‘Iron Chamber of Memory,’ by John C. Wright

They spent a few moments looking for her dropped hat, gradually circling out from the path as they searched, but they did not find it. It seemed the wind had taken it away and hidden it somewhere among the trees. He found the size of them oddly disquieting, rather like seeing a cow taller than a man.

I have shot my mouth off more than once – publicly – about my low opinion of most contemporary Christian fantasy. When I do that (and I expect I’ll do it again) I need to make a clear exception for a very few writers. One of those is John C. Wright, author of the new ebook, Iron Chamber of Memory.

If I had to find a comparison for this work, the closest thing I can think of is George MacDonald’s Lilith. It takes place (mostly) in a world which is ours, but not quite the same as ours. And there are excursions to worlds even stranger.

Hal Landfall, the hero, is an American student at Oxford University. His best friend is Manfred Hathaway, who has just inherited the Channel island of Sark, “the last feudal government in Europe.” On Sark no automobiles are permitted, and no electric lights burn at night. Manfred is engaged to the beautiful Laurel. Hal is attracted to her too, but would never dream of making a move on his friend’s fiancée.

But that’s in our world. There is a secret room in Manfred’s manor house in which all the relationships are different, and all the identities somehow altered. But Hal only remembers this when he enters that room – so he has to leave himself messages, to “trick” himself into going there.

And that room is only the first of a series of secret rooms…

Iron Chamber of Memory is simply a wonderful fantasy story – an original and unforgettable work of imagination. It’s about memory, and it’s about sex – or rather, erotic love. Not a dirty book, but I wouldn’t give it to younger readers. C.S. Lewis described That Hideous Strength as a “fairy tale for adults,” and that’s what this is.

Splendid stuff. Much recommended. There are a few copyreading errors (or I think they are), especially where Manfred repeatedly gets called Mandrake for no apparent reason. I assume that’s an incomplete search an replace job in the word processing, though there may be a subtle message being sent that I’m just too dense to comprehend.

Anyway, read this book. Especially if you’re a MacDonald fan. Strong Protestants may take issue with some Roman Catholic sentiments expressed.

Also, what a great cover!

9 thoughts on “‘Iron Chamber of Memory,’ by John C. Wright”

  1. –There is a secret room in Manfred’s manor house in which all the relationships are different, and all the identities somehow altered. But Hal only remembers this when he enters that room – so he has to leave himself messages—

    I wonder if the author has read David Lindsay’s The Haunted Woman and is using something from that book for this own purposes. (Lindsay is better known for A Voyage to Arcturus.)

  2. Lindsay’s beliefs were evidently quite different from those of the Inklings, but I would think that Lewis and Charles Williams would have found The Haunted Woman of interest. Of course Lewis’s intense interest in A Voyage to Arcturus is known. Tolkien said he read it “with avidity” in one of his letters.

  3. Agree on the review. Finished it last night and John is really growing in the craft. I thought his last novella “One Bright Star to Guide Them” was his finest work. This is an equal. That he wrote this is a month is amazing.

  4. “There are a few copyreading errors (or I think they are), especially where Manfred repeatedly gets called Mandrake for no apparent reason. ”

    There is a reason, but I leave it as an exercise to the reader to puzzle it out. I will drop a hint: when is Hal not called Hal, but Henry, or Henwas? When is Laurel called Laureline?

    Dale Nelson is exactly correct. I mention David Lindsay by name on my dedication page because the idea was stolen, ruthlessly, brutally, and unapologetically, from THE HAUNTED WOMAN, almost unchanged.

    I changed one thing. Since Mr. Lindsay was a Gnostic, therefore grim and hopeless, his characters never attempted to solve the problem. I am a Christian, so my take on the problem of false worlds within worlds differs, and my take on the solution.

    I felt the idea of true selves trapped within false selves was too rich and interesting to be left languishing in a book where the implications of the ideas were never explored. And since THE HAUNTED WOMAN is now in the public domain ….

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