The Golden Age is 10,000 years in the future in our solar system, an interplanetary Utopian society filled with immortal humans.
Begun with The Golden Age, continued with The Phoenix Exultant, and concluding in The Golden Transcendence, The Golden Age trilogy is Grand Space Opera, an SF adventure saga in the tradition of A. E. Van Gogt, Roger Zelazny and Cordwainer Smith. It is an astounding story of super-science, a thrilling wonder story that recaptures the elan of SF’s golden age writers in the suspenseful and passionate tale of Phaeton, a lone rebel unhappy in utopia.
The Golden Age is a “hard” science fiction trilogy, with a cast of pseudo-immortal posthuman characters in a variety of shapes and sizes. The main handful of characters are however, humanoid and followers of a school of thought that values tradition and the Victorian age in particular–so they drink tea and do other things that human readers can identify with while justifying such behavior in a world very different from the one today.
The series is at its best when it deals with complex concepts and aspects of its fictional future society. It has some of the best realized implementations of many expected technologies such as mind-uploading, and hive minds. When it tries to spout philosophies or deal with “human” issues the quality takes a major dive. Unfortunately, the books seem to become less sophisticated as they go on.
Perhaps, because the reader-base had difficulty with the more interesting content–indeed, many reviews of the series complain that its content is difficult to understand or act like its the rawest sci-fi they’ve ever read. Which depressingly illustrates just how fluffy the vast majority of science fiction is. With standards this low, perhaps the series’ more generic content is justified, if just to keep mainstream sci-fi readers happy.
It’s a somewhat high-minded series, written by a somewhat low minded person. For every bit of sophistication and insight, it contains some generic and backwards thinking. I should stress that it’s more imaginable than 99% of science-fiction, but being better than trash shouldn’t be praise worthy on its own, not when the standards are this low. But admittedly, it’s a fair bit better than trash, enough that I do recommend giving it a read.
By mainstream standards, it’s a dense series, with lengthy conversations expanding many chapters, and a far more interesting and evolved setting than most simplistic sci-fi of today. But it’s not consistent in this regard, one chapter it may offer a detailed and well realized character, augmented to be thousands of times more intelligent than a base human presented plausibly and then sink down to the level of Star Trek on the next page.
In a couple centuries, if humanity still exists, it will be incomprehensible to a modern human. The Golden Age isn’t “realistic”, and it’s impossible for any sci-fi taking place in the far future to be. But that’s okay, because what it does is build a familiar and relatable world composed of super-advanced technology. In this way, it makes abstract concepts much more relatable for a modern day person. It does this pretty well, there are quite a bit of high minded concepts weaved throughout the series.
Lots of things are still absurdly human after 10,000 years. Most people, transhuman beings, and even AIs are either male or female. Of course, everything important is done by male characters (unless you count the AIs, but I don’t because the concept is silly). There’s few female characters, and they act in stereotypical 21st century female manner. Not that the book’s subject matter is purposefully sexist, it’s more a product of its time and its author’s limited mind.
There’s lots of other trash: major themes are that morality is objective and built into reality, and that death is inevitable for all living things (former is blatantly wrong and latter is debatable at best). Both themes are enforced and “proven” through protracted plot elements.
Relevant addition On Golden Age author John C. Wright:
The author of this trilogy, John C. Wright, had his dubious philosophies (and perhaps dubious diet) catch up with him, because shortly after writing this trilogy he had a heart attack, became deeply religious, and completely lost his mind. While The Golden Age has some problems, it still stands out with lots of well thought out content, whereas these days, any nonfiction written by John C. Wright is more akin to insane ramblings, and his current fiction isn’t much better.
This is the general consensus anyway (I’ve only read the Golden Age and can’t say for certain myself). Read The Golden Age, but then you may want to leave this author alone. If just for the sake of not financially supporting someone who is exceptionally vocal with their unhealthy worldviews.
If you read some of John C. Wrights blog, it’s actually incredibly hard to believe that it’s the same person who wrote The Golden Age. Don’t let his current insanity stop you from reading this trilogy, because for all its problems, it’s still an exceptional piece of work, and far better than most of what passes for sci-fi.