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The Golden Age

(The Golden Oecumene #1)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  3,097 ratings  ·  204 reviews
The Golden Age is 10,000 years in the future in our solar system, an interplanetary utopian society filled with immortal humans.

Phaethon, of Radamanthus House, is attending a glorious party at his family mansion celebrating the thousand-year anniversary of the High Transcendence. There he meets an old man who accuses him of being an imposter, and then a being from Neptune
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 14th 2003 by Tor Books (first published April 20th 2002)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  3,097 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Kevin Kuhn
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
The Golden Age by John C. Wright is a fully developed view of an age 10,000 years into the future, named the “Golden Oecumene”. The solar system is a utopian society teeming with a vast assortment of human, artificial intelligence, nearly immortal tech-assisted post-humans, and many entities in between, including mass minds and AI collectives. They exist in an abundantly populated Solar System that has been re-engineered on a planetary scale. The book is filled with big ideas, whether it’s the l ...more
Dan Schwent
Feb 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf, 2011
While at a masquerade leading up to the celebration commemorating the High Transcendence, Phaethon finds certain people are shunning him and that a large segment of his memory has been erased. Phaethon slowly pieces together why his memory has been erased and learns that if he regains his memory, he will be exiled from Oecumene and the paradise it provides. But what does that have to do with his father, Helion, and the other six Peers?

The Golden Age is one mind-bender of a read. While wrapped in
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2013, e-books
5 Stars

The Golden Age is a gem of a sci-fi. It does not even matter that it is the first book in a trilogy; it is still worth a read. I want to say Thank You! To all my friends here at Goodreads that reviewed this book and put out the warning that although the beginning of this book is extremely difficult to get through, the persistent reader will be rewarded with a remarkably written hard science fiction mystery novel. This was my first exposure to John C. Wright as an author, but now I will se
6.0 stars. Absolutely mind-blowing science fiction debut novel. I do not know how best to describe this. In tone, it reminds me of some of the "golden age" science fiction classics like The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester and The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov. However, the book is written in a very contemporary and highly "computer literate" style (think cyber punk) that reminds me of William Gibson. Absolutely incredible and very unique. I can't wait to read the sequel. HIGHEST POSSIBLE ...more
Apr 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
When reality is only perceived through multiple layers of filters, what is truth?

When memories are readable, writable, and editable, what is an individual?

When superintelligences are capable of predicting the vast majority of our decisions, what is free will?

When biochemistry and emotional states are hackable (and therefore suppressible), what is discipline?

When every human has the option to plug in to their own custom virtual world, what is humanity?

If these questions sound like philosophical m
Hillary Hall
Oct 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Dude. This is one of those books that, for the first 60 pages, is impenetrable to the point of sheer frustration. I was reading it thinking, this guy is an ok writer but this whole "murky mysterious" thing is making me mental. Kind of like trying to read Greg Bear, or anyone who writes obscure prose out of some lack of story or character confidence. So it was like that for the first bunch of teh book, and Tim kept reading it on the sly and overtook me, and then he wouldn't put it down until it w ...more
Aug 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
John C. Wright's _The Golden Age_ is a worthy read. Taking place in the far future, 10,000 years from now, it is a world where the transhuman 'singularity' has occurred long before and the population of the solar system is made up of humans of massive (and varied) intellects and powers as well as the 'sophotechs', huge supercomputers of intellectual capacity to dwarf even their superhuman creators who make sure that the society of humanity does not lack for anything except perhaps risk and adven ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: hardcover
Wow. This was truly one of the weirdest books I've ever read. Far future, everyone is immortal, godlike... Thoughts of Zelazney's "Lord of Light", but this was not sixties new wave, it was, rather, the modern sort of scifi I have yet to grok. I understood and somewhat like the story, but man, what a chore to read all this - so wordy; my biggest complaint with newer works. I thought we were in a era of short attention span... 2-3 minutes and we switch. I tend to prefer the Twilight Zone type stor ...more
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In my original review I wrote, "The four stars are probably conservative. I’m loath to bump this up to five until I give it at least a second reading, but my gut instinct is that it would not only survive one but a second read through benefiting from hindsight would be enriching. Ultimately, I found this more satisfying that the original Foundation trilogy, and it should definitely rank highly among any sustained science fiction stories of similar length."

Well, we are now on the third reading an
Despite trusted sources calling this book “one of the smartest sci-fi books”, I think it is nearly pointless in all respects.

On the surface, the the plot is non-existent: it is a string of conversations in which information is doled out in pieces with the end-goal of solving an amnesia-trope mystery (though utilization of said trope is grounded in logic here) and the big reveal is ridiculous and underwhelming; the characters serve only to further the plot (as transmitters or receivers of informa
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a book packed with 4-star ideas, let down by a 3-star plot and 1-star author opinions.

The book starts confusingly and goes on that way, although as with all new things, once you get your bearings it's easier to go along with. The writing is a mess of ideas, infodump after infodump, and not a lot really happens, especially in the first 100 pages.

The ideas themselves are quite interesting and I suspect this is the main reason that the book has garnered so many positive reviews. The author
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Extremely hardcore sci-fi, and very hard going at the start. I admit I came close to giving up, and did not enjoy the first parts of the book. I persevered only because I had nothing better to read and because I don't like leaving a book unfinished, but I'm very glad that I did. The first two books in this series are unequaled in page-turning power; it took me a fortnight to read the first half of this book, and about two days to read the second half.
Once you learn the terminology and can tell
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Original storyline, kaleidoscopic images, and super high-tech. Talk talk and little walk to the point where I started skimming. Won't be looking up part 2 of the trilogy. ...more
Kai (CuriousCompass)
I'll pass on reading anything by this homophobe. Yikes. ...more
Christopher McKitterick
I'm really impressed with this post-Singularity novel (and the follow-ups). This appears to be a first novel, and the copyedit was less-than-impressive (what's up with copyeditors these days?), but when I read this book in 2003, I found it the most inventive thing I'd read since LAST AND FIRST MEN. The very first page hooked me, and I couldn't put it down afterward. Wright creates a truly unique society and fashions it in such fascinating detail that you feel yourself thinking, "SF until now has ...more
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So unexpectedly overwhelming that I have no patience, no patience at all, to talk about it. Shut up! And let me read The Phoenix Exultant!

(Still, my Third Thoughts wonder, 'unexpectedly'? Have you then lost your sense of infinite possibilities, your belief in the more-that-is-yet-to-come--even if not in the shape of this exact golden age?)
Apr 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot praise this book high enough. Such a mix of beautiful, baroque language and high tech on a breath-taking scale is really rare. If you like AI concepts or the simulation of personalities in a computer environment including all the options that this offers, this book is for you. But that's not all. As the story unfolds it's less and less clear which side plays which role and how our hero can overcome the obstacles.

A true masterpiece.
M.D. Backes
Nov 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Still my favorite science fiction novel of the last few years. Incredible vision of the far future that blends Jack Vance and Vernor Vinge into a classic space opera.
Bill Burris
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Not a smooth read.
He tries too hard to show off his knowledge of the "great books".
Sometimes Phaethon comes across sounding like John Galt.
Mary Catelli
This does not open a trilogy of three independent stories; it is a book chopped up into three parts with cliff-hangers for the endings of the first two.

It took me a bit to get into this one, because this is a story of the far-distant, transhumanist universe. Sophotects -- immensely powerful AI -- humans who have rewired their minds to connect their conscious and subconscious in various configurations, Cerebellian minds that consist of many, many, many living organisms -- even "basic" humans have
Jay Goemmer
Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
The Golden Age (2002) by John C. Wright.

"Finally, a keeper!"

After picking up Robert Reed's _Marrow_ (2000) while perusing my local public library's "Books You May Have Missed" bookcase, I was a little wary to try another author I hadn't read. I found John C. Wright's _The Golden Transcendence_ (2003) in the same section, and noticed it was "Book Three of the Golden Age." I located Wright's first book in the series, aptly titled _The Golden Age_ (2002).

Super-science abounds here, with engineerin
Dean C. Moore
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

John C. Wright is one of the big names in Singularity Sci-Fi, which is a topic of great interest to me. His The Golden Age series has met with a tremendous amount of critical acclaim. Hence, purchasing it was a bit of a no brainer.

For the most part, I found the novel tremendous exercise for the mind and would agree that this is quality “brain food.” The extrapolation from today’s trends with technology, the internet, video gaming, and so on seemed spot on. It’s a world for cybergeeks,
John David
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who isn't stupid
Absolutely excellent

This is my favorite book series, period.
The few people I’ve convinced to give it a try couldn’t figure out what they were reading. I implore you not to give up. It’s a great story, using great imagery, and clever language. I’ve read it about six or seven times now. It would be much more often, but I try to give it at least a year between, so it has a little time to fade.
Every time I come back to it, I’m screaming “YES!!!” in my head at least every other page as I rediscover
May 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
By far the best Sci-Fi book I've ever read.

Some quick comments about the most notable aspects of the book for me:
• I could feel the high IQ of the author throughout the whole book. Symbolism is very well thought out.
• The protagonist is a noble and strong character with uncorrupted morals. He does not stoop down in acts of lust as the protagonists of Asimov novels incessantly do, and he is notably persistent and uncowering in his quest. • There is almost nothing petty about the plot, it's all r
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
This is one of the smartest books I've ever read. Even for sci-fi, the number of ideas is staggering. My only disappointment is the incomplete ending; I wish I had been warned I would need to commit to the sequel as well. ...more
Roddy Williams
'The Golden Age is 10,000 years in the future in our solar system, an interplanetary utopian society filled with immortal humans.
Phaethon, of Radamanthus House, is attending a glorious party at his family mansion celebrating the thousand-year anniversary of the High Transcendence. There he meets an old man who accuses him of being an imposter, and then a being from Neptune who claims to be an old friend. The Neptunian tells him that essential parts of his memory were removed and stored by the ve
Niklas Spitz
May 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I realise only now after rereading several times, why others I recommended the book to faltered. The flights of fantasy are indulgent, if extraordinary, but I found myself glossing over theses opulent passages, because the story itself is a rare phenomenon, offering richly compelling reading. A visionary, gripping and philosophically gratifying read. The Golden Age and the unmissable sequels in the trilogy, offer a detailed and intelligently extrapolated journey into the distant future, yet the ...more
Sep 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf, 2005, 6
The protagonist of this novel is Phaethon of Radamanthus House on an Earth many millenia in the future where humanity is immortal and the people of society come in a range of material and mental forms. As the book begins, Phaethon discovers that there are large holes in him memory, ranging back through at least the last 250 years. As he tries to discover the truth, he begins to learn that all is not perfect in paradise. Civilisation has become stagnant and focussed on the safety of now, rather t ...more
Jan 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, far-future
The Golden Age describes our world far in the future where technology was developed to the point of being almost symbiotic with humans and where nanotechnology is just another skin. In the first pages I was overwhelmed with all the new concepts and notions but the author frames our hero in a context that makes life easier for us, but not less exciting. Phateon, in the Silver-Gray Manorial house. is a human more or less like us and follows old traditions, that is, is actions, vision of the world, ...more
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
--I noticed several typos/editing mistakes while reading this edition, but they did not distract too much.--

Someone once described this book to me, after I had read it the first time, as a philosophy textbook with a plot, in much the same way as some of Michael Crichton's drier works read like engineering, science, or medical texts. While there is some truth to that assessment, ultimately, it doesn't do justice to the world building In TGA, nor to the compelling mystery that the protagonist unco
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John C. Wright (John Charles Justin Wright, born 1961) is an American author of science fiction and fantasy novels. A Nebula award finalist (for the fantasy novel Orphans of Chaos), he was called "this fledgling century's most important new SF talent" by Publishers Weekly (after publication of his debut novel, The Golden Age). ...more

Other books in the series

The Golden Oecumene (3 books)
  • The Phoenix Exultant (Golden Age, #2)
  • The Golden Transcendence (Golden Age, #3)

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95 likes · 6 comments
“Truth does not become more or less true, whether those who know it are many or few.” 21 likes
“Phaethon asked: “Do you think there is something wrong with the Sophotechs? We are Manorials, father! We let Rhadamanthus control our finances and property, umpire our disputes, teach our children, design our thoughtscapes, and even play matchmaker to find us wives and husbands!”

“Son, the Sophotechs may be sufficient to advise the Parliament on laws and rules. Laws are a matter of logic and common sense. Specially designed human-thinking versions, like Rhadamanthus, can tell us how to fulfill our desires and balance our account books. Those are questions of strategy, of efficient allocation of resources and time. But the Sophotechs, they cannot choose our desires for us. They cannot guide our culture, our values, our tastes. That is a question of the spirit.”

“Then what would you have us do? Would you change our laws?”

“Our mores, not our laws. There are many things which are repugnant, deadly to the spirit, and self-destructive, but which law should not forbid. Addiction, self-delusion, self-destruction, slander, perversion, love of ugliness. How can we discourage such things without the use of force? It was in response to this need that the College of Hortators evolved. Peacefully, by means of boycotts, public protests, denouncements, and shunnings, our society can maintain her sanity against the dangers to our spirit, to our humanity, to which such unboundried liberty, and such potent technology, exposes us.”

(...) But Phaethon certainly did not want to hear a lecture, not today. “Why are you telling me all this? What is the point?”

“Phaethon, I will let you pass through those doors, and, once through, you will have at your command all the powers and perquisites I myself possess. The point of my story is simple. The paradox of liberty of which you spoke before applies to our entire society. We cannot be free without being free to harm ourselves. Advances in technology can remove physical dangers from our lives, but, when they do, the spiritual dangers increase. By spiritual danger I mean a danger to your integrity, your decency, your sense of life. Against those dangers I warn you; you can be invulnerable, if you choose, because no spiritual danger can conquer you without your own consent. But, once they have your consent, those dangers are all-powerful, because no outside force can come to your aid. Spiritual dangers are always faced alone. It is for this reason that the Silver-Gray School was formed; it is for this reason that we practice the exercise of self-discipline. Once you pass those doors, my son, you will be one of us, and there will be nothing to restrain you from corruption and self-destruction except yourself.

“You have a bright and fiery soul, Phaethon, a power to do great things; but I fear you may one day unleash such a tempest of fire that you may consume yourself, and all the world around you.”
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