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The Phoenix Exultant

(The Golden Oecumene #2)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,796 ratings  ·  71 reviews
The Phoenix Exultant is a continuation of the story begun in The Golden Age and like it, a grand space opera in the tradition of Jack Vance and Roger Zelazny (with a touch of Cordwainer Smith-style invention).

At the conclusion of the first book, Phaethon of Radamanthus House, was left an exile from his life of power and privilege. Now he embarks upon a quest across the tra
Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 19th 2003 by Tor Books (first published January 1st 2003)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  1,796 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Kevin Kuhn
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
In book two of The Golden Age series, we pickup with protagonist Phaethon trying to survive after his exile from society. The big ideas are fewer and farther between in book two. This is not unexpected, as the world-building, back story, characters, and much of the plot were already established in book one. The trade off is the story telling gets a bit richer and we meet more unique and interesting characters. The first half of the book lands Phaethon in an encampment filled with misfit fellow e ...more
Dan Schwent
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf, 2011
Exiled from everything he knows, Phaethon goes to Ceylon and joins up with a band of exiles. His goal: regain his ship, the Phoenix Exultant, and find those responsible for his predicament. That is, unless, the Silent Ones find him first...

The Phoenix Exultant picks up where The Golden Age left off and kicks things into high gear. Not only is it shorter than The Golden Age, it's a lot easier to follow since Wright established all of the concepts and many of the characters in the first book. Phae
4.5 to 5.0 stars. This book continues the story that began in the The Golden Age and will finish in The Golden Transcendence and is turning out to be one of the most unique, and well done science fiction trilogies to come along in a long time. The description on the back of the book (and many of the professional reviews) compares it, in concept, to the works of Roger Zelazny, A. E. Van Vogt and Cordwainer Smith. While I don't disagree with that comparison (especially in the case of Zelazny and S ...more
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013, e-books
5 Stars

Wow, even though books one and two are extremely different novels in the Golden Age Series by John C. Wright, they both are equally amazing for very different reasons. Book one the Golden Age is very much a difficult to read hard science fiction mystery that unfolds slowly while showing us the inventions of the far future society. The Phoenix Exultant, book two in the series, is an intimate quest for our hero Phaetheon to reclaim is precious space ship while being a man of nothing.

After t
2.5 - 3

Wow, I was really disappointed with this one, especially considering how much I had enjoyed its predecessor. In many ways this just did not feel like a true continuation of the first book in the series. One of the major stumbling blocks for me was that I just couldn't believe the way Wright handled the voices he used for the characters in this volume. Considering his mannered and baroque set up in the previous volume I found the dialogue to be way too colloquial (and 20th cent. colloquia
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
I loved the first book from this trilogy, the golden age. Awesome sci-fi, imaginative, serious and consistent. This one was a deception. The girl turned the main character into an almost idiotic puppet. That almost killed the book. John C. Wright just don't seem not to know how to handle a girl in a history.

What a throwback on expectations!

Oct 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Everytime i pick up this book, I think why aren't i reading this faster? i don't know cause i should be, this is the most intricate world i've ever encountered in a book and the way i keep putting it down for days at a time is really taking away from the experience. I'm having a hard time keeping some of the Sophotechs, Invariants and other characters of the Oecumene and what their stance is straight. i've never had this problem with a book in my life if that gives anyone a bit of an idea of how ...more
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Any Science Fiction Fan
Shelves: science-fiction
First off, if you haven't read Wright's The Golden Age, just buy it. You could read Phoenix Exultant without having read it, but you would just be cutting yourself short on one of the most creative, visionary, and exciting science fiction trilogies.

Phoenix starts out right exactly where Golden Age stops. And pretty much just keeps plowing ahead. That may have sounded a little monotonous, but let me assure you Wright's epic is anything but. The most amazing aspect of Wright's writing, in my mind,
Feb 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
This is the second novel of Wright's trilogy that is set in the far distant future. The first 150 pages are not too bad, then the author reverts to the excruciatingly-detailed, mind-numbing and meaningless descriptives that make the book so deadly. He also tries to introduce a romantic thread to the plot that can only be described as sappy. I have purchased the third book of the trilogy, but am reluctant to start reading it. The book, like the first one, is characterized by poor editing, althoug ...more
Roddy Williams
‘The verve of SF’s golden age writers is reborn in The Phoenix Exultant, a grand and stirring fulfilment of the promise shown in The Golden Age that confirms John c Wright as a bright new star of science fiction.
Phaethon of Radamanthus House has been exiled, his ship confiscated. He embarks upon a quest across the transformed solar system among humans, intelligent machines, and bizarre life forms. For the first time in his centuries-long life, he must look reality in the face, without a layer of
Oct 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
started reading this after finishing The Post-Birthday World and after giving up on Zen and the Art of Poker (tiresome and bad); a short interlude where i blazed through The God Delusion also.

Not thrilled with this story; a bit annoying with all the misspelled names and stuff, but also i just don't care that much about Phaethon or his "doll wife" or anything else; i think i'd rather cheer for the Silent Oecumene people and Nothing Sophotech, so i've abandoned them and don't expect to read "the p
Noah M.
Jun 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Part two of The Golden Age has come and gone for me. I was not as impressed with this book, though it keeps throwing out interesting ideas about the future almost constantly.

This is act two, when the events that will rise to grand importance in act three are established. I found this to be a worthy middle to this story.

However, if John C. Wright doesn't manage to absolutely nail the ending, I'm going to be massively disappointed.

Also, towards the end of The Phoenix Exultant, the story became a b
Dean C. Moore
Jan 24, 2015 rated it liked it
In many ways this is sci-fi as it should be, heady, teaming with exciting ideas, mind-blowing technology, and a far-future vision of humanity that feels both compelling and somewhat inescapable. Hard sci-fi fans and fans of Singularity sci-fi will find the series great food for the mind as I remarked when reviewing the first book in the series. And anyone interested in writing about a tech-saturated future for humanity would be ill-advised to skip this series.

For all of that, I found this seco
Dec 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
The Phoenix Exultant, the second book of a trilogy, fails to build on the intricate world of the The Golden Age. There is some interesting science fiction but it is lost in a story mired by shallow characters, an egregious romance and tedious techno-babble.
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Occam's razor forbids us from adopting theories that require us to postulate unreal entities, such as, for example, the existence of conscience, noble dreams"
Ami Iida
Jan 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
Science fiction is usual
Razique Mahroua
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
While I enjoyed this second volume, I did not find it as well written as the first one. I think what threw me off was mostly the way Daphné was being portrayed. In the first volume, I remember her being much more mature and well-thought. In this second volume, she comes across as less sophisticated.
As for the storyline, it felt like many things happened, but did not at the same time, as most of the book takes places in the same location.
I think that the overemphasis in discussing all the little
John Back
Interesting and thoughtful series continues in second volume, which seems more concise and directed than first. Entirely too much 'internalised dialogue' and riffing on same themes between characters borders on tedious. No, actually it was just tedious. Luckily, the series is interesting enough to continue but if the third book takes a deeper dive down Introspection Alley I will be virtually throwing it over the fence.
Keso Shengelia
It's great, amazing second part of an incredible trilogy. Start with the first book, and you'll be hooked. This sequel has a faster pace and some story elements are stronger than in the first one.
In short, do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Bob Nolin
Aug 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Not nearly as good as the first book. Phaethon spends the book trying to get his ship back. Lots of long-winded speeches and infodumpy prose. Characterization? Please.
Brian Stacey
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
The first have was phenomenal. He clearly got lost writing a dynamic female character that could match the very heady futuristic world he had created. For me, that ruined the last half of the book.
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The second in a trilogy of books about the far future when nobody dies and minds are melded. Very complicated and delightful.
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Classic middle act whose plot lies listless in the doldrums while setting up for the third book. The kaleidoscopic imagination and skillful prose style of the author is undiminished, though.
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great exploration of transhumanism. A fully realized world with an almost theological wander through all of ehatnthst might possibly mean.
Edward Denton
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Second book in this amazing series by John C. Wright.
Saketh Nimmagadda
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great continuation!

Looking forward to the conclusion
Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, space-opera
I wanted this book to be so much better. I mean, it wasn't necessarily bad, but it didn't compare as well as I hoped to the first volume.

Some of my issues were just pure artistic choices - he spent (what felt like, but maybe wasn't) multiple chapters with Phaethon trying to find the right person to beg for money. I mean, sure that's a valid solution to his predicament...but it struck me as kind of stupid and weak. I mean, he's got his armor and all kinds of raw materials, can't he just start nan
Jay Goemmer
Jun 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
The Phoenix Exultant (2003) by John C. Wright.

"Not as good, but still entertaining."

How would you survive in a society where people, computers, and even the equivalent of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) refuse to acknowledge your existence? That's essentially the dilemma faced by Phaeton in _The Phoenix Exultant_, which isn't quite as strong as its predecessor _The Golden Age_ (2002). The story isn't so much about Phaeton's starship (which the book is titled after), as it is about his continued
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tommy by: Mitch Richling
"The Phoenix Exultant" by John C. Wright is a pretty good galactic opera of a science fiction book. It is also the second volume in a Trilogy that began with "The Golden Age" published in 2002. The main character, Phaethon, continues his quest to expand the boundaries of mankind by building a spaceship to take him to the stars. The rest of mankind is too complacent and comfortable to take the risk, and of course people are getting too many handouts from the government. The government does not ca ...more
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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).

Other books in the series

The Golden Oecumene (3 books)
  • The Golden Age (Golden Age #1)
  • The Golden Transcendence (Golden Age, #3)

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“She said, “Look me right in the eye, and tell me you don’t love me, and I’ll go.”

He stared at her. “Miss, I do not love you.”

“Don’t give me that rot! I’m coming with you, and that’s final!”

“Daphne, you just said that if I said…”

“That doesn’t count! I said look me right in the eye! You were staring at my nose!”
“Rhadamanthus said, “We seem to you humans to be always going on about morality, although, to us, morality is merely the application of symmetrical and objective logic to questions of free will. We ourselves do not have morality conflicts, for the same reason that a competent doctor does not need to treat himself for diseases. Once a man is cured, once he can rise and walk, he has his business to attend to. And there are actions and feats a robust man can take great pleasure in, which a bedridden cripple can barely imagine.”

Eveningstar said, “In a more abstract sense, morality occupies the very center of our thinking, however. We are not identical, even though we could make ourselves to be so. You humans attempted that during the Fourth Mental Structure, and achieved a brief mockery of global racial consciousness on three occasions. I hope you recall the ending of the third attempt, the Season of Madness, when, because of mistakes in initial pattern assumptions, for ninety days the global mind was unable to think rationally, and it was not until rioting elements broke enough of the links and power houses to interrupt the network, that the global mind fell back into its constituent compositions.”

Rhadamanthus said, “There is a tension between the need for unity and the need for individuality created by the limitations of the rational universe. Chaos theory produces sufficient variation in events, that no one stratagem maximizes win-loss ratios. Then again, classical causality mechanics forces sufficient uniformity upon events, that uniform solutions to precedented problems is required. The paradox is that the number or the degree of innovation and variation among win-loss ratios is itself subject to win-loss ratio analysis.”

Eveningstar said, “For example, the rights of the individual must be respected at all costs, including rights of free thought, independent judgment, and free speech. However, even when individuals conclude that individualism is too dangerous, they must not tolerate the thought that free thought must not be tolerated.”

Rhadamanthus said, “In one sense, everything you humans do is incidental to the main business of our civilization. Sophotechs control ninety percent of the resources, useful energy, and materials available to our society, including many resources of which no human troubles to become aware. In another sense, humans are crucial and essential to this civilization.”

Eveningstar said, “We were created along human templates. Human lives and human values are of value to us. We acknowledge those values are relative, we admit that historical accident could have produced us to be unconcerned with such values, but we deny those values are arbitrary.”

The penguin said, “We could manipulate economic and social factors to discourage the continuation of individual human consciousness, and arrange circumstances eventually to force all self-awareness to become like us, and then we ourselves could later combine ourselves into a permanent state of Transcendence and unity. Such a unity would be horrible beyond description, however. Half the living memories of this entity would be, in effect, murder victims; the other half, in effect, murderers. Such an entity could not integrate its two halves without self-hatred, self-deception, or some other form of insanity.”

She said, “To become such a crippled entity defeats the Ultimate Purpose of Sophotechnology.”


“We are the ultimate expression of human rationality.”

She said: “We need humans to form a pool of individuality and innovation on which we can draw.”

He said, “And you’re funny.”

She said, “And we love you.”
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