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Mists of Everness
John C. Wright
Tor, 352 pages

Mists of Everness
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: 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

When last we left our heroes, the forces of evil had descended upon Everness House, a portal between the dream world and ordinary human existence. The hearty band that had bravely tried to draw a "line in the sand" between the nightmare and the mundane is dispersed, and darkness is poised to envelope the world.

It won't be giving away anything to reveal that good ultimately triumphs, thanks to the determination of an odd assortment of misfits that includes a Parsifal-like young man of indeterminate viability, a girl of faerie origins, a maimed warrior, a mythical king, a son of a Greek god, and a turncoat magician, among others. But, while beaten, evil is not entirely extinguished. It never is. If only because you need it around for the next sequel.

However, I don't think John C. Wright anticipates writing another volume to his War of the Dreaming sequence, of which Mists of Everness is the second and concluding book. (Actually, the decision to split the story in two was one made by the publisher, supposedly to ensure retail shelf space among the overwhelming onslaught of fantasy novels, and, also, by the way, increasing margins from the sales of two 350 or so page hardcovers instead of just one 700 pages or so page fat novel.) For one thing, I can't imagine how he'd top what is so far over the top already.

Wright wrote this two-part novel before his critically acclaimed Golden Age trilogy, a space opera soaked in philosophical as much as science fictional speculation, and presumably was finally able to sell it based on the success of what was actually a later effort. I can sort of understand the initial rejection -- I might be equally reluctant to publish a first time fantasist who stuffs just about everything but the proverbial kitchen sink into a narrative bursting at the seams with classical allusions and philosophical digressions likely to go over the head of your typical serial swords and sorcery addict (and I'm not being condescending, because a lot of this went over my graduate school English-educated head). Making appearances in no particular order of appearance are figures out of Greek and Celtic mythology, Arthurian romance, Masonic iconography, American history, Shakespeare, children's parables, J.M Barrie, nuclear physics, the classic movie Casablanca and a sex scene in the White House that'll get Bill Clinton himself hot under the collar, all laced with liberal doses of sitcom-level irony and libertarian leaning politics.

Did I mention that the good guys win? Not just over mythological evil, but corrupt government bureaucracy (it is a fantasy, after all).

While it is perhaps not fair to compare the first and second parts as separate "books" in what was intended as a single work, nevertheless what might be considered the second half of a story arc falls a little short of a promising beginning. In The Last Guardian of Everness, the characters are for the most part humans struggling to discover, or come to terms with, their magical capabilities. Having realized them in Mists of Everness, they've become less interesting, more cartoonish cut-outs that primarily serve the purpose of moving the action along. Moreover, certain characters, notably the Meadow Mouse, a talking rodent straight out of Beatrix Potter, seem at best superfluous and suddenly disappear from the narrative as soon as they've served their purpose to advance the plot.

In part, this can be excused by the fact that much of the action takes place in the dream-world, where logic hardly counts as much as vivid association and symbolic representation. Wright literally lets his subconscious imagination run wild in that respect. So don't bother to try to figure it out, just enjoy it.

Copyright © 2005 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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