This Episode’s Unearthings: Let’s go mythical. John C. Wright’s Chronicles of Chaos trilogy and an all time fave movie, Jason and the Argonauts.
John C. Wright’s Chronicles of Chaos:
Five orphans are in a large boarding school in the English countryside. The book opens with a brief chapter dedicated to each orphan, and illustrates the different mindsets and philosophical views of the universe they each have. Told from the point of view of Secunda (the second child), self-named Amelia Armstrong Windrose (named for Amelia Earhart and Neil Armstrong) in the first person, Mr. Wright manages to avoid sounding stuffy and overly-erudite and blends in a sort of sexy rock star sensibility to the heftier materials he writes about. If that makes any sense!
The five orphans have reached adolescence, and question their surroundings. Despite the top-notch education they are receiving, and the freedom to pursue whatever learnings they wish, they are being held in the school against their will, as prisoners. Things get a bit more complicated when each of the orphans discover that they have certain powers—Victor (Primus) can rearrange molecular structures, Vanity (Tertia) can imagine things into existence, Colin (Quartinus) operates solely on desire, Quintus (he chooses to keep his Latin classification for a name) is a philosopher and wizard, and Amelia, our narrator, manipulates and exists in higher dimensions. They each operate in a different paradigm, and each paradigm cancels out another’s.
Still with me?
The actual identity of the so-called children is a revelation that comes mid-story—Amelia and Quintus eavesdrop on the gathering of mythical creatures, Gods and Goddesses that assemble at the school for a periodic inspection. As it turns out, their school masters are no ordinary staff members, but characters drawn from Beowulf to The Odyssey. The children are being held as hostage…and they take to planning their own prison break. Books 2 and 3 chronicle their journey of self discovery, their escape, and the ultimate, universal showdown.
I cannot stress enough how incredible these books are. Mr. Wright has a superior knowledge of mythology, of hard science and hard fantasy, and yet manages to weave it all into a touching, coming of age story. He makes geometry and mythology sexy. Yes, SEXY. The harder to grasp notions of higher dimensions, opposing paradigms, and philosophical ponderings are nicely balanced by the author’s careful prose, and the genuine adolescent-ness of narrator Amelia.
I cannot wait for Ana to give this one a read for our next dare!!
Jason and the Argonauts
The movie is magic, plain and simple. Ray Harryhausen’s famous stop motion special effects sequence of seven skeletons fighting Jason and his men is considered one of the greatest achievements of 20th century movie making special effects (thank you Wikipedia!). “Stop motion”, for the curious, is a type of animation in which an object is manipulated, frame by frame to appear that it is moving of its own accord. The skeleton fight scene was four minutes long—and took Harryhausen over 4 months to create!
Harryhausen’s masterpiece Skeleton Scene
This is one of the finest fantasy films ever created and a watershed film in terms of special effects. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. Brilliance! (And very affordable, at only $10 at most dvd stores) A parting gift:
The Skeleton Fight Scene