‘Somewhither,’ by John C. Wright


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.

5 thoughts on “‘Somewhither,’ by John C. Wright”

  1. Concur -this is a fun book. Nothing exemplifies that more than Wright’s own summary of it:

    SOMEWHITHER is a Christian Rock Opera, like JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, but not so blasphemous, but just as stupid.

    So think of SOMEWHITHER as more like GODSPELL, but if they decided to instead of using clowns in makeup to portray Our Lord and His apostles, ninjas and vampire-hunters.

    The long answer is that SOMEWHITHER will be in the same category as THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE but if, instead of being a good fairy tale and well written children’s book, the author was an anime-overdosed ex-lawyer who decided it would be way cool if Aslan wore power armor and swelled up to giant size like Ultraman to fight Godzilla, who, in this version, is the Beast from the Sea called up by the Whore of Babylon; and if the Dark Lord were a determinist materialist astrologer who is half-senile; and if Nimrod still owned the shining robe given to Adam and Eve by Jesus after they discovered they were naked, and this robe made him invulnerable; and if Serafina Pekkala from GOLDEN COMPASS were a babelicious busty blond dimension-sailing storm-witch teenager from Slytherin House, which, in this version is at the school on the Island of Roke, which is also in the dimension of Charn ruled by Jadis the White sister of Saruman the White, but her pet bird was not her familiar but instead was her horcrux; and if Ramses from Anne Rice’s THE MUMMY showed up as Black Lensman of Boskone; and if there were a plumber named Pally working in Barad Dur to fix the backed-up toilets in the Dark Tower; And if John the Baptist showed up as a character who could fly like the Nazi-punching ROCKETEER from the Dave Stevens comic of the same name; and if King Edmund were Connor McLeod the Immortal from HIGHLANDER; and if instead of a thoughtful, and funny and moving parable about the nature of sacrifice and the beauty of forgiveness, CS Lewis were a fan of pulp novels and samurai movies, and threw in a bunch of stupid extraneous junk, including The Shadow, who has the power to cloud men’s minds, and, if there were some way to swing it, end up with John Carter, Warlord of Mars and Robur the Conqueror fighting a air-to-sea duel with Captain Nemo.

    I have already written the Cup of Jamshyd into the plot, and Kai Khasrow from the Shahnamah of Fardusi. Since this story takes place in a Christian background, Captain Nemo survived the Great Deluge of Noah aboard the Nautilus, with the Nephilim called Og, King of Bashan, swimming along side in the deep, his warehouse-sized lungs holding hours of air. Nemo has explored up the great river Euphrates, and has found where the Four Angels rest far beneath the waters, were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, awaiting the Sixth Trumpet of the Apocalypse, that they might arise for to slay the third part of men.

    In other words, I consider the book to be, as Lewis considered Narnia, a ‘metaphysical speculation.’

    His speculation was what if Our Lord appeared in a world where our legends are real, but the Sons of Adam are but legends?

    My metaphysical speculation is what if Saint Ignatius of Loyola were bombarded by cosmic radiation during an experimental rocket flight, along with jolly Saint Nicholas, Saint George, and Mary Magdalene, which gave them Way Cool superpowers, so that, instead of founding the Society of Jesus, he founded the Justice League of Rome, and made their headquarters in the Baxter Building, and fought vampires, werewolves, mummies, Viking Berserkers, Paynim Genii, Albigensian Gnostics, Sauron the Great, and Galactus?

    In other words, this book will be the worst book ever, unless a miracle happens, and it somehow turns out to be good. That is how I would categorize it.

    I am exaggerating slightly. Well, very slightly. I cannot think of a way to fit the submersible ironclad dreadnought Nautilus into this book yet. There actually isn’t a Godzilla. Most of the rest of the stuff I can stuff in.

    I am trying to keep the background basically inside the lines of what a Roman Catholic might think is theologically sound speculation, but keep in mind that, unlike Mormons, Roman Catholics are allowed to get drunk.

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