Now there are people who like it when bathing beauties kick the butts of beefy mobsters in TV shows and stuff, but that is just TV, and if you think that is real, you need to get out more, and get in more fights.
I read a lot of novels, as you’ve probably noticed. A few I don’t bother to finish. Some I like, but they leave no impression. Others I like a lot. A very few I admire exceedingly.
But it’s not often I find a book that’s just a whole lot of fun. John C. Wright’s Somewhither is just that. I’m not sure it’s a great work of art, but it could become a classic of the Wizard of Oz variety. Because the entertainment rewards are so great.
Here’s a book whose hero is a Neanderthal boy, in a bathrobe, with a samurai sword. The heroine is a mermaid named Penny Dreadful.
There’s a Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy vibe here, but underneath the many gags (sometimes too many, perhaps) there’s serious purpose and Christian edification.
Ilya Muromets does not know he’s not human. He’s a homeschooled teenage boy living in Oregon (though hardly ordinary. Aside from his size and strength, his father has drilled him heavily in martial arts). He works part-time as a janitor at a local museum, where he moons over Penny, the daughter of the scientist in charge.
Until one night a portal opens to another world, Penny is pulled inside, and Ilya jumps in after her, to save her.
He finds himself in a strange and sinister alternate universe, where the Tower of Babel never fell, and the whole world is enslaved by astrologers who foretell everyone’s actions. Ilya will learn mysteries of the cosmos, truths of ancient history, and surprising secrets of his own nature.
I’ve written before that high fantasy needs “bridge characters” – Everymen who make the lofty action and high adventure accessible to ordinary readers. Ilya, in spite of his special characteristics, is at heart just a 17-year-old boy, a movie and fantasy geek, trying to control his hormones through his Catholic faith. In the worst of circumstances, he still makes wisecracks. The wisecracks can get a little out of hand sometimes, but that’s true to life too.
So I got a huge kick out of Somewhither. It’s the first book in a series, which means there’s good stuff to come. That’s excellent. Not for young children, because the violence and cruelty can be a little intense. Also there’s a small amount of profanity, though it’s usually circumlocuted.