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Titans of Chaos
John C. Wright
Tor, 320 pages

Titans of Chaos
John C. Wright
John C. Wright is a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor. He presently lives in Virginia, with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their two children. He has published shorter works in Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine, one of which was selected to appear in Year's Best SF 3 edited by David G. Hartwell for 1997.

John C. Wright Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Fugitives of Chaos
SF Site Review: Orphans of Chaos
SF Site Review: Mists of Everness
SF Site Review: The Last Guardian of Everness
SF Site Review: The Golden Age
SF Site Interview: John C. Wright

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Soyka

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Titans of Chaos concludes (sort of) a trilogy about five teenaged orphans attending a secluded British boarding school who discover that they are not human, but are in fact the offspring of Greek gods. The whole purpose of their being in school is to conceal their true identifies from them, as well as the world at large -- a situation most adolescents think themselves trapped in. Their continued existence is a point of contention among warring sides of the ancient divine pantheon. The five bring matters to a boil by escaping their captors and, well, considerable chaos ensues.

Each of the teenaged gods has distinctly different powers. Amelia, the narrator, is a dimensional shape-shifter; Victor manipulates matter according to scientific principles; Quentin is a warlock; the youngest, the psychic Colin, is the smart aleck seeming screw up who nonetheless arrives in the nick of time to get the others out of tight situations; and Vanity forges secret passageways and summons a ship to travel both normal and metaphysical seas. Their ability to separately manifest contradictory paradigms concerning how the universe operates provides Three Musketeers invulnerability -- together, they can invoke a different paradigm as needed to defend themselves from attack, but individually they can be overcome.

In terms of basic biology, however, it's three boys and two girls, which makes for uneven pairing-off. Vanity and Quentin are an item, which leaves Amelia in a perplexing triangle between Victor and Colin, each of which have their appeal.

In Titans, we rejoin our heroes following their school break out and their adventures on the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship en route across the Atlantic to the land of freedom and consumer excess, the good old USA. The compatriots do eventually arrive in the city of sin, Los Angeles, but it is only a short stay over, as they must outwit the forces bent on their destruction.

John C. Wright's controlling conceit here is that while they may be gods, the fugitives maintain their adolescent personalities. (Of course, you could argue that the behavior of the gods in Greek mythology is frequently adolescent, but these in particular have cell phones and haven't dated much.) Thus, the narration typically runs along these lines:

A demon-prince stood there. His skull was long and narrow, like the face of a stag or fox, and instead of a tongue, flame was in his mouth. His eyes were green lamps. Antlers tipped with silver glints, made perhaps of bone or ice, branched up like a crown. His chest and torso were manlike, albeit much brawnier and wider-shouldered than any man. In one hand he held a mace of silver; in the other, an orb of crystal carved like a moon. Vast bat wings pebbled and patterned like the neck of a venomous snake rose up hugely from his back. He had shaggy goat-legs and narrow feet, ending in split hoofs sharp as razors. His male member was appropriately large and godlike. A scent like ambergris came from him

"Oh, cool!" said the stag-headed demon price with tongue of flame. Little electric sparks played around the fangs of his sudden smile.
p. 232-233

The novel is full of these sort of "ta-dum" moments that indicate, "Hey, let's not take this stuff too seriously." But, if this is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer riff on Greek mythology, it is nonetheless a highly erudite version. I'm not overly familiar with antiquity, and frequently lost track of the host of gods and their relationship to one another and which side they are on, Chaos or Cosmos, or why. And, for all I know, the elaborate descriptions of existence in fourth and fifth dimensions which one character can manipulate may be grounded in current theoretical physics.

Ultimately, though, that's all window dressing, something to discuss further on Wright's blog, which is, not surprisingly, very heavy on philosophy. Even if you don't understand some of this stuff, or care too, it doesn't get in the way of a highly entertaining yarn.

What may get in the way is that most of the 300 some odd pages in this concluding volume string together a series of cliffhangers in which one or all of the group are on the verge of annihilation, only to return from the brink thanks to some magic power or otherworldly intervention. This gets to be a bit much over the top, even for Wright, who relishes in being over the top. Even though there's usually a punch line, after a while the laughs get thin among such a plethora of perils of Pauline. I kept wishing the thing would just get on with it and end.

Closure, however, is a human concept. Though the story reaches a conclusion, and I don't think I'm giving anything away to say our five folks triumph without either celestial side vying for their fates having their way, further adventures are foreshadowed; if nothing else because of hints of further complications in Amelia's love life, even as one relationship seems on the edge of consummation. So, it's no surprise to learn Wright is planning another trilogy (no doubt beginning with a "romance interruptus"). I'm just hoping the third volume of the next set will be a shorter roller coaster ride to get to the ending. There's such a thing as too much fun.

Copyright © 2007 David Soyka

David Soyka is a former journalist and college teacher who writes the occasional short story and freelance article. He makes a living writing corporate marketing communications, which is a kind of fiction without the art.


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