Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Wednesday Short: John C. Wright's One Bright Star to Guide Them

Today, we come to yet another sci-fi/fantasy author that I, as a supposed "conservative" fan and blogger, have unconscionably neglected: John C. Wright. Wright's been working in the field since 1995 and has a pretty sizable bibliography -- all of which I intend to add to my reviewing schedule at my next opportunity, as Wright has the sort of intellect that generates some genuinely interesting ideas. His conservatism is quite a bit archier than mine, but damn: I definitely can't ignore what he has to say -- and his respect for the old masters is something I really appreciate.

Which brings me to this week's Wednesday Short: One Bright Star to Guide Them. One Bright Star is Wright's homage to C.S. Lewis; it essentially asks and then attempts to answer the question, "What if the children in the Chronicles of Narnia grew up and proceeded with their adult lives -- but then were called once again to fight on the side of good? How might they have changed in the meantime?"

When it comes to recapturing the feel of Lewis' oeuvre, Wright is certainly a master. One Bright Star also decently portrays the ways in which the pressures of our own culture corrupt us as we age and make it all the more difficult to recognize the Truth for what it is. BUT -- I'm afraid I'm going to be one of "those" reviewers who complains about a novella being "too short" and "too episodic." We see Tommy meet up with each of his living friends to warn them that their old enemy is now threatening Britain, but we are denied the opportunity to experience with Tommy his daring escapes and horrifying discoveries in re: the aforementioned evil. We are, in essence, told what's happening instead of being shown.

To discuss one illustrative example: At one point, Tommy learns that a few of his old friends have fallen in with the antagonists and abandoned the cause of good. In the novella as written, this revelation happens quite abruptly over the course of one conversation -- but what kind of story do you suppose might've emerged if, instead, knowledge of this betrayal had been withheld until Tommy had been given an opportunity to fully renew his emotional connection to these characters? Don't you think both Tommy and the reader would've felt the shock more keenly? Similarly, wouldn't the story have been more powerful if the conspiracy to conquer Britain's soul had been unfolded gradually instead of all at once?

As I implied above, Wright is a skilled practitioner of the genre -- but One Bright Star doesn't, in my opinion, reflect his best work. Given his relentless and searching mind, he could've done a lot more with this basic idea.

Final Verdict: Your Mileage May Vary.

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