John C. Wright,
Fugitives of Chaos
(Tor, 2006)

John C. Wright's Orphans of Chaos was an engaging first intallment of a new series based on an intriguing and original premise: the "orphans" of the title are the children of the Lords of Chaos, the Titans, held as hostages after the last war between the Titans and the Gods. The children, actually teenagers who are starting to realize they have exceptional abilities, learn the truth of their situation and of course bend their efforts toward escape.

Fugitives of Chaos picks up shortly after the first escape attempt has been thwarted. Memories have been erased and talents have been suppressed, but Amelia Armstrong Windrose, who sees into and moves through all of the dimensions (not just three) begins to recover her memories. There is a successful escape and the orphans are congratulating themselves when they realize it was in all probability a set-up: someone wants to precipitate the final war between the Olympians and Chaos by releasing the hostages.

Like its predecessor, Fugitives of Chaos is a blend of mythology and the modern world. Wright offers brilliant explications of the orphans' powers -- it is somewhat of a talky book -- with an almost Moorcockian blend of physics and the occult. Wright also makes a somewhat oblique statement on subjectivity and perception: each character operates within his or her own paradigm, some of which are mutually exclusive. Victor, for example, sees everything in terms of electromagnetic forces, which he can manipulate, while Quentin, a magician, sees the same phenomena in terms of spirits he can persuade or control. (There is, in fact, an amusing sequence in which the orphans are discussing their various powers and how they are related to those of the Olympians, with repeated calls to "translate than into the common Westron, please!")

Regrettably, this one doesn't flow as smoothly as Orphans. There is a section in which momentum sputters down almost to a dead stop (although the situation described is crucial), and it takes some time for the story to recover. (Why is it always the middle where things get flabby?) And, some of the "explanations" push the limits of the reader's patience.

As seems to be Wright's habit in this series, the book ends with a crisis averted and another looming. That said, Fugitives is a creditable sequel. I would strongly advise reading Orphans first -- this is a continuing story, not a true trilogy, and the various identities of the characters and the complex backstory can become confusing unless they are fresh in your mind.

And then, of course, he will leave you hanging, waiting for the next intallment.

review by
Robert M. Tilendis

26 January 2008

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