Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
Dave Duncan, Children of Chaos

John C. Wright, Orphans of Chaos

by Jerry Wright

Children of Chaos
Author: Dave Duncan
Publisher: TOR
Hardback: 352 pages
Price: $25.95
Orphans of Chaos
Author: John C. Wright
Publisher: TOR
Paperback: 336 pages
Price: $6.99
Two books from Tor. Both dealing with the kids of Chaos, as it were. Odd that I get these two books so close to each other, but... Guess what? They don't have much in common in a world-creation way, but both books deal with the pain of growing up, and the misuse of power. So they do have things in common, and they are both written by fine writers who write quite differently from each other.

In both novels, we see young ones (or seeming young ones) grow up amidst lies and illusions, and each is formed by circumstance and their own internal nature into becoming more, or less than they might be.

In Duncan's world, called Dodec (a twenty sided die of a planet) the gods are real, and in many cases brutal. The followers of the god of storm and battle -- Weru have gone a rampage of conquest over the edge and forced the doge of the walled city of Celebre to hand over his four children as hostages to the invading Werist Vigaelians besieging his city. As the story begins, fifteen years later, the siblings have grown up separately as captives among the conquerors. One boy, Benard, has become a stonemason of preternatural abilities. His younger brother Orlando has become an initiate in the cult of Weru, and fights for the enemy. Their pampered sister Frena, who was a baby when taken, has no memory of the past and the revelation of her history completely changes her life. As for the fourth boy, Dantio? Well, he died. Didn't he? Duncan is a skilled story-teller, and has created an interesting world with fascinating characters. And, as with Orphans it is the first of several books.

Plot twists and good story. What more could you ask?

How about mixing mythologies with cutting edge science and five youngsters who are nowhere near what they seem? For the most part, I loved Orphans of Chaos. What didn't I love? Well, this is a book about teenagers, and what are teenagers interested in? Sex. Except, well, y'see, it's complicated.

Are the five orphans, Victor, Colin, Quentin, Vanity and Amelia really teenage orphans? Yes, no, maybe, sort of in this context and space-time continuum? The point-of-view character "Amelia Armstrong Windrose" names herself after Amelia Earhart, but was originally known as Secunda, or perhaps you might know her better as Phaethusa, the daughter of the sun god Hyperion (one of the Titans). Other examples: you might remember that Quartinus is also Colin Iblis macFirBog. And then there is Tertia who chooses to be known as Vanity Fair, after the Thackeray novel. As Amelia observes, she did so "...that she could be called Miss Fair. We are lucky she did not end up called Miss Pride N. Prejudice."

Sometimes Amelia is a teenager. Sometimes she is a multi-dimensional centaur with wings of energy. And these five are trapped in an English Boarding School, with a "dreamy" headmaster, and a pervy groundskeeper going by the name of Grendel Glum. The coming-of-age eroticism is mild, although I found Amelia's daydreams about being dominated a bit repugnant, perhaps there is a deeper reason.

Wright loves words, and science, and mythology, and wraps it all up in a not so neat bow. I do understand that this is Book One of a 5 book series, so I suppose a cliffhanger is to be expected.

These five really do spring from Chaos, and all Zelazny-loving readers will find this a must-read. The chaos of Dave Duncan's series is a more "normal" chaos, if you can feature that.

Both quite different, both quite wonderful.

And Danielle gently reminds me that SHE also reviewed Orphans of Chaos in Issue 187. Dueling reviews...

Copyright © 2006 Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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