This review is also posted on Amazon.
TL;DR: I liked the book, quite a bit even, but there are serious flaws.
So how is “Somewhither”?
Well, it was good.
But there are a LOT of problems:
. Ilya is one of the most annoying protagonists I’ve ever read. Instead of getting better as the book goes on, he got more obnoxious. When he arrived at the harem where Penny was located I wanted to punch him. I don’t think Wright really knows how to write teenagers, to be honest. He read like a bad imitation of a teenager – constantly sarcastic and making pop culture references every other page. Ugh.
. The character development is almost nonexistent. Ilya goes through extreme torture for an extraordinarily long period of time (by the way, how long WAS it? The book made it sound like it lasted years, but then when he gets out it seemed more like between a month to three months), and when he gets out he acts almost no differently than before. The world has basically gone insane around him, and it seems his psyche hasn’t been affected at all. He takes everything far too much in stride. He talks all the time about the extraordinary pain he has whenever he’s severely injured, but it doesn’t seem as if it has any serious effect on his mental state.
. His exposition was rather sloppily delivered, though your mileage may vary on this one. I felt as if we would stop and go on an extended break where he explained some aspect of his worldbuilding every so often. And when he doesn’t stop and just explain things in big chunks he throws out pieces of mythology as if we already know it, which confuses the heck out of me.
. Stopping to explain the language all the time got tiresome. We get it, Ilya can translate the language. If he’s translating for us, just translate it. I don’t need to know that wheedlewhinnywienerwiddlewhack means killer of all things. If Ilya calls him “Killer of All Things”, I’ll get it.
. Look, I’m Catholic. I love the Narnia books. I love “A Canticle for Leibowitz”. I love “Pale Realms of Shade” by Wright, a very Catholic redemption story that ends with the main character’s ghost looking for Peter at Pentecost to forgive his sins. But this was SOOOOOOOOO in your face about it. I mean, he made Earth most well known for abortion, which is brought up multiple times. Seem a little hobby-horseish to you? And apparently when Ilya prays it will always have immediate and specific visible effect, which is…not really how prayer works. Unless, of course, you’re going out of your way to make sure Catholicism is seen as REALLY, REALLY true.
In “A Canticle for Leibowitz” and “Pale Realms of Shade” the Catholicism of the stories isn’t pushed. It doesn’t have to be – it’s simply there, a part of the background of the world taken for granted and accepted. In “Somewhither”, I felt as if Wright was shouting “GO CATHOLICISM! GO CATHOLICISM!” every five pages. It was like I was being preached at.
ALL OF THAT SAID – I finished “Somewhither” and intend to get the sequels as well, and you should read it too. Here’s why:
. The worldbuilding is awe-inspiring. The level of detail and sheer scope of the thing is astonishing.
. Wright’s an excellent prose writer – just to get that out of the way now. That’s worth something.
. Wright makes you believe that the main characters are truly fighting the forces of evil. The Dark Tower is DARK. Really, really dark.
. There’s a crazed, madcap feel to the thing that has you grinning the entire time. Everything that’s happening, end everything that Ilya does, is completely bonkers. But it’s FUN. At one point, he’s fighting werewolves using his samurai sword and teamed up with an invisible man, a sea witch who can control the spirit of water, a man with the power of levitation, and a man with no head, rhino skin, and eyes on his chest. That’s badass.
. It’s fast-paced. There’s a lot of fighting, and while it can get a bit repetitive so much is going on you can’t help but get swept up by it all.
. Let me say again – the worldbuilding is brilliant. The Dark Tower as a setting is simply magnificent. The level of detail and description is stunning.
. It’s definitely very funny, annoying as it can sometimes be. “Penny Dreadful”. Heh.
So, I know my criticisms are longer than my praises, but that’s only because the problems stuck out; for the majority of the time l was completely caught up in the book, and when I noticed them it jolted me…but that doesn’t take away from the fact that most of the time the book was so good I readily ignored or didn’t notice the flaws. I really, really liked this book, I had a blast reading it, and I want to know more about what goes on in this world. I intend to get the sequel.
So, “Somewhither” gets my official recommendation.