That was WEIRD.
This book got praise. A lot of praise. A lot of lavish praise. A lot of unbelievably ecstatic, incredibly lavish, over the top wonderful praise.
Did it earn it?
I think the answer depends on what you’re looking for.
For some background I read Awake in the Night a couple of months ago, separate from all of the other stories. I LOVED Awake in the Night. Loved it. It might be my favorite Wright story of all of the ones I’ve read. It is a triumph of the human spirit, a beautiful story of love and friendship and hope beyond all reason, hope when all hope is lost. It is mind-bogglingly brilliant.
So I was really, really looking forward to this book, especially after the glowing Castalia House review.
It is, easily, the oddest book I’ve ever read. The best story by far is the first. It is brilliant. But I’ve went through that.
Cry of the Night-Hound is second best. I think what makes these two stories is that the Night Land is still really horrifying. In the first story, we’ve never seen it before. We know it will be horrible, but we don’t know how horrible.
In the second story, an unprepared, untrained woman enters the Night Land. We’ve had it drilled in our heads that all who enter the Night Land MUST be trained, and women must never enter. So when the main character enters the Night Land we know that things are going to be really, really tough. This story took a bit to get started, but when it did it was very entertaining. However, it didn’t have the spiritual quality of Awake in the Night. Wright tries to end it on an up note, but in this story I did not see the hand of God; in Awake in the Night I did.
Silence in the Night was just a rehash of the other two trips to the Night Lands. Different nasties, same general idea. This time the main character was not only a prepared male, he was a prepared male from the even further future with the power to block out evil thoughts from the night land and revive his body via mental techniques. It’s most notable for being insanely depressing. That, though, isn’t really a knock against it. Silence in the Night was definitely designed to be read along with the final story, The Last of all Suns – on its own it just leaves you hanging with nothing more than assurances of death. Not how it was designed.
The Last of all Suns was just bizarre. I have no clue what the Hell happened in that story. It certainly had very little to do with the Night Land stories except insofar as it took place in the same universe. Wright has a talent for technobabble, but the flip side of that is that he sometimes overuses it with the result that my eyes glaze over a bit while I wait for the adults to talk about something Junior can understand.
Wright ended the book on an up note, I guess. I’m not sure why doing something that all of the characters had been doing throughout the book was suddenly the solution to all of their problems, but what do I know? I would have liked to actually read another Night Land story though, as opposed to the utterly bizarre…thing that was The Last of all Suns.
It would have been cool if the early stories had been referenced by the later ones (not improbable if traversing the Nigh Land is really such a rare, memorable event), but alas, that was not to be.
That’s not to say, by the way, that it was bad. It wasn’t. But it was just weird. The previous stories had set up a certain universe with certain rules. I now expected the stories to take place in this universe, but then The Last of all Suns came along, and it was like reading something entirely different. It was as if The Last Battle took place entirely inside of some weird netherworld and ended with Tirian riding Jewel back into Narnia.
So, I don’t know. I guess I just don’t get it. The promise was enormous. Awake in the Night is a towering work of genius by a man clearly touched by the divine. The second novella was very good as well. And the last two weren’t exactly bad. But classic? 10 star? Brilliant? No way.
It gets a thumbs up. 8 of 10. Would be 7.5 if Awake in the Night was simply good and not incredibly brilliant. Recommendation: Just get Awake in the Night, it’s free if you use the free Amazon Trial of Kindle Unlimited and it’s the best story by far anyway. Still, if you’re a huge Wright fan and you want to see what the hype is about, you can’t go wrong for five dollars. Like all Wright books, it’s going to be quality regardless of whether or not it’s overrated.
City Beyond Time is still better overall.