Menelaus Illation Montrose, Texas gunslinger, idealist, and posthuman genius, who author John C. Wright introduced us to in his brilliant Count To a Trillion, is back in the sequel, The Hermetic Millennia. He is in cryo-suspension, but is brought out of it at periodic times. These are always at crucial turning-points in the history and evolution of mankind. Without his genius and militaristic action as the leader of the Knights Hospitalier, humanity could easily find itself enslaved, or made into the serfs of an advanced alien race, or face the possibility of extinction.
At the point when Menelaus is awoken, humans are under the control of Psychohistorians. There are the Giants and the Iron Ghosts, who both want to mold humanity’s evolution. The Giants are posthumans, articial humans within Menelaus’ intelligence range, while the Iron Ghosts are creations of the Scholars, who made the Iron Ghosts to contain emulations of Montrose’s brain. The Giants have gargantuan genetically-modified bodies to house, as Sir Guiden puts it, “their correspondingly elephantine brains.”
The Hermeticists are called that because they were originally the crew members of the spaceship, the Hermetic, who, along with Montrose, journeyed to study an alien artifact in Count To a Trillion known as “The Monument.” There, they learned technologies and techniques unknown on Earth, through the alien hieroglphs on “The Monument.” This advanced knowledge was the product of an ancient alien civilzation billions of years older than our own, much of which–to humans–seemed indistinguishable from magic. The knowledge made over sixty of the seventy crew members eventually go mad when they attempted to implement the “Prometheus augmentation,” but the remaining members of the crew became the rulers of mankind.
Sir Guiden tells Menelaus that the ringleaders of the crew and the Hermtecists somehow “are still alive and sane.” These include the Master of the Earth, Ximen del Azarchel, the commander-in-chief of the world armed forces, Narcis D’Arago, and Menelaus’ arch nemesis, Blackie. However, they have been in hiding since the “Decivilization War,” which destroyed the major cities of the Earth. They were burned to cinders by the Giants, who directed “orbital mirrors” towards the cities. The whole world saw and heard someone who looks exactly like Montrose give the orders for the cities to be burned.
The war was fought between the Giants and the Ghosts, but it was humans who suffered the most. As Sir Guiden tells Menelaus, though it involved math equations, “It was no mere abstract argument. It was about whether humanity would be dehumanized and tyrannized.” The fate of mankind, if the Hermeticists had their way, would be to make subspecies of mankind which would then serve as the slaves and serfs of the intelligent machine-life of the Hyades Cluster. But, even to do this and ensure humanity’s survival, the evolution of mankind’s intelligence would need to be artificially speeded up. The machine-life of the Hyades Cluster was accidently summoned when humans meddled with The Monument.
Among the many other conflicts that Montrose has to deal with in The Hermetic Millennia are the efforts of Rania to bring a Diamond Star made from antimatter out of its orbit. That is the only way, Rania believes, that humainty can stand a chance fighting afainst the aliens of the Hyades Cluster. That’s because, as Menelaus tells Sir Guiden, to defeat such advanced foes it would require a lot of energy: “It takes fuel to calculate. Fuel to think.” The aliens, though, have launched an offensive of their own: a dirigible gas gaint the size of Uranus which will arrive circa A.D. 11000.
A rogue Hermeticist, known as the Judge of Ages, wants to create a free version of mankind. They would then fight against the aliens, and though tey’d be about as mismatched as the Zulus were agaisnt the British, like the Zulus, they might be able to win. The energy that humanity could mine from the Diamond Star, which they could reach much more easily if Rania’s efforts are successful, could mean the difference in a potential war against the alien machine-life.
The Hermetic Millennia is sweeping and epic in scope, and is a thinking man’s Space Opera. I enjoyed reading the first book in the series, Countdown To a Trillion, but I wondered if any sequel to it would be as good. It’s a fantastic read, and a great addition to the series. Since Menelaus is so hyper-intelligent, certain parts of the book are written in a complex manner, using terms and jargon that may be unfamiliar to many readers–but, that’s often the case with the “hard science” type of science fiction that authors like Isaac Asimov wrote about in his Foundation series. If you’re a fan of Countdown To a Trillion and hard SF, I highly recommend that you read The Hermetic Millennia by John C. Wright.