(Note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of posts to review as many of the 2015 Hugo nominees as I can, and explain why I will or will not be voting for them.)
As I explained previously, I've run into John C. Wright's prose before, and didn't much care for it. "One Bright Star to Guide Them" is the first of his three (!) nominations for Best Novelette. The "Hugo Finalists" link on SF Signal leads to a DRM-free download from Castalia House, containing all of Wright's nominated stories.
All I can say about this particular story is that it's a damn good thing the download is free, or I would be demanding my money back...and I might do that anyway.
Holy shit, this is bad.
How bad, you ask? So bad I couldn't finish it. I did manage to slog through "Parliament," but I'll be damned if I'm going to waste my time on this pretentious, derivative rip-off of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, replete with Endless Exclamation Points and Nigh-Endless, Meaningless Capitalized Nouns and Verbs That Are Supposed To Mean Something. I finally gave up upon reaching this paragraph of deathless prose, six pages in:
Tommy spoke with quiet urgency: "Tybalt told me the Winter King's men have entered this world. They have Atlendor's tarn-cape, and mortal eyes cannot see them. Tybalt brought me to the Wellspring of Wisdom in a cavern below the roots of an ash tree, where a hundred knights in armor of gold were sleeping on stone biers. He made me bathe my eyes in the spring; it burned and stung, and for a day, I thought I was blind. But when my blindness passed, I could see the fairy-creatures."
HE MADE ME BATHE MY EYES IN THE SPRING?
Come on, Mr. Wright. How, exactly, did your plucky hero manage this feat? Did he pry his eyeballs out of their sockets, wash them in the spring, and stick them back in? Talk about jolting me out of the story (although, truthfully, by that point I was looking for an excuse to smash the e-book with a cyberhammer). After reading that paragraph, I decided, screw this. This story is not worth it.
For those who cry, waaah, I need to be fair and finish the story: Sorry, kids. With this much stuff on the ballot, I am reading as far as my interest is held and no further. It's the writer's job to make his/her story a good read; it's not my job to force myself to plow through something I absolutely do not like. (Mr. Wright should actually be grateful that, with this story at least, I didn't stop reading when I finished his byline.)
Nope nope nope. As George R.R. Martin famously said, "Some stories and writers aren't fit to polish a Hugo, much less win one." This definitely falls into that category.