Matt Forney
Spread the Word!

Awake in the Night by John C. Wright

awake-in-the-nightI can’t review this book adequately for one simple reason: I couldn’t read it.

Oh sure, I mashed my Kindle screen, turning each page trying to read it, and my main menu shows the little bar at the bottom of Awake in the Night as being one hundred percent full. But I couldn’t digest any of the words; my eyes glazed over the screen like I was getting Novacaine shot straight into my skull. Awake in the Night might be a decent read if you’re the kind of geek who does cosplay and only bathes twice a week, but if you have a functioning cerebral cortex, you’d have more fun reading the phone book.

Why did this book make me nauseous, you may ask?

Simple: the very first pages hit you with a pile of fantasy babble that is never explained at any point in the book and which you’re expected to already understand. Just try and make heads or tails of this garbage:

“Call to the gate-warden, Perithoös, and he will lower a speaking tube from a Meurtriere and you may whisper the Master-Word into it, and so prove your human soul has not been destroyed, and I will be the first to welcome you.”

Christ God almighty, this is horrible writing. John C. Wright constantly buries the reader in an avalanche of silly-looking terminology, preventing the book from building any sort of tension or drama and hopelessly confusing anyone who attempts to read it. Admittedly, it might be a tad unfair to judge Awake in the Night based on its slang-filled introductory chapters, but this first impression was so bad it ruined my ability to enjoy the rest of the book.

Memo to aspiring authors: if you can’t explain what’s going on without resorting to moronic made-up terms, you have failed as a writer.

I’ll admit this isn’t much of a review, but Awake in the Night isn’t much of a book, just a jumble of names, dates and other arcane terms that Wright doesn’t once bother to define. I’m not going to waste my time untangling the Gordian knot of his writing. If you’ve never so much as kissed a girl, Awake in the Night might be a good read; everyone else shouldn’t waste their time with it.

Click here to buy Awake in the Night.

Read Next: BUtterfield 8 by John O’Hara

  • endwatcher

    All that info was in the original book, which was written 100 years ago. This was a sequel of sorts and a tribute. Also the tech isnt meant to be serious or the focus of the story.

    It is more about the human condition and soul and the constant attack by a dark and
    uncaring universe against it

  • dgarsys

    Matt – I gotta disagree with you here.

    I’ll leave aside the overly florid trudge (in more ways than one) through a captivating nightmare land that was the original 100 years ago.

    The names are greek. Maybe it’s because I’ve gone through Herodotus and Xerxes’ Anabasis, and love the pattern and rhythm of old poetry, but that doesn’t throw me at all.

    In many ways, the terms in the book are the utter antithesis of the star trek technobabble. Descriptive names that could just as easily be “nano-this” or “psi-that” are described in evocative and fairly normal terms that tell you what they do. A few made up words – like “diskos” – are quickly explained. Most of the rest are actually archaisms – a Meurtriere is a “murder hole”.

    The stories are of hope and redemption in the face of overwhelming odds. The nightmare land is just the backdrop. The first one is specifically about friendship, loyalty, and filial love.

    The man knows how to use words, but it’s an acquired taste. Much like going through Gene Wolfe’s work, you need to have a solid vocabulary. It helps if you already enjoy Kipling, or the speech-patterns and writing styles of old myth.

  • Retrenched

    I downloaded it for free on Vox’s recommendation and I couldn’t get past the second page.

    At least with Vox’s stories you get a good idea of what’s going on in his fantasy worlds, even if you don’t ‘get’ all of it at first. But with Wright’s I really had no clue whatsoever what was going on, and had no desire to try to figure it out.

  • tz2026

    It’s worse as I’ve detailed in my Amazon review. Look for 2 stars or 3, I’m more thorough with the 4 story set.

    The Night Land original was horror, not scifi and the transposition suffers. Also two of the stories were published earlier in the expensive Nightmares of the Fall, which might help with continuity.

  • Washington

    The title and the cover are obvious Illuminati Witchcraft symbols. “Awake in the night” comes from “lux lucet in tenebris”. And the pyramid is the Illuminati pyramid with the eye or light on the cap.
    You won’t understand the book if you are not an initiated Illuminatus Witch or someone knowing their doctrines.

  • John C Wright

    Actually, none of the words in the passage you quoted are made up. A Meurtriere is hole in the ceiling of a gateway or passageway
    in a fortification through which the defenders could fire.

  • John C Wright

    Actually, the pyramid and the light atop are something described by the author William Hope Hodgeson in his original book and are the setting of the story. He was not an illuminatus nor a witch, nor is any special occult knowledge required to understand the book, merely a command of English.

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  • RugtimXII .

    I read “Awake in the Night” in TYBSF and I thought it was one of the best novellas I’ve ever read, and I read it in the bath. It might be confusing if you haven’t read The Night Land first, but it was actually Wright’s story that revealed the existence of the original novel to me. Go figure.