Thursday, February 05, 2015

One Bright Star to Guide Them - John C. Wright

In this novella published last year, John C. Wright (an author I've been aware of but haven't read until now) harkens back to THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, PETER PAN, and all the other books where British schoolchildren travel to magical lands and have all sorts of exciting adventures. But Wright approaches that subgenre by asking what happened to those brave youngsters in all the decades after those adventures, when they have to return to their mundane lives, as well as how they handle it when their dangerous past crops up again.

The protagonist, Thomas, is a corporate drone whose memories of that other land and his journey there with three of his friends have receded thirty years into the past. But then Tybalt, the talking cat who accompanied the kids on their adventures, turns up unexpectedly and warns Thomas that a great evil is loose again and threatens to venture from the realm of faerie and wreak havoc in our world. According to Tybalt, it's time to get the old gang together again and stop this from happening.

Well, I'm a sucker for stories where some old geezers band together for one last, great adventure, of course, but Wright doesn't go for the easy way out in his plot. Not all the intrepid adventurers are still alive, and not all of them are still pure of heart, either. Thomas will have his hands full keeping England, and eventually the whole world, from being taken over by the evil Winter King.

ONE BRIGHT STAR TO GUIDE THEM is a very well written book mixing fantasy and adventure with a little philosophy, and Wright packs enough plot into it to have kept a lot of writers going for a whole trilogy of fat novels. In fact, there are enough throwaway lines about previous adventures and magical places to fuel a seemingly endless series of doorstop volumes. I really like the fact that Wright blows right on past all that and tells a story that feels like an epic without taking thousands of pages to do so.

Since reading this novella, I've read some of Wright's short stories and enjoyed them as well. I have some of his full-length novels on my shelves and will get to them eventually, I hope. For now, I really enjoyed ONE BRIGHT STAR TO GUIDE THEM and think it's well worth reading.


Tom Johnson said...

I read his Null-A Continuum, the final novel in the A,E. van Vogt Null-A series, and it was highly entertaining, but extremely technical and a bit too long for my taste. Where van Vogt's main character could teleport (he has two minds), in this one he can teleport who galaxies through space and time. A good read, though.

James Reasoner said...

Most modern SF and fantasy novels are too long for my taste, even the ones by authors whose work I enjoy. I tend to look for novellas by them, many of which are long enough they could have been published as Ace Doubles back in the Fifties and Sixties.

Keith West said...


I started reading Wright last year, also at shorter lengths, and absolutely love everything I've seen by him, especially his time travel stories. Not gotten to his novels yet, but they are in the TBR stack.

Bill O said...

Don't know if there's a causal relationship, but Wright was going pretty strongly as a Golden Age sf novelist reborn, til he came out as anti-gay. Hasn't hurt Orson Scott Card that much, far as I know.

Dave Hardy said...

After reading your review I bought a copy of One Bright Star and I just finished reading it. It was beautiful, not an easy story, absolutely engrossing. Wright has something special here.

Anonymous said...

Wright is not anti gay. That is a lie. He is, however, pro Christ, and some people are bigotted against Christ, and lying helps them express that bigotry

Bill O said...

A quick search for Wright's views on homosexuality brings up any number of damning direct quotes. Unlike yourself, at least he's honest in his in his views.