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Golden Age

Golden Age

4.4 9
by John C. Wright

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The Golden Age is Grand Space Opera, a large-scale SF adventure novel in the tradition of A. E. Van vogt and Roger Zelazny, with perhaps a bit of Cordwainer Smith enriching the style. It is an astounding story of super science, a thrilling wonder story that recaptures the excitements of SF's golden age writers.

The Golden Age takes place 10,000 years


The Golden Age is Grand Space Opera, a large-scale SF adventure novel in the tradition of A. E. Van vogt and Roger Zelazny, with perhaps a bit of Cordwainer Smith enriching the style. It is an astounding story of super science, a thrilling wonder story that recaptures the excitements of SF's golden age writers.

The Golden Age takes place 10,000 years in the future in our solar system, an interplanetary utopian society filled with immortal humans. Within the frame of a traditional tale-the one rebel who is unhappy in utopia-Wright spins an elaborate plot web filled with suspense and passion.

Phaethon, of Radamanthus House, is attending a glorious party at his family mansion to celebrate the thousand-year anniversary of the High Transcendence. There he meets first an old man who accuses him of being an impostor and then a being from Neptune who claims to be an old friend. The Neptunian tells him that essential parts of his memory were removed and stored by the very government that Phaethon believes to be wholly honorable. It shakes his faith. He is an exile from himself.

And so Phaethon embarks upon a quest across the transformed solar system—Jupiter is now a second sun, Mars and Venus terraformed, humanity immortal—among humans, intelligent machines, and bizarre life forms that are partly both, to recover his memory, and to learn what crime he planned that warranted such preemptive punishment. His quest is to regain his true identity.

The Golden Age is one of the major, ambitious SF novels of the year and the international launch of an important new writer in the genre.

Author Biography: John C. Wright lives in Centreville, Virginia.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Reading John C. Wright's first novel, The Golden Age, is like coming to the edge of a great precipice, looking down into total blackness, and then stepping off -- only to be fully immersed a second later in a brilliant new universe of surreal illusions and ever-changing reality.

From the very first sentences, I was fully absorbed in the grand Millennial Celebration, which takes place more than 10,000 years in the future. "It was a time of masquerade. It was the eve of the High Transcendence, an event so solemn and significant that it could be held but once each thousand years, and folk of every name and iteration, phenotype, composition, consciousness and neuro-form, from every school and era, had come to celebrate its coming, to welcome the transfiguration, and to prepare."

An interplanetary utopian society stretches across the solar system. Humans, for the most part, are immortal. It is paradise. Phaethon is attending a party to celebrate the anniversary of the High Transcendence, when he meets a mountainous Neptunian who claims to be an old friend. The Neptunian tells Phaethon that parts of his memory have been removed and are being kept somewhere by the government. Intuitively, Phaethon trusts the stranger and vows to recover his past. His dangerous journey will lead him across the solar system, and to his true identity.

The Golden Age is much more than an epic space adventure; it's an ambitious, deep book that is comparable in style and scope to Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter. (Paul Goat Allen)

Publishers Weekly
This dazzling first novel is just half of a two-volume saga, so it's too soon to tell if it will deliver on its audacious promise. It's already clear, however, that Wright may be this fledgling century's most important new SF talent. Many millennia from now, his protagonist Phaethon disrupts the utopia of the Golden Oecumene to achieve "deeds of renown without peer." To write honestly about the far future is a similarly heroic deed. Too often, SF paints it as nothing more than the Roman Empire writ large. Wright recognizes that our society already commands many of the powers the Romans attributed to their gods; our descendants' world will be almost unimaginably magnificent and complex, and they will be able to reshape their own minds as easily as they engineer the heart of the sun. To make their dramas resonant today, the author uses echoes of mythology both classic (like his namesake, Phaethon is punished for soaring too high) and contemporary (SF fans will enjoy nods to modern masters Wells, Lovecraft and Vance). And he wisely chooses simple pulp-fiction plots to drive us through the technological complexities of Phaethon's world. The hero's quest to regain his lost memories, learn his true identity and reach the stars is undeniably compelling. As a result, having to wait for the next volume is frustrating. Wright's ornate and conceptually dense prose will not be to everyone's taste but, for those willing to be challenged, this is a rare and mind-blowing treat. (Apr. 24) Forecast: Intellectual SF fans should make this a cult favorite akin to Vernor Vinge's Marooned in Real Time or Greg Egan's Permutation City. If the novel finds a wider readership, it will be because, like William Gibson's work, it reflects and inspires current developments in virtual reality and AI. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In a future where humans, artificial personalities, and other exotic life forms coexist in the now-settled solar system, Phaethon, a scion of Radamanthus House, discovers that sometime in his past his memories had been locked away from him and that his familiar identity is a false one. Driven to discover his true history and his real name, Phaethon journeys across the solar system, seeking answers among human immortals, intelligent machines, and digital personalities among others. Bursting with kaleidoscopic imagery, Wright's first novel chronicles the quest of a far-future everyman in his journey of self-discovery. Reminiscent of the panoramic novels of Arthur C. Clarke, Iain Banks, and Jack Vance, this allegorical space opera belongs in most sf collections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
First-timer Wright wrings new surprises from a familiar SF scenario: the protagonist must recover his lost memory before civilization falls. The Golden Oecumene encompasses every imaginable type of colony, lifestyle, and intelligence, both human and posthuman; Sophotects, artificial intelligences incomparably more powerful that a single human, provide guidance; immortality has been achieved; the difference between reality and computer-generated dreams no longer seems relevant. To the approval of the College of Hortators, the Seven Peers-the Oecumene's richest, most powerful individuals-plan to take absolute control of this perfect civilization. At the millennial High Transcendence revels, Phaethon discovers that he can remember nothing of the previous five hundred years. Waylaid by a Neptunian, one of a half-inorganic, multibrained, trickster race that thrives near absolute zero, Phaethon mistrustfully rejects the being's offer to restore his memories. Through diligent searching assisted by Rhadamanthus, his House's Sophotect, Phaethon finds that he's invested enormous resources in building a spacesuit of an impervious wonder-metal, and learns that he voluntarily agreed to sequester his memories. If he does not access the stored memories for 90 days, he will inherit the estate of his father Helion, killed near Mercury defending the Oecumene against a solar flare. The current Helion, now a Peer, is a relic who can't legally claim continuity with his predecessor. If Phaethon breaks the agreement, he will be exiled, penniless, his immortality lost by default. Yet what if he needs those memories to counter a threat to the Oecumene itself? This extraordinary feat of invention and plottingwould be all the more impressive had the book not ended with the central mystery unresolved, leaving readers dazzled and annoyed in equal measure.
From the Publisher

“The Golden Age offers an intriguing and stunning look at future society - and its problems.” —L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

“Think Coleridge and Xanadu -- except this is no fragment, but a beautifully realized, sprawling space epic of an evolved humanized solar system teeming with artificial intelligences and life-forms. Wright wields a poetic vision that is at once intimate and intricate yet vast and dazzling. I'm pretty sure the last novel I read like this was by Olaf Stapledon.” —Paul Levinson, author of The Consciousness Plague

“The Golden Age offers an intriguing and stunning look at future society - and its problems.” —L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

“Transcendence, big ideas, slam-bang action -- it's all here, in the first significant debut of the new millennium.” —Robert J. Sawyer, Nebula Award winner and author of Hominids

L. E. Modesitt Jr.

The Golden Age offers an intriguing and stunning look at future society - and its problems.

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Golden Age Series , #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt




On the hundred-and-first night of the Millennial Celebration, Phaethon walked away from the lights and music, movement and gaiety of the golden palace-city, and out into the solitude of the groves and gardens beyond. In this time of joy, he was not at ease himself; and he did not know why.

His full name was Phaethon Prime Rhadamanth Humodified (augment) Uncomposed, Indepconciousness, Base Neuroformed, Silver-Gray Manorial Schola, Era 7043 (the "Reawakening").

This particular evening, the west wing of the Aurelian Palace-city had been set aside for a Presentation of Visions by the elite of Rhadamanthus Mansion. Phaethon had been extended an invitation to sit on the panel of dream-judges, and, eager to experience the future histories involved, had happily accepted. Phaethon had been imagining the evening, perhaps, would be in miniature, for Rhadamanthus House, what the High Transcendence in December would be for all mankind.

But he was disappointed. The review of one drab and uninspired extrapolation after another had drained his patience.

Here was a future where all men were recorded as brain-information in a diamond logic crystal occupying the core of the earth; there was one where all humanity existed in the threads of a plantlike array of sails and panels forming a Dyson Sphere around the sun; a third promised, larger than worlds, housings for trillions of minds and superminds, existing in the absolute cold of trans-Neptunian space—cold was required for any truly precise subatomic engineering—but with rails or elevators of unthinkably dense material running across hundreds of AU, across the whole width of the solar system, and down into the mantle of the sun, both to mine the hydrogen ash for building matter, and to tap the vast energy of Sol, should ever matter or energy in any amount be needed by the immobile deep-space mainframes housing the minds of mankind.

Any one of them should have been a breathtaking vision. The engineering was worked out in loving detail. Phaethon could not name what it was he wanted, but he knew he wanted none of these futures being offered him.

Daphne, his wife, who was only a collateral member of the House, had not been invited; and, Helion, his sire, was present only as a partialversion, the primary having been called away to a conclave of the Peers.

And so it was that in the center of a loud, happy throng of brightly costumed telepresences, mannequins, and real-folk, and with a hundred high windows in the Presence Hall busy and bright with monotonous futures, and with a thousand channels clamoring with messages, requests, and invitations for him, Phaethon realized that he was entirely alone.

Fortunately, it was masquerade, and he was able to assign his face and his role to a backup copy of himself. He donned the disguise of a Harlequin clown, with lace at his throat and mask on his face, and then slipped out of a side entrance before any of Helion's lieutenants or squires-of-honor thought to stop him.

Without a word or signal to anyone, Phaethon departed, and he walked across silent lawns and gardens by moonlight, accompanied only by his thoughts.

Copyright © 2002 by John C. Wright

Meet the Author

JOHN C. WRIGHT is an attorney turned SF and fantasy writer. He has published short fiction in Asimov's SF and elsewhere, and wrote the Chronicles of Chaos, The Golden Age, and The War of Dreaming series. His novel Orphans of Chaos was a finalist for the Nebula Award in 2005. The Hermetic Millennia is his second novel in the Count to a Trillion series.

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The Golden Age 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Seadog53 More than 1 year ago
An interesting speculative fiction tale of a far future where men, in a virtual world, are immortal and possess a godlike ability to alter their subjective environment. They can slow the entropy of the sun and colonize and harness the natural resources of the planets. The main character discovers that he agreed to wipe out his memory to forget something he did that was considered a great threat to mankind, and unveiling the truth may result in his banishment form civilization. The story is fascinating in portraying the magical world of future, however, half way through the long tale, these description start to get a bit tedious. Too much speculation and too little story. My fascination woth the speculation will keep me reading to the end, but it's become more of a chore than a pleasure.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is probably the best SF novel of the 21st Century, and it's appropriate that it has elements of so many of the great themes of SF - space opera, virtual reality, future history, etc. Often if you say that a novel is reminiscent of other writers' works, it implies that while good, it is somehow less than theirs are. This is categorically not true here - with suggestions of Jack Vance, Iain M. Banks and Neal Stephenson, and of equivalent genius to their works, this novel should not be missed. BTW I'd recommend buying the paperback to read, and the hardback to collect - look at the prices of Iain Banks First Editions...
Guest More than 1 year ago
Upon picking up John C. Wright's amazing first novel at a local grocery store I have renewed my faith in imaginative science fiction. Set 10,000 years into the future, this book takes the internet and virtual reality to the next level and beyond. The amazing multi-dimensional world's created in our future solar system are extrapolated into a complex utopian society held together by conformity and power struggles. What holds this far reaching story together is that there is a central mystery. Otherwise, I may have gotten lost in the sheer genius and complexity of the creative imagination of the author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a truly visionary and grand epic, on a heroic scale. It dares to ask grand questions, what does it mean to be human, what qualities make a paradise, what is the point of existence, what is reality? The protagonist Phaethon must decide between a life of ease in a far future paradise, or a life of struggle and sacrifice to achieve his dreams. What makes the novel utterly absorbing is how it completely immerses the reader in this far future universe where even a person's own mind is not to be trusted. The only weakness is that I think it slightly implausible that Phaethon is the only man on Earth with this dream, although hints are dropped that the machine intelligences called Sophotechs also share it. I highly anticipate the sequel, Phoenix Exultant.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ten millenniums into the future, the solar system is a human utopia as mankind has achieved God-like status with near immortality. However, at the millennial High Transcendence gala, Phaethon Prime of Rhadamanth meets a Neptunian who insists they are old friends, but Phaethon fails to recognize the individual. Though the latter is part of a nonstandard neuroform renowned as pranksters, Phaethon believes the Neptunian and wonders why he recalls nothing about what has happened to him over the past five centuries.

Phaethon begins investigating his memory loss. He learns that he volunteered to temporarily surrender his memories to a government storage facility in an attempt not to use them for three months in order to inherit the estate of his deceased father. If he breaks the agreement, Phaeton faces exile and a loss of immortality. However, he worries that his lack of recollection could prove threatening to the lifestyle of the Golden Oecumene that comprises every sentient being in the solar system. In spite of the moral dilemma Phaethon feels in exile and begins his quest to find his stored memories.

THE GOLDEN AGE is a great futuristic science fiction that genre fans will absolutely love. The story line is fabulous as the heroic Phaeton struggles between his own needs and that of the greater good while he does not grasp either. The only weakness in Mr. Wright¿s strong debut is that the audience needs to wait for the release of the second book to learn what happens to Phaethon. This left this reviewer crashing from a reading high. To avoid major disappointment I suggest waiting for the concluding novel in order to read both together.

Harriet Klausner