My Official Review of “Somewhither”

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.

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8 Responses to My Official Review of “Somewhither”

  1. Chad says:

    I don’t think the Catholic part was pushed as much as you make it out to be. I felt there were far, far more references to Jewish worlds and Judaism in general. It is, however, a very religious book. It must be, simply because of the premises of the world building.

    In the same line, the more powerful answers to Ilya was when he invoked the name Yahweh.

    Finally, look at some of the prayers of the saints, which do get immediate answers and at times very powerful ones indeed. I am, by no means, saying that Illya is currently a saint. Yet Wright is already setting him up to be as he battles evil. I mean, he made Ilya an incredible redemption and growth tale with the background lore of his race as well as setting him up to bring the downfall of an empire that spans across multiple realities. He has had much less answer to his prayers than others that have taken God into battle. And this is when Wright has crafted worlds with much more direct involvement on God’s part.

    I do agree with you on most of Ilya’s flaws as a character though. I feel like I can understand that he might fall back on pop culture reference after torture as a way to ground his sanity, as well as taking in stride all the crazy after his torture. Its a stretch, and not one I feel is a natural one nor the best (I’ve never heard a home schooled child know so much pop culture. Especially with all the time his described chores and lessons would have taken). But there it is. I would hit him with a board over the head if I could.

    But, as with you, I found the strengths of the book far outweigh some serious flaws, and once I got over them it was a fun romp through the story with some real occasions of the beauty of hope thrown in. I’ll be buying the rest as they come out.

    • I mean, he made Ilya an incredible redemption and growth tale with the background lore of his race as well as setting him up to bring the downfall of an empire that spans across multiple realities. He has had much less answer to his prayers than others that have taken God into battle. And this is when Wright has crafted worlds with much more direct involvement on God’s part.

      I don’t know. The way prayer was treated seemed like something of a talisman to me – “Pray to St.Blaise, your neck will be healed faster”. Calling on the name “Yahweh” and striking the tower was a great moment, but the way prayers were used in generalseemed cheap to me.

      I’m getting dangerously close to nit-picking territory, though. I liked it quite a bit. It’s not Wright’s best stuff, but then you could hardly expect somebody to write at the level of his best work ALL the time. I mean, really, really, great authors do, I suppose, but even then the standard is absurdly high. “He’s not as good as J.R.R. Tolkien” is praising with a faint damn.

      I WILL go back to the time issue, though. How did Ilya spend what such a ridiculously long time in his cell – enough to memorize the floorboard and spike patterns – and when he got out, nobody really seemed to have aged? MAybe I’m missing something, but the impression I got was that he spent a month to three months there, when the way he described it should have made it more like decades.

      • Chad says:

        Yeah. I don’t know on the time thing. Everything surrounding the torture seems just a bit off or skewed to me too

      • Chad says:

        Oh, and the st blaise was a healing moment. He found that prayer helped him heal faster, might as well pray to st blaise for necks if its your neck. His healing and everything was still so far below that of the other Cainem he fought I dont count any of those as prayers being answered in the way we usually mean it, if at all

    • (Brief note: I wrote that Wright didn’t really know how to write teenagers, and then I remembered his Nebula-nominated “Orphans of Chaos”. So I guess I’m wrong about that one. But still. Shut up, Ilya.)

  2. Luagha says:

    Ilya spends about 1.5 to 2 years in the cell. The Dark Tower spends over a year undoing the influence of Penny’s around the world trip and tracking her down, then there is the 73 day time period that is mentioned that you refer to.

    My personal bet is that it is not Ilya saying Yahweh that shakes the Tower. It is the struggles of the archangel they have captive in the basement who hears.

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