The Sunday Night Book Review : Orphans of Chaos

Tor is one of my favorite publishing companies. Not only do they publish interesting stories that fall into all of the genres that I love, they also have a great internet presence and understand that if you give me free stuff, I’ll actually buy something once in a while, like e-books. To promote something or other some time ago, I remember Tor started releasing PDF books for free. How could I say no? Then, this Christmas I got a Kindle and was finally able to read those free PDFs because god knows, I’m not staring at a computer screen for that long unless I’m Stumbling.

One of the many books that now live on my Kindle had a cover that caught my attention, and since I always judge books by their covers, I decided to give Orphans of Chaos, by John C. Wright, a chance.

Shorter: Wtf…no like seriously, like what the fuck is going on?

Orphans focuses on the lives of five children living in a British boarding school/orphanage. The beginning of the book is kind of slow. It takes time to detail the differences in each of the children (who aren’t really children) by explaining the differences in how they see the boundaries of the school. To one they are magical, to another they don’t exist, and so on. This seems really pointless at the time, but starts to make sense as you move on.

The middle of the book is kind of slow. You’ve now been introduced to all of the characters, and the story starts, or it doesn’t. For so much of this book, I kind of felt like I was just reading a list of day to day events. Granted, there are some odd day to day events. The school is run by people who seem out of touch with reality. The story follows Secunda, or as she is know at the time the story takes place, Amelia Windrose. The five children all got to chose their names at some point. Maybe at one of the random birthday parties that are thrown where they receive random objects.

I feel like I haven’t been clear about what the book is actually about yet. Let’s try again. Five kids of uncertain ages are the only students at an English boarding school. They don’t know anything about who they are or where they came from and spend their time learning advanced physics and Greek mythology. Then some stuff happens. And then the book is over. What kind of stuff? Well, that’s a little tricky.

Before you read this book you should ask yourself these questions.

  1. Are you aware that there is a difference between Newtonian and Einsteinian physics?
  2. Are you somewhat familiar with Greek myth, and not just the stuff that was mentioned in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys?
  3. Are you comfortable with large amounts of sexual undertones between supposed teenagers who you may wind up thinking of as siblings?
  4. Are you willing to commit to reading three books to make any kind of sense about what’s going on?

I hope you said yes, because all of that is actually important. Mostly. You could just roll with it all I guess. The physics is mostly used to explain how Amelia can perceive different dimensions and demonstrate how the characters view the world so differently. Also too, it’s not like the gods you meet are going by Aphrodite and Ares.

The five main characters really grow on you, even if they come off a bit strange. There’s a lot of sexual tension between two of the males and the two girls. The oldest boy seems to be a robot. That’s not figurative. So you don’t get much from him. On the other hand, none of them are really kids, or human so you know, whatever. It’s not like the creepy old groundskeeper tries to rape one of them… until near the end. And it kind of only gets creepier from there with him.

Okay, I see I’m still kind of rambling. One more time. British orphans who talk like Americans find out that they are hostages who are caught up in a succession war. The ‘children’ are insurance that one group will stay out of the conflict because that group doesn’t belong in our plane of reality with its time and rationality thus making them uber powerful and scary. And there are Greek gods. And it turns out, there’s a good reason as to why Amelia has a rape fetish!

We good? Okay.

Grade: B-

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  1. #1 by Chadwick on July 11, 2011 - 12:34 AM

    Unrelated to the book, kind of: When I clicked through to the Amazon page, I was happy to see that the kindle edition was being sold for the same price as the paperback. Admittedly, I wouldn’t mind if it was a tad less (more like $4.99 than the $6.99 that it is), the current price isn’t outside of what I’d pay for an e-book.

    I always say I’d never want to pay more for an e-book (an item, I might note, lacking all physical presence that could look nice on my bookshelf) than I would for a paperback version. It kills me when I want to pick up the e-book version of something, and I see it’s priced at $12, $15, or more. I can’t think of much that would compel me to purchase an e-book at that price point.

    • #2 by Phillip on July 12, 2011 - 11:43 AM

      You know, there was some publisher (I think) that last year suggested that e-books should cost more than the physical books. His reasoning went something along these lines “they can afford the reader, they want the convenience, so why not charge them more?”

      • #3 by Chadwick on July 12, 2011 - 12:42 PM

        Well, good luck to them with that. I do think that for most e-books that aren’t new-release, the sweet price point is somewhere in the $5-10 range.

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