An Update: “City Beyond Time”, by John C. Wright

I’m going to get around writing reviews of the individual stories later, but I’m 203 pages in and the book is superb. Absolutely superb. Brilliant concept, brilliant execution, brilliant prose…everything is fantastic. Currently my favorite story is still the first one, but I have a ways to go yet.

I don’t say “flawless”. Some lines kind of stuck out to me as awkward, and time travel in general is a dangerous thing to write about. It’s like BioShock Infinite and the jumble it created messing around with parallel universes. Sure, nothing technically contradicted anything else, but does that really count when you’ve created a framework where even paradox and contradiction are fair play? Some lines near the end of the first story especially had my head hurting.

The weirdest things for me are the awkward lines. They stick out like sore thumbs, because Wright is generally an excellent prose writer. He’s above the level of the majority of science fiction writers in that regard, or so I’ve heard. It’s interesting to read different “versions” of great prose. Take Markus Zusak, author of “The Book Thief”. TBT has perhaps the most beautiful prose of any book I’ve ever read. It’s not that the vocabulary Zusak uses is particularly extensive. He’s just a poetic writer. His prose has an almost lyrical quality to it. It’s hard to explain, but if you can get the concept of reading a smooth waterfall in your head you have some idea of Zusak’s prose.

Wright is in the camp with John Green, who I also have said writes excellent prose. Their prose isn’t lyrical or rhythmic or poetic, but the language used is clear, rich, and evocative. Take this line from Wright:

Metachronopolis is supposed to be bright. Radiance is supposed to shine from every surface of the Towers of Time, gold and lovely as the Sun. But even here the surfaces were cracked, and long swathes of their facades were dim. Maybe the historical periods to which they were tuned were less likely, less real, than they should have been.

Their is a richness to the language that is a pleasure to read. You get a sense of the lost beauty of the city, and while you might not know exactly what it meant by historical periods “less real”, you understand the tragedy through contrast with a city that was supposed to be “gold and lovely as the sun”.

This was originally meant to be a short post, but it sort of evolved into a bit of a meditation on writing, so there you go. A proper review of Wright’s stories will be forthcoming.

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10 Responses to An Update: “City Beyond Time”, by John C. Wright

  1. The Deuce says:

    Hey, Malcolm, I’ve been kicking around the idea of trying to start a new gaming site, one that is explicitly anti-SJW and an alternative to left-wing feminist-whipped gaming press and industry. Seems to me there’s probably a pretty big opening for such a thing at the moment, with people being fed up with being preached at and manipulated by a bunch of sociopathic degenerates.

    Right now, I’m just trying to pull together some people and gauge interest in participating. I like the reviews you write here. Is this something you might be interested in, if I can get something off the ground?

  2. I says:

    “The weirdest things for me are the awkward lines. They stick out like sore thumbs, because Wright is generally an excellent prose writer.”

    Probably Tor vs. CH re: editing

  3. Novaseeker says:

    His stuff is great, pretty much all of it. I’m working my way through some of his earlier writings, savoring them slowly. Probably the best SF writer working today, imo.

  4. The troubles of time travel. (I’m in the throes of them myself… gah. Stupid alternate universes. Like, did Ben end up in a universe alternate to his own where everyone but Jennifer is really dead or mutated beyond recognition when he was just trying to travel back in time? If so, then how on earth did he get back to his own universe, Jennifer in tow, in only one try!? Also, what if he’s really the descendent of her counterpart?! (yes, I did bounce that idea around, no matter how cringe-worthy. Yoikes.)
    Man. Time travel is a tricky thing. (They cut and packaged the one Star Trek movie where the whole thing went on WAY too neatly, in my opinion. Though the character interaction was superb, I think there should have been more to the time travel premise.)

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