I haven’t read a serious science fiction book since I re-read Ender’s Game in high school. This book gave me a renewed vision of what the genre was supposed to be.
Ten thousand years into the future technology has created the possibility for life to exist on the other planets in the solar system and for humans to live indefinitely. Computers with conscious thought provide insight and knowledge beyond the grasp of normal men while leaders rely entirely on logic to maintain order and peace throughout the known worlds. But this Golden Age may not be as perfect as everyone has been made to believe. One man, Phaethon, makes the uncomfortable discovery that many of his crucial memories have been removed. With his faith shaken in the system he believed to be honorable he must make the decision that will determine the rest of his life: should he ignore the knowledge he has received and continue to live his comfortable life, or should he risk everything to find the answers to his past?
What I find appealing in Science Fiction is the deeper concepts underlying the stories. The basic futuristic action novel has its appeal, but when I can experience a futuristic world while being challenged intellectually it’s even better.
The Golden Age by John C. Wright takes a look into a possible future while asking deep questions concerning human nature. Is security better than freedom? When life has become an illusion, what is real? What is free will? These are some of the questions that Wright discusses in a subliminal manner as his characters act in this spinning tale of deception and mystery. As technology is constantly advancing in today’s world, some of these concepts are applicable to us. What would life be like if everything, including life, was dependent on machines and computers?
As I mentioned above, I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who reads to relax. The descriptions alone are enough to cause some head scratching among readers as they try to understand the complex system in which Wright’s characters live. I was confused in the beginning when the author introduces the many illusions referred to as the differing levels of “dreaming.” Once you understand this aspect of the world you can appreciate it’s creativity and convenience for the fictional universe, but it can take the first couple chapters before you know what is going on. Even this, though it was bothersome at times, was done very well, giving immense amounts of needed description and background information without breaking the flow of the story.