Book Review: Iron Chamber of Memory

As you may have determined from my review of Somewhither, I have been impressed by the work of John C. Wright.  Somewhither was an awesome roller coaster ride with as much depth as it had spectacle.

Iron Chamber of Memory is different.  It is a much slower burn.  Don’t get me wrong, there is action, adventure, and derring-do.  There is also romance, though in more than one sense.  I’ll get to that in a bit.

Slower burn or no, unlike Somewhither, I read Iron Chamber of Memory in a day.  Thanksgiving Day, to be precise.  It’s taken me this long to write the review because how to review such a book was a bit of a conundrum.

The story starts out with Hal Landfall, a poor graduate student working on a paper on Arthurian legend, looking for his missing friend Manfred on the island of Sark.  (Sark is a real place, a small island in the English Channel, just east of Guernsey.)  Manfred has recently become the hereditary lord of Sark, and Hal is seeking him in the middle of the night, at a bizarrely labyrinthine mansion where the Lords of Sark reside, presently unoccupied.  (Unlike the island, the mansion, I regret to say, is fictional.)  There he falls in with Laurel, Manfred’s fiancee, who is also looking for her husband-to-be.  They find a way inside the mansion and begin to explore, before stumbling on a strange, rose-lit chamber.  As soon as they step through the door, they realize that everything they know about their lives outside is a lie.  Only in that chamber do they know the truth.

So, it starts out as something of a supernatural whodunit, with a side of sorcery-tainted love triangle.  But that’s just where it starts.  It goes oh, so much deeper, and darker, as Hal tries to sort out real memories from false, and slowly comes to understand the deeper spiritual and metaphysical reality that his surface life is plastered over.

When I first saw the blurb for the book, my first thought was that it sounded right up the Jed Horn alley.  I wasn’t wrong.  I wasn’t entirely right, either.  It’s deeper.  Far deeper.  If I can manage to get a fraction of the depth of John’s stories into the Jed Horn series, I figure I’ll be doing all right.

Do yourselves a favor and pick up Iron Chamber of Memory.  I tell you this while taking the definite risk that it will make my own stories pale in comparison.  Go read it, anyway.

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Lex Talionis Chapter 3

The wrecked, bullet-riddled cars had been dragged away from the gate by the time we got back.  With the uproar in town, the sheriff’s department hadn’t showed up yet, either, though I was sure they were on their way.  It was going to take them a while, though.

I pulled the truck up in front of the porch and got out.  Tom was waiting in the doorway.

“Where’s shithead?” I asked.  The fury was burning pretty hot by then; I’d been feeding the flames most of the way back from town.  It might not have been the healthiest way of coping, but as long as it kept me from breaking down, I was going to stick with it.  I had so damned much bottled up grief and fucked-up shit in my head by then that I didn’t dare open that floodgate.  That way lay madness and fatal alcohol poisoning. Continue reading “Lex Talionis Chapter 3”

Lex Talionis Chapter 2

I hadn’t put my rifle down.  Tom grabbed his M1A that had been leaning in the corner as we both turned and ran out of the ops room.

Larry and Nick were already in Nick’s big diesel, and Tom and I hauled ourselves into the bed.  It wasn’t quite the leap that it might have been a few years before, but we got ourselves situated and braced in a few seconds, before I banged on the roof of the cab with my off hand.  Nick threw the truck in gear and we roared down the long driveway toward the gate.

It was more a road than a driveway; the gate was almost a mile from the ranch house.  Tom and I held on for dear life as the pickup raced over the unfinished gravel track, leaving a cloud of dust behind us.  I could hear the shooting even over the roar of the engine and the buffeting wind of our passage.  Those boys at the gate were getting some. Continue reading “Lex Talionis Chapter 2”

Lex Talionis Chapter 1

You know, a normal person, upon stepping out of a grocery store in a small town in Wyoming and seeing a dark red Crown Vic full of four young men, all Hispanic, all exuding the vato belligerence, two with shaved heads and goatees, watching them intently, might or might not immediately identify them as a threat.  If they did, in this day and age, they might dismiss their initial concern as prejudice, and nobody wants to be prejudiced.  So, they would try to ignore the mean-mugging and go about their business.  To all outward appearances, that was what I did.

But I am by no means a normal person anymore.  Haven’t been for a lot of years.  Most “normal” people would probably call me “paranoid” if they could see inside my head.  I would probably correct them, pointing out that I am, in fact, “professionally paranoid.”  It’s kept me alive in some very, very unpleasant places.

I wasn’t looking at them as I walked across the street toward my beat-up old pickup, but was keeping them within my peripheral vision, watching them without focusing on anything in particular.  I learned a long time ago that if you keep your eyes unfocused, you can actually see a lot more around you.  Details get fuzzy, but any movement will be instantly visible, and you can keep track of your quarry spacially all the time.  Also, it keeps people from getting that hackle-raising sense of being watched, since you’re not staring at them.

Let these fuckers think I was oblivious. Continue reading “Lex Talionis Chapter 1”