003
(There should be no spoilers here. Most of the information revealed is presented in the first few pages of the book)
It is the time of the masquerade hosted this time by the electrophotonic self-aware entity Aurelian. A sophotech of the Golden Oecumene. All posthumans and nonhumans of the Golden Oecumene have come to participate. Actual, fictional, composition-assisted reconstructions, extrapolated demigoddesses from imagined superhuman futures, lamia from unrealized alternatives and on the active channels of the mentality, recidivists returned from high transhuman states of mind.
The Golden Age is full of ideas, mythological references and wondrous sights and scenes. In fact so much it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. Especially the first part of the book can seem daunting but the pages turn faster and faster until it becomes impossible to stop. The story is about Phaethon Prime Rhadamanth Humodified (augment) Uncomposed, Indepconciousness, Base Neuroformed, Silver-Gray Manorial Schola, Era 7043 (the “Reawakening”) and a great mystery about his past that he cannot remember.
An absorbing tale is told of Phaethon’s one man struggle against society, posing interesting philosophical and moral questions. Although over dramatized at times it is an intelligent and beautiful look at a possible future of technological utopia. Foremost though it is a story about Phaethon.
I can’t wait to read the second part and then to read it all a second time.
on 5 October 2015
There are three volumes, of which this is the first, but this is one long novel. I found it to be money and time well spent.
This is a far future tale set in what is almost a post-scarcity economy: humans have immortality thanks to mind recording; vast energy and computational resources; can tailor their sensory experiences however they wish; and can choose between living in their own invented universes, the real world, or anything in between. But the laws of economics still apply: the author realises that there is still scarcity of human effort and attention. Phaethon, the protagonist, is attempting to achieve “deeds of renown, without peer”, and it is a struggle.
There is artificial intelligence, the most advanced of which are self-aware computers called Sophotechs who have intelligence vastly superior to humans, and it is possible to argue that the existence of these would make humans redundant. But the novel constructs some clever economics that avoid this problem and give meaning to people's lives. It also constructs some unique and fascinating solutions to the problem of policing such a free society, and these solutions drive the plot along in a self-consistent way.
Instead of uniformity or warring factions, Mr. Wright has constructed a society where multiple alternate lifestyles exist in harmony, giving us a colourful and interesting world. Modification of one’s own memories is common practice, and this device is used to add intrigue. How does one tell what is real when one’s perceptions and memories may be altered? The answer is that since reality is objective, it is a matter of looking at the evidence and using reason. This is a work of rationalist fiction. There are no red-herrings. It is possible for the reader to think through and work out what is going on. There are multiple levels of deception at times as the protagonist uncovers deeper and deeper levels of truth. But it all makes sense in the end. Everything is neatly wrapped up.
Mr. Wright has managed to construct a perfect world and still have an exciting plot within it.
All in all, this is a story rich in ideas, set in a consistent and well thought out universe. Its plot concerns civilisation-changing events caused by the grand deeds of individuals. It is a long novel but the pacing is right. Enough words are spent lingering over details, arguments and reasoning, the writing erudite and humorous, but not too many words: events happen; the plot shifts along.
on 9 November 2014
The Golden Age is one of my favourite books of all time, along with its two sequels.
It's set in the distant future, after not one singularity, but several. Wright works very hard to try to imagine and describe what such a world would be like, which is a tall order as it would be incomprehensible to pre-singularity humans like ourselves. The most important difference though, is that human consciousness is now completely understood by science and can easily be copied, moved, transplanted, expanded or transmitted. People are no longer prisoners in their bodies.
The consequences and possibiities of this are gradually revealed throughout the Golden Age and its sequels as the main character, Phaethon (a shorthand form of his full name Phaethon Prime Rhadamanth Humodified (augment) Uncomposed, Indepconsciousness, Base Neuroformed, Silver-Gray Manorial Schola, Era 7043) quests to find out why part of his mind and his memory have gone missing.
A cracking story. A wonderful exploration of what-if ideas in the grand tradition of classic science fiction. And a rather odd main character who I became very fond of.
on 31 October 2013
This series is one of my favourite sci-fi series.
It is wide ranging and interesting. After so many boring and run of the mill sci fi that is out there, a return to grand ideas and grand themes is welcome.
I initially gave away the 3 books of this series after reading it as I never re-read books, but I bought them again because I know I will be re-reading them soon.
on 10 March 2016
I bought this and the other two books in the trilogy when they were first published. I loved them then and having re-read them recently I still feel the same way. The series hasn't dated at all and I think it will be a very long time before it does. Unlike much of what passes for science-fiction these days, it's not simply a romance novel in space or a vehicle for bien pensant views hijacking a once great genre; rather, it's a book that through big ideas, and few novels that I've ever read have been more crammed with big ideas, explores timeless themes such as individualism versus collectivism and the ultimate meaning of personal identity. These themes could be dull as dishwater in the wrong hands, but not with these books as they're far too action-packed and the characters and situations too bizarre and interesting for that ever to be the case. The author can be verbose, but he's a really skilled wordsmith and his use of language always serves to clarify rather than obfuscate.
Highly recommended. In my top handful of science-fiction series of all time.
on 20 January 2015
John C. Wright is one of the big names in Singularity Sci-Fi, which is a topic of great interest to me. His The Golden Age series has met with a tremendous amount of critical acclaim. Hence, purchasing it was a bit of a no brainer.
For the most part, I found the novel tremendous exercise for the mind and would agree that this is quality “brain food.” The extrapolation from today’s trends with technology, the internet, video gaming, and so on seemed spot on. It’s a world for cybergeeks, no doubt about it.
But for the rest of us, not looking to lose our humanity along the way, I must say I found this future world rather cold and off-putting. And while you’ll find The Golden Age classified as one of the few examples of positive sci-fi, for me this was a dystopia as real as any I’d just as soon avoid. That may be all the more reason for readers who enjoy this sort of thing to jump in. But I found in between struggling to figure out what was going on, and trying to connect to the people, places, and things, I just wasn’t having that much fun. Which is why I went with the 3.5 stars. All the same, for any hard sci-fi fan, any Singularity fan, and anyone looking to author some books in these areas, this remains required reading.
on 11 January 2012
I tried reading The Golden Age previously and found the use of words, sentence construction and pace really hard going. So I gave up. I then encountered Orphans of Chaos, which I quite enjoyed. so I came back to persevere with this book. Nope. I found it truly hard going. Which is a shame because I have since read some short stories by this author which I liked. I guess this is just one of those books.
on 31 January 2004
Phaeton is an ideally satisfied citizen and member of the Golden Transcendence Sun-System spanning Civilization. Oh, how it's all perfect, artistically enjoyable and fit for the most elevated sentient needs! Two encounters in a garden will persuade him otherwise. He, apparently, has a past not in accordance to the satisfied conformist that he's been led to believe to be. And the Illuminated Government of Utopia may not have the best interest of the citizens in mind.
Phaeton will undertake a search for its true identity that will reveal that all is not well in Utopia.
I love the baroque style and the inventiveness of situations. A well crafted series, that recalls something of Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time
on 24 July 2008
If you are considering buying this book, BROWSE THE SAMPLE PAGES and don't just rely on the glowing editorial books. You'll either love (as most do) this book or hate it and consider it a complete waste of time (as I did).
Wright cloaks his story behind long strings of almost meaningless words. "Noumeal" instead of "mental", for example. On top of this, the Author is Overly Fond of Using Capitals, which Lends a Presumptuous Air to his Work. This gets Very Irritiating, Very Quickly. As does his insistence on using very big numbers to lend a sense of grandiosity to the story. Using big numbers was impressive in the days of Doc E. E. Smith and the Galactic Lensmen. Nowdays it is just looks silly.
Some of the ideas in the book are interesting, perhaps even original. However, they are inconsistently mixed in with anachronisms that make no sense in a futuristic context. For example:
- Why does a society that is set in at least 5000AD (the protagonist is 3000 years old) still use the British legal system ? There is a court scene replete with barristers and case references. Surely any SF author worth his salt would not think that English case law is not the ultimate evolution in human legal history?
- Why are there still fashions based on geography (eg European clothing fashion) when most of the story is based in a virtual world and independent of location?
- Why does time move *faster* in the real world than the virtual? The main character decides to take a break from the virtual, and does so by unplugging. He has time to walk around before returing, to find that all the independent entities in the virtual world was exactly as he left them. If anything, the virutal world should move faster than the real world (due to processing power) and independent entities should not be "frozen" every time someone unplugs.
Perhaps answers to these questions appear later in the book. I could only read a third of it before giving up- I simply fould the inconsistencies and the prose too painful wade through to find out. Nor am I by any means an overly picky reader- I am a voracious consumer of science fiction, and revel in anything from grand (Ian M. Banks, Peter Hamilton) to classic (Asimov) to cheesy space opera (McMaster Bujold) to boys-own-adventure (Timothy Zahn).
This was in all seriousness the worst-written book I'd tried to read for years.
on 16 March 2011
Dense in ideas , it took a while to get into this.
I liked the general intellectual thrust of the book and the critique that was emerging but by the time it had ended I felt that it was still 'getting going', as I guess would be the case in the first part of a trilogy, and yet for all that was unclear as to where it was all heading.
Intriguing all the same and may well pick up the next part.