The Golden Age is the most ambitious and impressive science fiction novel since China Miéville's Perdido Street Station. Amazingly, it is John C. Wright's debut novel.
In the far future, humans have become as gods: immortal, almost omnipotent, able to create new suns and resculpt body and mind. A trusting son of this future, Phaethon of Radamanthus House, discovers the rulers of the solar system have erased entire centuries from his mind. When he attempts to regain his lost memories, the whole society of the Golden Oecumene opposes him. Like his mythical namesake, Phaethon has flown too high and been cast down. He has committed the one act forbidden in his utopian universe. Now he must find out what it is--and who he is.
A novel influenced by Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance, and A.E. van Vogt, yet uniquely itself, The Golden Age presents a complex and thoroughly imagined future that will delight science fiction fans. John C. Wright has a gift for big, bold concepts and extrapolations, and his smoothly written novel pushes cyberpunk's infotech density to a new level, while abandoning cyberpunk's nihilistic noir tone for SF's original optimism. Big ideas are joined by big themes; Wright provocatively explores the nature of heroism, the nature of power, and the conflict between the rights of the individual and those of society.
Fiction as ambitious as The Golden Age is never flawless. Action fans will find this novel too talky. A change of quests late in the novel is jarring. And, while this Romance of the Far Future suitably examines the heroic virtues, its unfortunate subtext is "heroism is a guy thing." This far-future novel published in 2002 maintains a credulity-shattering mid-20th-century sexual status quo.
Not all plotlines are resolved in The Golden Age, and a sequel is forthcoming. --Cynthia Ward