How does one describe John C Wright’s Somewhither? That is, indeed the question.
While this book won the Dragon Award for Best Science Fiction novel this year, Science Fiction doesn’t quite cover it. In some ways, it’s about as Science Fictional as Star Wars. But since it deals with multiple parallel universes, with technological interfacing between them, I suppose the label “Science Fiction” works. It could just as well have been called “Philosophical/Metaphysical Action Adventure,” though even that wouldn’t quite cover it.
Now, my introduction to John C Wright was a combination of his blog and Awake in the Night Land, an anthology of stories in William Hope Hodgson’s universe of The Night Land. I confess I found Wright’s version more readable than Hodgson’s purple prose by a country mile. That, and Wright’s own description of Somewhither, in an article on his blog, got me interested.
The comment in question?
“And, no, the Ark in my version is not locked in an American warehouse. That would be absurd and unbelievable, whereas this story is utterly realistic.
And by ‘utterly realistic’, I mean is utterly and really just like what would happen if truck full of pro-Catholic apologetic tracts, rammed into a warehouse full of pulp magazines, Batman comics, and old episodes of MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., and a novel was flung from the resulting explosion into low Earth orbit, was exposed to space radiation, mutated, and fell to earth in the Arctic, only to be unearthed by unwary scientists who are murdered one by one.
Or if the poet and magician Virgil saw the movie VAN HELSING, went mad, and decided to write an episode of the Highlander-meets-Buffy TV show. That is what I mean by utterly realistic. It is as realistic as a Dan Brown novel, in other words.”
After that, how could I not read it?
In short, the story starts with the main character and narrator, Ilya Muromets, the son of a Knight Templar living in Tillamook, Oregon (yes, you read that right), discovering that his dad is a Knight Templar, the girl he has a crush on is involved in a multi-universe war, and that her father (or adopted father) is trying to open a door to another universe, a door that would really better remain closed. Ilya, determined to be a hero, save the girl, and win the affections of said girl, who has steadfastly ignored him for some time, goes charging in where angels fear to tread, and winds up wrapped up in a guerrilla war with The Dark Tower, which is out to enslave all parallel universes.
With me so far? Good, because it only gets wilder from there. I don’t want to delve too deeply into the plot, or even all the other stuff that Wright has crammed into this roller-coaster ride of a story. You should go read it yourself. I don’t want to spoil too much.
Somewhither is seriously one of the wildest mishmash pulp/sci-fi/fantasy/Christian fiction stories I’ve ever read. (And in case anyone is worried about the “Christian fiction” part making it too tame, don’t worry. There’s plenty of violence and bloodshed to satisfy the strictest action junkie. Some of it’s almost more graphic than the stuff I write.) Wright has thrown just about everything plus the kitchen sink into this universe (multiverse?). There are magicians, vampires, werewolves, giant armored zeppelins, interdimensional gates, monsters of all shapes and sizes (many of which come from various medieval sources that are sadly underutilized when people start coming up with monsters for fantasy stories). There’s adventure and superpowers and lots of combat.
In short, it’s a wild roller-coaster of a multiple universe swashbuckler, with some deeper metaphysical themes woven in between the blood and guts and derring-do. If you have enjoyed the Jed Horn series, by all means, go read Somewhither. You will not regret it.