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1. The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive
2. The Sorcerer's House
3. Home Fires
4. Shadow & Claw: The First Half
5. Litany of the Long Sun:Nightside
6. The Wizard: Book Two of The Wizard
7. On Blue's Waters: Volume One of
8. The Knight: Book One of The Wizard
9. An Evil Guest
10. Soldier of the Mist
11. Sword & Citadel: The Second
12. In Green's Jungles (Book of the
13. Soldier of Sidon
14. Epiphany of the Long Sun:Calde
15. The Fifth Head of Cerberus: Three
16. The Claw of the Conciliator
17. Peace
18. The Shadow of the Torturer
19. The Urth of the New Sun: The sequel
20. Pirate Freedom (Sci Fi Essential

1. The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 480 Pages (2010-04-13)
list price: US$17.99 -- used & new: US$7.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 076532136X
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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“One of the literary giants of science fiction.”
--The Denver Post


“Wolfe is a sophisticated stylist, and has more in common with writers such as Jorge Luis Borges than almost any science fiction writer both in terms of craft and themes.”
—The Boston Globe

Gene Wolfe, of whom the Washington Post said, "Of all SF writers currently active none is held in higher esteem," has selected the short fiction he considers his best into one volume.

There are many award nominees and winners among the thirty-one stories here, and many that have been selected for various Year's Best anthologies over the last forty years, including “Petting Zoo,” “The Tree Is My Hat,” “The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories,” “The Hero as Werwolf,” “Seven American Nights,” “The Fifth Head of Cerberus,” “The Detective of Dreams,” and “A Cabin on the Coast.” Gene Wolfe has produced possibly the finest and most significant body of short fiction in the SF and fantasy field in the last forty years, and is certainly among the great living writers to emerge from the genres. This is the first retrospective collection of his entire career. It is for the ages.

“Gene Wolfe is the smartest, subtlest, most dangerous writer alive today.”
--Neil Gaiman

... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Some of Wolfe's best work
In this book you will find some of Wolfe's best work in short fiction and some of the best short fiction of the last 60 years.Novellas such as "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" and "Seven American Nights" showcase Wolfe's style and diversity as well as his incredible imagination.Shorter pieces such as "The Tree is My Hat" and "The Death of Doctor Island" range from psychological horror done in a journal format to the mysterious, literate SF that has become Wolfe's trademark.Whether you are new to Wolfe or a long time reader, this collection will please you.And for those who enjoy discussing Wolfe's work, visit my Wolfe forum, Useful Phrases.The url is: [...]

5-0 out of 5 stars The best of the best by the best
While the printing press is a marvel of mass production, the Kindle puts it to shame. As a result, the countless hours of enjoyment Gene Wolfe has provided to me over the years are completely out of proportion to the paltry sums I have paid for his books. Mr. Wolfe is certainly the finest writer of the latter half of the 20th century to grace the science fiction genre. Actually, he's probably the best writer of the last half of the 20th century, period. Nothing lasts forever, I suppose, and Mr. Wolfe's illustrious career is perhaps approaching twilight. Still, it saddens me to see a Gene Wolfe collection, even as wonderful as this, titled a retrospective.

Mr. Wolfe is a wildly prolific short story writer. In fact, he loves the form so much that he cannot refrain from inserting short stories into his full length works. So while "The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction" is a marvelous collection spanning much of his career, with award winning stories selected by the author, it's a volume or two short of being definitive.

Mr. Wolfe's work is densely alliterative, and much informed by his faith. For the church goers among us, "La Befana," "Westwind" and "The Eyeflash Miracles" are delights. Throughout his career Mr. Wolfe has displayed a fascination with forms and aberrations of memory and consciousness. Mr. Million, the unbound simulation of "The Fifth Head of Cerberus," Nicholas of "The Death of Dr. Island" and Baden of "The Tree is My Hat" are cases in point. Mr. Wolfe has a fondness for the cadences of myth and fable; "The Boy Who Hooked the Sun" is a fine example and a terrific story for young readers. (My kids enjoyed many a Gene Wolfe short story around the campfire as they grew up.) Mr. Wolfe is known for his use of first person active voice, and has made the literary device of the unreliable narrator famous. His protagonists are often impaired in some way, but nonetheless noble and likable. Sam of "Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon" is a type specimen Gene Wolfe protagonist. Mr. Wolfe evinces a genuine affection for humanity in general, and his characters in particular (even the villains). At his best, Mr. Wolfe evokes a wistful, bittersweet, almost elegiac tone in celebration of the beauty and foolishness of the human condition. "The Death of the Island Doctor" is a gem of story that chokes me up with happy tears every time I read it. Eventually all who are blessed discover that Dr. Insula had not been mistaken about the island after all.

Of course, there must be at least a second, and hopefully a third volume to complete the "retrospective." So I'll cast my votes now. As mentioned, some of Mr. Wolfe's best short fiction is embedded in his novels. I'd like to see "Melito's Story - The Cock, the Angel and the Eagle" and "Foila's Story - The Armiger's Daughter" included. Both are from "Citadel of the Autarch" and are simply marvelous fairy tales. "The Tale of the Student and His Son" from "Claw of the Conciliator" is the most wonderful transmogrification of the legend of Theseus imaginable. Finally, Mr. Wolfe has written some marvelous military short fiction. "The HORARS of War" gets my vote.

3-0 out of 5 stars Perhaps I am simply do not have the depth of soul for this book.
My three favorite living authors are Wolfe, Vance and Brust.Not one of them have pleased me with every word they have written.
I love most of Wolfes novels. I have reread the many of them several times. "Latro in the Mist," "The Wizard Knight," The Book of the New Sun," have all taken a place on my bookshelf so that I can avoid buying them again for a third or fourth time. Others have left me a little disappointed.

I am a little old fashion.I like stories that have a definitive conclusion. Many of these seem to leave more questions than answers. In "Seven American Nights," I have no clue what the young persian confronted when the lights came on. I found I could not complete "House of Trust." "The Hero as Werwolf" presented a very interesting story, but had the feel of a coming attraction chapter in the back of a book.

Again, perhaps it is me.

5-0 out of 5 stars Lives up to its name
Word for word, Gene Wolfe is almost certainly the finest stylist currently active in the English language. This book demonstrates that amply. The stories here range from just a few pages to short novella length. Some have splashes of humor while others are dark and bleak throughout. What they all share though is Wolfe's unflagging imagination and ability to absorb his readers into the universe he creates for his stories, however fleeting the time the reader may spend in that universe ultimately may be. Among writers, Wolfe is an anomaly for his refusal to tell stories in a linear path, and this only adds to the awe and sense of wonder of his work, both as in this volume, in his short work and in his novel-length fiction. It's hard for me to pick a story I would consider to be my favorite or the best in the book. I would probably count Seven American Nights as the most reflective of what to expect among those included herein though. Others of note are the Island/Doctor/Death stories, Petting Zoo (probably the most elegiac of the tales), The Fifth Head of Cerberus (which will slingshot the reader directly into Wolfe's first successful long work), and The Hero as Werwolf (which goes off in a direction I was pleasantly surprised to never see coming). Overall, this is clearly the strongest representation possible of Wolfe's short fiction, but I hope it will serve only as a springboard for readers new to Wolfe into his other work. Although his work is intentionally difficult--as anyone who reads this will have to acknowledge--it is both thoughtful and rewarding, and I hope this will help catapult Wolfe into a more commercially viable place among modern-day authors. Ultimately the best thing about Wolfe's work is this: As with Robert E Howard, another great storyteller of the last century, Wolfe's best work is so powerful because he himself is in everything he writes. To those fortunate enough to come across this book and read it in the future, I can say only one more thing: You will be far from disappointed.

5-0 out of 5 stars Some of Gene Wolfe's best short fiction
What can there be not to like about a Gene Wolfe Retrospective?Mr. Wolfe has included his personal favorites, with brief comments following each story, some of which shed light on the story (but don't expect too much in the way of explanation), some autobiographical.This book could serve as a good introduction to a reader new to Wolfe, and will give one a fairly good idea of the range of his shorter fiction.Although one can read Wolfe and enjoy a story on a purely intuitive level, most of his stories bear rereading for deeper layers of meaning.

The only negative is that many of the stories in this collection are included in other collections I already own.This would not be a problem for a reader new to Wolfe, while those of us who are longtime fans are quite willing to glean whatever unread works we can find. ... Read more

2. The Sorcerer's House
by Gene Wolfe
Hardcover: 304 Pages (2010-03-16)
list price: US$24.99 -- used & new: US$13.34
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 076532458X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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In a contemporary town in the American midwest where he has no connections, Bax, an educated man recently released from prison, is staying in a motel. He writes letters to his brother and to others, including a friend still in jail, to whom he progressively reveals the intriguing pieces of a strange and fantastic narrative. When he meets a real estate agent who tells him he is, to his utter surprise, the heir to a huge old house in town, long empty, he moves in. He is immediately confronted by an array of supernatural creatures and events, by love and danger.

His life is utterly transformed and we read on, because we must know more. We revise our opinions of him, and of others, with each letter, piecing together more of the story as we go. We learn things about magic, and another world, and about the sorcerer Mr. Black, who originally inhabited the house. And then knowing what we now know only in the end, perhaps we read it again.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (11)

4-0 out of 5 stars Elegant fantasy
The Sorceror's House is a beautifully subtle new novel by master fantasy and SF author Gene Wolfe. The novel's protagonist is a recently released convict who, seemingly by complete coincidence, comes into possession of an abandoned house. As he moves in, he discovers that the house already has a few odd inhabitants...

A large part of the enjoyment of this novel is the process of discovery, as the protagonist slowly finds out more and more about the odd nature of the house and its inhabitants, as well as the relations between the other people living in his new town. Because I don't want to spoil this process of discovery, I won't say much more about the plot of the novel, aside from the fact that it will slowly suck you into its own twisted reality, and that it's perfectly suited to be read and re-read, because everything, from the very first page on, will have acquired a new meaning by the time you're done reading The Sorceror's House for the first time.

Fans of Gene Wolfe know that this author likes to play games with unreliable narrators, such as the protagonist of the SOLDIER books, whose memory is wiped out at the end of every day, or Severian from The Book of the New Sun, who claims to have a perfect memory. In the case of The Sorceror's House, the novel actually consists of a series of letters. The vast majority are written by the erudite and intriguing main character, and addressed to his twin brother, his former cell mate, or his brother's wife. It's the epistolary format of The Sorceror's House that sets up lots of opportunities to twist the reader's perspective, because it allows the writer of the letters to tailor the content (not to mention tone) to the addressees. The very last letter of the novel is a perfect example -- and I guarantee you'll have a smile on your face when you read it.

I wouldn't call The Sorceror's House a major novel in Gene Wolfe's impressive oeuvre, at least when compared to masterpieces like The Book of the New Sun or THE WIZARD KNIGHT, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a supremely elegant fantasy novel, with a memorable narrator and a Twin Peaks-like atmosphere of "everyone in this small town has a secret". If you're already a fan of the Wolfe, definitely pick up a copy of The Sorceror's House... and if you're not, maybe this quote from Neil Gaiman (about THE WIZARD KNIGHT) will convince you: "Gene Wolfe is the smartest, subtlest, most dangerous writer alive today, in genre or out of it. If you don't read this book, you'll have missed out on something important and wonderful and all the cool people will laugh at you."

5-0 out of 5 stars A highly recommended pick for fantasy and science fiction readers with an affinity for the supernatural
The Sorcerer's House offers a gripping fantasy set in a modern town in the American Midwest and tells of Bax, an educated man staying at a motel who writes letters to his brother and others revealing the story of an empty house in town, his move into it, and his confrontation with the supernatural. His life is changed - and each letter builds upon the saga in this gripping story, a highly recommended pick for fantasy and science fiction readers with an affinity for the supernatural.

4-0 out of 5 stars A good return to form
A good return to form (after his last love it or hate it novel), this one takes a format that usually annoys me (a novel written as a collection of letters) and makes it work, mostly due to the fascinating characters and clever goings on we've come to expect from this Author. If you normally avoid this format of story telling (as I do), give it a chance - it's well worth a read.

2-0 out of 5 stars odd writing
I am a long-time fan of Wolfe's and have read and enjoyed most of his books. This one was a disappointment, for a reason that surprised me. I think Wolfe is a fine writer. The writing in this book is, well, strangely amateurish and awkward.

Several other reviewers commented somewhat negatively on the narrative device that Wolfe uses. Chapters consist of letters, mostly from the protagonist but a few to him. I didn't mind this. It didn't get in the way and after a while (when I realized this would be the format for every chapter), I even liked it. Itprovided a way for Wolfe to switch first-person perspectives. More interestingly, letters from the protagonist to different people showed different aspects of the same writer.

What I found disconcerting was the very stilted and awkward writing style itself. At first I thought these were simply meant to reveal a quirkiness of the narrator. But the oddities were found in letters from all writers. Some of the writing was just bizarre, but not in the way that one might expect from a Garcia Marquez, Borges, or other writers in the magical realism genre. Rather, the writing was embarrassingly sophomoric (high school not even college). Sentence were clumsy, the flow between sentences was often jerky. The characters themselves were described in ways that made them seem, not fey (which would be consistent with the story) but just loopy.

Wolfe is in general a good enough writer that I suspect the style he adopted here reflected a deliberate choice. But I'm not sure why. It didn't work for me, at least.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wolfe fans rejoice
Another crafty and wonderful novel from Gene Wolfe, told as a serious of (postal) letters. An ordinary man mysteriously ends up owning a haunted house. Mysterious hijinks ensue. If you're a Wolfe fan, you probably don't want to know any more of the story. Just buy and enjoy..... ... Read more

3. Home Fires
by Gene Wolfe
Hardcover: 304 Pages (2011-01-18)
list price: US$24.99 -- used & new: US$16.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0765328186
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Editorial Review

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Gene Wolfe takes us to a future North America at once familiar and utterly strange. A young man and woman, Skip and Chelle, fall in love in college and marry, but she is enlisted in the military, there is a war on, and she must serve her tour of duty before they can settle down. But the military is fighting a war with aliens in distant solar systems, and her months in the service will be years in relative time on Earth. Chelle returns to recuperate from severe injuries, after months of service, still a young woman but not necessarily the same person—while Skip is in his forties and a wealthy businessman, but eager for her return.

Still in love (somewhat to his surprise and delight), they go on a Caribbean cruise to resume their marriage. Their vacation rapidly becomes a complex series of challenges, not the least of which are spies, aliens, and battles with pirates who capture the ship for ransom. There is no writer in SF like Gene Wolfe and no SF novel like Home Fires.
... Read more

4. Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (Book of the Long Sun)
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 416 Pages (1994-10-15)
list price: US$16.99 -- used & new: US$7.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312890176
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The Book of the New Sun is unanimously acclaimed as Gene Wolfe's most remarkable work, hailed as "a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis" by Publishers Weekly, and "one of the most ambitious works of speculative fiction in the twentieth century" by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Shadow & Claw brings together the first two books of the tetralogy in one volume:

The Shadow of the Torturer is the tale of young Severian, an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers on the world called Urth, exiled for committing the ultimate sin of his profession -- showing mercy toward his victim.

Ursula K. Le Guin said, "Magic stuff . . . a masterpiece . . . the best science fiction I've read in years!"

The Claw of the Conciliator continues the saga of Severian, banished from his home, as he undertakes a mythic quest to discover the awesome power of an ancient relic, and learn the truth about his hidden destiny.

"Arguably the finest piece of literature American science fiction has yet produced [is] the four-volume Book of the New Sun."--Chicago Sun-Times

"The Book of the New Sun establishes his preeminence, pure and simple. . . . The Book of the New Sun contains elements of Spenserian allegory, Swiftian satire, Dickensian social consciousness and Wagnerian mythology. Wolfe creates a truly alien social order that the reader comes to experience from within . . . once into it, there is no stopping."--The New York Times Book Review
Amazon.com Review
One of the most acclaimed "science fantasies" ever, Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is a long, magical novel in four volumes. Shadow & Claw contains the first two: The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator, which respectively won the World Fantasy and Nebula Awards.

This is the first-person narrative of Severian, a lowly apprentice torturer blessed and cursed with a photographic memory, whose travels lead him through the marvels of far-future Urth, and who--as revealed near the beginning--eventually becomes his land's sole ruler or Autarch. On the surface it's a colorful story with all the classic ingredients: growing up, adventure, sex, betrayal, murder, exile, battle, monsters, and mysteries to be solved. (Only well into book 2 do we realize what saved Severian's life in chapter 1.) For lovers of literary allusions, they are plenty here: a Dickensian cemetery scene, a torture-engine from Kafka, a wonderful library out of Borges, and familiar fables changed by eons of retelling. Wolfe evokes a chilly sense of time's vastness, with an age-old, much-restored painting of a golden-visored "knight," really an astronaut standing on the moon, and an ancient citadel of metal towers, actually grounded spacecraft. Even the sun is senile and dying, and so Urth needs a new sun.

The Book of the New Sun is almost heartbreakingly good, full of riches and subtleties that improve with each rereading. It is Gene Wolfe's masterpiece. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk ... Read more

Customer Reviews (214)

3-0 out of 5 stars If literary grace is the defense of vague cottony writing, OK.
Literary grace is offered as the defense of the vague cottony-woolly writing and uninviting style of this fantasy series.

This is sometimes combined with an intimation that those that do not like these novels are not quite smart enough to understand what the author is doing.Not quite smart enough to understand that Severian, the main character, is an "unreliable narrarator".Not quite smart enough to understand that the author is the master of the casual revelation.

So be it.Count me stupid, but I found these books a slog to read.

Here is one example, among many... the author takes great care, and to be fair, uses great imagination, to create the setting and conflicts within the Torturer's Guild.This is then thrown away, and instead we spend an entire long, interminable, perhaps drug-inspired day wandering the larger city. This sets the pattern for the book, where the author again and again creates wonderful imagery, settings, conflicts, but then writes away from these situations, moved past these situations towards events not generated directly or indirectly from these settings... This makes the book read a bit dreamy, especially when combined with the florid language, which some love.

As you read, you begin to see Severian as the most irritating of protagonists, the arbitrarily acting protagonist.This attenuates your interest, it irritates.To overcome this feeling, one must embrace and enjoy the larger scope of the work, the style, the authorship.

I found it hard to make that leap.I expect that those who make this leap find these books grand.I find them grand failures, not compelling. You may consider me not smart enough to understand the books, but my takeaway is that these books are not for everyone, and that this is because they read a bit vague, a bit cottony, a bit dreary.

You are free to call me "too dumb to understand the author" and you are free to point out the subtle nature of the writing, that I am probably too thick to notice. For those like me, this series is a skip.

5-0 out of 5 stars Science Fantasy by a True Master
Gene Wolfe is an amazing writer because he is able to challenge and entertain at the same time. "The Book of the New Sun" is an amazing work of fiction because it breaks down genre tropes and infuses both fantasy and science fiction staples with power and new life. Severian, for me, is one of both fantasy and science fiction's great protagonist. In my mind, he stands proudly alongside Ray Bradbury's Montag and Roger Zelazny's Sam. His humanity is so striking and utterly plausible that readers will feel quite at home in the disturbingly alien world where he lives.

If you haven't read Gene Wolfe, you should. As both a writer and a reader, he has inspired me and this book, in my opinion, is his masterpiece. Excellent, excellent stuff.

4-0 out of 5 stars Over my head
I think this book is better than I understand...

If you are into science fiction and literature this is a great book.If you are just into science fiction you should probably pick up something easier...like I will

1-0 out of 5 stars Beyond my sympathies ...
When J. R. R. Tolkien would come across a work of literature that he disliked or hated, he would often desribe the work as "beyond my sympathies."*Shadow & Claw* is most definitely beyond my sympathies.Indeed, I detest this book.I would not describe myself as a fantasy and sci-fi junkie, though Tolkien certainly is one of my favorite writers.Having been an English major in college, I have read my share of modern novels.My dislike of this book, therefore, cannot simply be attributed to an addiction to bad writing.But I do have my prejudices: I like good stories peopled by interesting characters.On my reading, *Shadow & Claw* fails on both counts.I found the book confusing, disjointed, and, quite frankly, boring.It feels artificial.I have no interest in the bizarre world that Wolfe has created.I will not be reading the second half of *The Book of New Sun*.

But my review should not discourage anyone from reading this book.While it may be beyond my sympathies, you may not find it so.It may well be, as others have declared it to be, an amazing and innovative imaginative work.Maybe.But quite honestly, I cannot understand all the glowing positive reviews of this book.A great work of literature?Nonsense.An innovative work?Perhaps--but also a failure.Worth reading?Perhaps ... perhaps you will find yourself among those who are enthralled by it ... but be prepared to be disappointed.

5-0 out of 5 stars Perfect
I wouldn't mind someone who gives a poor review to this because some people truly won't understand it, and what they don't understand they surely won't like.

What I can say though is that Wolfe is a treasure, and this work epitomizes the expectations I have when someone uses the word "grandmaster" in terms of Science Fiction.

Wolfe is simply the best, that he has agonized over every word he's written, and has laid his path out carefully is clear from the first page of this novel and the following works.

I read these first when they came out long, long ago as a young adult and was thrilled.

I re-read them every few years, every time I read them again I gained new insight, new appreciation, and greater love for what Wolfe has written. And every time they solidify my opinion that Wolfe is our best, and our most sophisticated, and a treasure. As is Severian, and this series of books.

I cannot possibly recommend these novels more highly. Even if you don't like them in the end, it's something you should try, much like any fine food, wine, or potential wonderful experience under the sun.
... Read more

5. Litany of the Long Sun:Nightside the Long Sun and Lake of the Long Sun (Book of the Long Sun, Books 1 and 2)
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 544 Pages (2000-04-01)
list price: US$17.95 -- used & new: US$8.97
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312872917
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Litany of the Long Sun contains the full texts of Nightside the Long Sun and Lake of the Long Sun, that together make up the first half of The Book of the Long Sun. This great work is set on a huge generation starship in the same future as the classic Book of the New Sun (also available in two volumes from Orb).
Amazon.com Review
Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun tetralogy ranks as one of the greatestliterary achievements of 20th-century science fiction. Litany of theLong Sun, comprising the first two books in the series, is suffusedwith looming transcendence and theophany. Wolfe takes familiar speculativefiction tropes and embeds them in a tale so complex and wonderful thatreaders may find themselves wondering whether what they're reading isscience fiction, fantasy, or something different altogether. Or whether itmatters.

The story of Patera Silk, a devout priest whose destiny is wrapped up withthe gods he serves, takes place within the Whorl, a vast, cylindricalstarship that has traveled for generations and is crumbling into disrepair.Through a strange and amazing series of events, Silk finds himselfdescending to base thievery, running afoul of a notorious crime lord,befriending a cyborg soldier, and encountering at least one of the gods ofMainframe.

She shook her head almost imperceptibly. "All that abstinence!And now you've seen a goddess. Me. Was it worth it?"

"Yes, Loving Kypris."

She laughed again, delighted. "Why?"

The question hung in the silence of the baking sellaria while Silk tried tokick his intellect awake. At last he said haltingly, "We are so much likebeasts, Kypris. We eat and we breed; then we spawn and die. The most humbleshare in a higher existence is worth any sacrifice."

But when Silk encounters the Outsider, who may be a God of a very differentsort, all his beliefs are shaken to the core, and his life swiftly takes amessianic turn. In a rousing climax, Silk becomes the reluctant leader of apolitical rebellion against the corrupt Ayuntamiento, who rule thecity-state of Viron.

It is not necessary to have read Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series,which takes place many centuries earlier, to enjoy the Long Sun novels, butkeen-eyed readers will find many clues as to the origin of the Whorl andits gods in those stories. Further, although Wolfe's reputation forliterary precision and trickery is well deserved, the Long Sun series(which continues in Epiphanyof the Long Sun) is one of the more accessible places to startappreciating the author's treasures. --Therese Littleton ... Read more

Customer Reviews (26)

5-0 out of 5 stars Enigmatic bouquet offers aromatic plot
Wolfe's novels have been said to be poetic, full of prose and the author himself has been said to be the modern day Melville. After reading 264 pages of Nightside of Long Sun, I didn't feel that the words were meticulously chosen or arranged into a flowery literary bouquet. The vocabulary didn't strike me as challenging the intellect nor did it pressure me to reach for the dictionary. Perhaps other reviews and recommendations have simply over exaggerated the writing style of Wolfe or perhaps it's just that I've been around the block a few times in the terms of the written English language in modern sci-fi literature. However, this one point doesn't deduct from the respect I have for the author, the novel or from the situation Silk finds himself in. It seems a blessing to be able to easily relate to the characters and schemes to willingly.

With that popular oversight aside, the flow and texture of the plot is unparalleled. The purposeful transgressions of main character Silk have a progressive element. While each hectic situation Silk finds himself in seems to be abrupt and unplanned, the further unfolding of the plot reveals a meticulous attention to the detail of the plot. Even in between chapters the crossover is seamless; paragraphs merge like beads of oil atop a level aquatic surface. What else can be said...it's beautiful. The one-on-one connections of Silk are intrinsically loose, which is acceptable merely because there are three books which follow in the series; the precedence is set, the foundation laid. I can envisage a great unfurling of the bolt of contextual plot which Wolfe has woven.

On a personal level, my reading has been cut back over the past few months because of a string of bad books (including Pohl, Busby, Bear, Pellegrino, etc). When I started reading Nightside of the Long Sun, I felt the dedication of the author to truly create a work of literature for the sake of literature itself and for the sake of the genre while being courteous to the reader's attention and persuasive to the reader's intellect. It is obvious that Wolfe is a gifted writer, writes with the reader and genre in mind, works scrupulously through an idea and LOVES his production, unlike much of the other popular novels spun out for word count or profit.


Having just finished the first book of the tetralogy, Nightside of Long Sun, I quickly delved into the following book to relish in the exposure of details and telescoping personal relationships. I wasn't apprehensive knowing that a master like Wolfe steaming headfirst into the wonderful scene of the Whorl.

Two aspects of Lake of the Long Sun appealed to the science fiction reader in me. First, the flow of the plot yields intriguing hints to the origins of the nebulous Whorl. Bits of tech rear up occasionally, the mindset of the creators becomes topical and persuasive clues to the layout of the cities and landscape within the enticing chapters. Second, the physical structure of the Whorl is briefly brought to light and makes my spine tingle with anticipation of enlightening details of the grand panorama of the ambitious plot. Combine these two points together and the result is a sci-fi fusion tailored for the keen-eyed reader.

Layered atop this is a continuing dynamic intercourse of personal relationships, each strand of connection as interesting as the next. Through half of the novel, the interrelationships are sturdy, tried and tested and remained true. However, the last half sees a change in location and pace, whereas the associations weaken and warp to the point of questioning if these characters are of the same cast as before. The change is beyond dynamically steady, seemingly to the point of the bonds being forcibly stressed to create the rifts seen in the second half. I felt uncomfortable reading dialogue which should be familiar but comes across as unnatural, strained.

The fleeting glimpses of three-century-old technology of pre-Whorl creates exciting passages and the inclusion of hidden secrets makes for a multi-faceted reading experience, the fast change of pace and place threw me off the greater overview of the epic plot, ultimately ending in a predictable conclusion though through erratic means.

2-0 out of 5 stars Needlessly Confusing
This fantasy novel is very similar in style to Neil Stephenson's Anathem.As in that work, the author in Litany of the Long Sun constructs an alien culture and landscape centered on a quasi-religious order.In doing so, many terms and references are completely foreign to the reader.However, unlike Anathem, no glossary or appendix is included to explain these foreign terms.The result is many pages in which the reader is somewhat left to his own devices in interpreting the text.

Now, I'm used to a period of familiarization, but I've never read an entire book and still been left largely in the dark as to the nature, function or even any explanation whatsoever concerning so many terms and characters.Even the most foreign and difficult to grasp fantasy landscapes clue the reader in to an extent necessary to understand and enjoy the narrative.As an example, what is a "sybil"?Is it a robot? Is it a part biological, part mechanical hybrid?One of them eats, while another does not.One is 300 years old while another is 90 years old and on the verge of wearing out.What is their origin and/or function?

I was able to follow the story through the first "book", but midway through the second book, I lost my way.Perhaps dialogue such as the following contributed to my confusion:

"They'll beat it out of you, grab the deck and send you with him.
It'd be a lily grab on you, Jugs, `cause you helped him.As for
the Patera here, Crane saw to his hoof and rode him to Orchid's
in his own dilly, so it'd be candy to smoke up something...Only
if you go flash, if you roll him over to some bob culls with
somebody like me to say Pas for you, we'll all be stanch cits and
heroes too.You scavy I never turned up the bloody rags, riffling
some cardcase's ken?You scavy I covered `em up and left him be?
Buy it, I washed him if he's stand still.And if he wouldn't, why,
I rolled him over."


I'm aware that this is a follow up to a previous series by the author, but was assured that reading the prior works was not necessary to an understanding of this series.Perhaps I was misinformed.In any event, this work, which encompasses the first two "books" in a series of four, was sufficiently unsatisfactory that I will not proceed to the conclusion, a rarity for me.

4-0 out of 5 stars Off-beat and amusing lost-generation-ship yarn
There are billions and billions of stars out there, but none of them are especially close. Absent hyperspace jumps, relativistic speeds, or reliable hibernation technologies, the generation ship is the way to send people to the stars. A lot can go wrong in a multi-century journey between the stars, however, and the generation ship that somehow gets lost and forgets it's a generation ship is a staple of sci-fi lit ... or at least it was back in the 1950s and 60s.

In Wolfe's tale, the "long sun" is a heating and lighting element that runs the length of the "whorl"--a miles-long cylindrical ship that rotates on its long axis. It is so-called in contrast to the disc-shaped "short sun" that people knew in the world before. People in the whorl are generally ignorant, superstitious, and at best minimally conscious of being space voyagers. They worship as gods the men and women responsible for building the whorl, gods that communicate with them through big-screen TVs that have some sort of mind-hacking software built in.

Patera Silk is a celibate parish priest in a religion dedicated to worship of the gods. One day while playing basketball with boys in the parish school, Silk receives a vision from a minor god telling him that he must save his poor parish, which the church hierarchy has already (without telling him) sold to a gangster. Thus begins a journey that will lead Silk to, in a few short days, consort with thieves and prostitutes, attempt murder and extortion, and become the most loved and hated figure in his native city of Viron.

It is tempting to contrast Silk with Severian, the narrator/protagonist of Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. There is a great deal separating Severian the guilt-ridden torturer and executioner from the optimistic, public-spirited, and deeply religious Silk. Yet, they are both fatherless men (Severian is an orphan), raised into and largely by centralized institutions--the Torturers Guild for Severian, the church for Silk--and are by chance thrust into the most important affairs of their day. Because both men are, in the larger scheme of things, naive, honest, and innocent, they help expose the corruption at the core of their respective societies. Also, both are victims of literary whimsy; in no reality would their adventures be remotely plausible.

Potential readers should be aware that any new Wolfe novel is a chore to begin. I had to re-read the first few pages of this book several times before I got a handle on what was happening, and I had to read quite a bit more to recognize that "Patera" was a title ("Father") and not a first name. Furthermore, Wolfe novels move very slowly; there's a lot of descriptive detail and a lot of internal debate. Finally, while LITANY is nominally science fiction, it falls on the very soft edge of sci-fi. Wolfe gets a lot of adulation from critics for his literary style, but there's a reason his name rarely comes up in discussions among fans.

5-0 out of 5 stars It's slow going at first.
It's a slow and simple start; the action of this book takes place over only two days. However, if you've read any of the Short Sun books, or better yet all of them, you owe it to yourself to read these. You may not recognize the tone as Wolfe seems to have attempted conciliation with us mere mortals who try to comprehend his works. It is closer in style to the Knight and the Wizard books but good readers will realize that simpler style does not mean a culling of his message. Readers looking for a ripping good yarn full of action and excitement will be fully disappointed by this first book of four. Wolfe apostles will see this for what it is...just the beginning.

5-0 out of 5 stars The gods are in the window and the windows are behind the curtains
Gene Wolfe may be the smartest writer that SF currently has (or maybe ever, though I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the genre), possessing prose that is of definite literary quality and able to convey subjects in a multi-layered style that forces you to do a little bit of work on your own to put it all together.He acts with the trappings of SF but presents it in such a clear-headed fashion that you could see it being genre literature in a world where the events described in his novels are quite normal.Most of the time when I read a Wolfe novel I get the impression that I'm missing stuff, not because he's a terrible write but because there are levels of allegory going on that I'm just not intelligent enough to figure out without having reference books near me to get all the hidden meanings.You don't really need to have a library near you to enjoy his books but the fact that could help deepen the experience amuses me greatly.Which is interesting because back in high school if a teacher had trumpeted that aspect of a novel to me, I would have that "That's one more question I'm going to get wrong on the test."It's a funny world sometimes.In this omnibus collecting the first half of Wolfe's "Long Sun" series, we're introduced to the Whorl and augur Patera Silk.He and his fellow pateras and mayteras both worship the gods of the Whorl and profess their teachings to the neighborhood.When it turns out that the place where they live has been sold, Silk decides to do what he can to make sure everyone can stay put.What Wolfe excels at is stringing tiny details along without explaining everything up front, so that the ins and outs of this society are revealed fully at just the right time, although astute readers could be rewarded by reading between the lines and figuring out early.The plot seems to simply meander along from moment to moment and it's not until you're decently far into it that you realize how much it's been expanding slowly and what started out simply is far vaster than it might seem at first glance.Patera Silk initially doesn't impress, he's a young man and a modest one and very religious, but he starts revealing more layers as he goes along.More capable than he lets on, he's far sharper than any of the characters realize, often keeping revelations to himself and putting pieces together faster than you'd think.It forces both us and the other characters to constantly underestimate him and yet it never feels like the author playing games with us.On his own he's fascinating and well worth spending the entire series with.Wolfe's Whorl is richly detailed, capturing the feeling of constricted societies and teeming life off the edges of the pages we can't see.His prose can take some getting used to, because it is rather lush, and things certainly don't move quickly, although there are action packed moments and tense scenes.Instead the books work as tiny explosions gradually leading to threads coming together in ways you didn't expect.All the digressions and asides eventually become relevant, not always obviously and not always immediately but it is one of those series you have to stick with before it really sinks in.Hopefully the second half won't disappoint but we'll find out when we get there. ... Read more

6. The Wizard: Book Two of The Wizard Knight
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 480 Pages (2005-10-01)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$5.83
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B0041T4R7S
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description

A novel in two volumes, The Wizard Knight is in the rare company of those works which move past the surface of fantasy and drink from the wellspring of myth. Magic swords, dragons, giants, quests, love, honor, nobility-all the familiar features of fantasy come to fresh life in this masterful work.

The first half of the journey, The Knight -- which you are advised to read first, to let the whole story engulf you from the beginning -- took a teenage boy from America into Mythgarthr, the middle realm of seven fantastic worlds. Above are the gods of Skai; below are the capricious Aelf, and more dangerous things still. Journeying throughout Mythgarthr, Able gains a new brother, an Aelf queen lover, a supernatural hound, and the desire to prove his honor and become the noble knight he always knew he would be.

Coming into Jotunland, home of the Frost Giants, Able -- now Sir Able of the High Heart --claims the great sword Eterne from the dragon who has it. In reward, he is ushered into the castle of the Valfather, king of all the Gods of Skai.

Thus begins the second part of his quest. The Wizard begins with Able's return to Mythgathr on his steed Cloud, a great mare the color of her name. Able is filled with new knowledge of the ways of the seven-fold world and possessed of great magical secrets. His knighthood now beyond question, Able works to fulfill his vows to his king, his lover, his friends, his gods, and even his enemies. Able must set his world right, restoring the proper order among the denizens of all the seven worlds.

The Wizard is a charming, riveting, emotionally charged tale of wonders, written with all the beauty one would expect from a writer whom Damon Knight called "a national treasure." If you've never sampled the works of the man Michael Swanwick described as "the greatest writer in the English language alive today," the two volumes of The Wizard Knight are the perfect place to start.
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Customer Reviews (41)

2-0 out of 5 stars Perhaps better than the first book due to its ambitious last 200 pages, but still third-rate Wolfe
THE WIZARD is the second half of "The Wizard Knight", Gene Wolfe's fantasy novel in two volumes. I read The Knight when it came out and was deeply disappointed by it, enough so that I stopped following Wolfe's work. But as I recently came across a copy of the work's completion, I decided to press on nevertheless.

As THE WIZARD opens, Sir Able returns to Mythgarthr from Skai. 20 years have passed for him in that higher sphere, but only a couple of days for the embassy to the Giants. Most of the novel is dedicated to the adventures of Able, Lord Beel, Idnn and company in Jotunland, and this proved to drag horribly. If you're a Wolfe fan and you thought the tunnels scene in "The Book of the Long Sun" or the whole of SOLDIER OF ARETE went on far longer than necessary, then you'll have the same feeling of wading through a literary mire here. My biggest complaint about THE KNIGHT was that Wolfe's love of the unreliable narrator seemed increasingly a limitation. In this second half of the story, Able's narration is rather more solid, but the pacing is horrible.

That said, THE WIZARD does pick up in its last 200 pages, most of the mysteries raised during the novel are given solutions, and the ending is pretty touching. However, as a whole "The Wizard Knight" is certainly third-rate Wolfe, and though I continue to cherish classic works like "The Book of the New Sun" (much of "The Wizard Knight" retreads) and THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS, I detect the start of a precipitous decline in Wolfe's powers here.

2-0 out of 5 stars ADD
No, not AD&D, but ADD. All the characters in this fantasy novel seem to suffer from it. Even the world does.

Wolfe has created a very lyrical world, but it can't decide if is fantasy or fantastical. For example, after a section on how giants can't go south because it's too hot for them (a very prosaic and realistic limitation), suddenly we have giant women - whom no one's ever seen before, are far larger, and hidden far away - fighting male giants in the south. All the logistics of this even are simply ignored, despite the close focus on logistics a few pages earlier.

And every single character says, "Let me tell you my story. Don't interrupt because I have important news. Really, don't interrupt this time." And of course every single time they get interrupted for the most trivial of reasons, and most of the time you never even get to hear their important news (and when you do, its usually irrelevant). It's like Monty Python's Dinosaur Sketch over and over again.

Seriously, if you removed all the text that is merely characters announcing they had something to say (as opposed to actually saying something), the book would be 5% shorter.

The inconsistency of the character's behavior is very hard to follow. At one point a squire (Toug) yields to another squire, rather than fight him for a trivial reason (their masters are working together under dangerous circumstances). The winner takes the loser's prize weapon (a gift from the hero) as spoils of their non-fight, and promises to throw it away where it can never be found. Why are these guys fighting amongst each other when they are surrounded by giants who want to kill them? Why don't the squire's Knights notice one of their squires is suddenly disarmed while they are being besieged by giants? And what is the logic in disarming one of the few armed people on your side? But it's worse. The very next time the two squires meet, Toug attacks (without warning, which would imply without honor) and beats up the other squire, kicking him in a bloody heap on the ground, and then walks off. None of these two squire's interactions are ever mentioned again.


Wolfe has a style to his writing. You just expect that when you pick up a Wolfe book. But this book seems to be all style and no substance; like cutting into a cake only to find it's icing all the way through.

1-0 out of 5 stars He just rushed it out - jumbled and poorly constructed
The first book was well written and kept one's interest - but the second fell flat. Makes me think he had a deadline to make and just typed enough words to get the book published. The story disintegrated about midway through. I usually really enjoy Gene Wolfe's writing - I would like to see him go back and do a good version of this book someday.

3-0 out of 5 stars Complicated, original, but too hard work.
Not sure about this one at all. It was very complicated and original, and I feel I should have liked it, but I found it very hard going. The Wizard is the sequel to The Knight, in the reverse-named series the Wizard Knight (why not the Knight Wizard?) As you may remember, in the first book, a teenage boy from the US is transported to a new land and becomes a knight, killing a dragon as the high end-point of that first novel. Now in the Wizard, he returns.Confusingly, while he may be the titular wizard (he achieved the powers while sojourning in Skai, the world level above the one we normally exist in, Mythgarthr), he has taken a vow not to use them. Not much of a wizard, methinks!

The Wizard, like its predecessor, is full of many turnings. This is what makes it unique and also what makes it infuriating at the same time. It's almost as if the author felt that he was going to write only one fantasy novel, so he would throw in every idea he could think of all at once. One of things I found very jarring and tough to adjust to is the jumping between the telling of the story in the first person and the telling of the story by other people. Once one is in the viewpoint of Sir Able, it takes a wrench to jump away from that, which the book does often, usually without notice.And in the end, there are too many turnings - I felt the central narrative got lost in among the visits to many different levels of existence and many different paces in each level. I would actually have liked a map of Mythgarthr; that would have helped me a lot - instead we only have a diagram of the multiple levels of existence, which doesn't add much to our understanding.

So, at the beginning of the book, Sir Able returns, 20 years older than in The Knight, having spent time in the upper level known as Skai. Meanwhile, very little time has passed in Mythgarthr. I guess you could say it is original to have the higher levels of existence move faster than the lower ones, but I found that counter-intuitive. Sir Able goes back to holding the mountain pass he promised to hold until winter, accompanied by his magical sword, horse, dog and cat. Through various circumstances, he goes off to war with the Giants. (Who speak with Scottish accents, for some reason) Having fought with the giants, he and his many species of ally go south (?) to pay homage to the king on whose behalf the war against the giants was fought, and to deliver a message to the king from a lower level of existence (Aelfrice).It turns out that the king is himself a product of the lower level.
Shortly after reaching the King, he reaches the height of approval, winning a joust against an undead opponent and then the depth of disapproval, being thrown in a dungeon for scouting the defenses while the king is away.Shortly after this, he makes one of his sorties to the lower levels and comes back to find Mythgarthr has been devastated by the very people the King was away fighting. What's a Knight Wizard to do? Why, round up another set of unusual beings to fight for you. And then go off to Aelfrice, and live happily after. As I said, too many stories in one set of covers for me.
The Wizard is a long book. It needs to be read slowly. The story diverges into many detours, some of which may be important and some of which may just be background. There is no doubt that it is an original delivery of a standard quest type story, and as such deserves a lot of respect, but I found it too much work to enjoy completely.

5-0 out of 5 stars A New Kind of Cliche
Gene Wolfe has always written things of an entirely unique shape. Things no one has ever really done or seen before, and although on an initial reading of the Wizard Knight, it may seem like he is simply doing another reworking of cliches done before, Wolfe is really creating another masterpiece.

He is tricky and he is smart. When you read Gene Wolfe don't think you are the one evaluating his world for entertainment, for Wolfe has the magic touch to turn that situation upside down. Reading Wolfe is like reading a text book, albeit a VERY good one. It may seem like a lot of work at first, and it is, but once you pass those exams with a straight 100% the rewards are boundless.

In the Wizard Knight Gene Wolfe doesn't simply settle for doing his take on some cliches, but he makes the cliches do their takes on him, and you.

Reading Gene Wolfe is a big commitment, and I feel that if you haven't read the Wizard Knight at least twice and yet still reviewed, shame on you. Gene Wolfe is ready to write, don't say otherwise, because you aren't ready for Wolfe. Gene Wolfe writes for rereads, and THAT is when things start connecting and flowing together into a far more complete tapestry. The first time I read the Wizard Knight, Able had a magical horse. The second time I discovered it had become a Unicorn. Find out for yourself how this happens by commiting yourself to a second read before judging. You read a Wolfe book once, from cover to cover? Don't stop, re read it, for you've really only finished a third of the book. The same rule applies for Wolfe's series'.

And Wolfe is worth the commitment. I can imagine you'd be proud to solve a murder case all on your own, and the feeling to solving a mystery in Wolfe's books are what I imagine would be close to that. Please, take my word for it, give Wolfe two reads, the worse that could happen is that you won't like it. The best is a limitless possible reward. ... Read more

7. On Blue's Waters: Volume One of 'The Book of the Short Sun'
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 384 Pages (2000-09-02)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$6.22
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B001OW5NAK
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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On Blue's Waters is the start of a major new work by Gene Wolfe, the first of three volumes that comprise The Book of the Short Sun, which takes place in the years after Wolfe's four-volume Book of the Long Sun. Horn, the narrator of the earlier work, now tells his own story. Though life is hard on the newly settled planet of Blue, Horn and his family have made a decent life for themselves. But Horn is the only one who can locate the great leader Silk, and convince him to return to Blue and lead them all to prosperity. So Horn sets sail in a small boat, on a long and difficult quest across the planet Blue in search of the now legendary Patera Silk. The story continues in In Green's Jungles and Return to the Whorl.
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Customer Reviews (31)

5-0 out of 5 stars I cried
...and I don't even know exactly why.Maybe just the sheer beauty of it and the immeasurable sadness on the fringes of my understanding.

5-0 out of 5 stars Different shades of azure dovetail in the mind
While the Book of the Long Sun ended on a satisfactory note to those who didn't want to read further, it also allowed itself plenty of room to continue the stories of those who were involved in it.At the end of that long work, we found that the Whorl was apparently a giant spaceship and that the actual plan was to get everyone to two planets that it was near, Blue and Green.And thus, everyone did.Sort of.We pick up the tale a few decades later on Blue where Horn (who "wrote" Book of the Long Sun) finds that everything seems to be falling apart, civilization isn't what it used to be and the colonists are being attacked by inhumi, flying, shapeshifting vampiric creatures.Thus he decides to go on a quest to find the one man who can put it all back together, Patera Silk, who has been AWOL since we last saw him (and had an awesomely understated exit at the close of that last tetraology) and while he fully intends on doing it alone, it doesn't quite work out that way.

Wolfe is never going to an action packed writer, his prose is dense and things tend to unfold slowly, interlocking and branching until it all comes together.This is probably his most accessible book, at least on the surface, told in a first person style by Horn that is straightforward, although still heavy on ruminations from time to time.Horn has personality, although he lacks Silk's razor sharp and almost casual insights and his singularity of purpose.But as a straight-up quest, events are much easier to follow this time out.At first.Then things get deceptive.

The early part of this book, for all its accessibility, can be rough going for those who never read "Book of the Long Sun" because there are a lot of references to that previous series, to the point where I wondered when the actual plot was going to start or if we'd just be rehashing events from "Long Sun" in greater detail and a first-person viewpoint.Then it changes and I can remember almost the exact point where all the first-personness condensed and became something far sharper and harder than I expected.It comes as suddenly the narrative starts to reference events that have occurred after our current point of view, a future Horn writing about events from his relative youth.

The sequence is brief, but it ends with the lyrically eloquent: "But know this: the best and happiest of my hours you know nothing about.I have seen days like gold."From that point on the book seems to gain focus, especially once Krait the inhumi comes on board, inserting these very alien but seemingly human creatures into the story adds another level to it.Meanwhile, the narrative itself splits and simultaneously becomes about Horn's life years from now after the book's events are over and what is happening now and what gets him to Green.He manages to do both without becoming confusing and still allowing mysteries to linger for future novels and does it so easily that you don't realize how difficult this is to pull off.Which is what makes it deceptive, he pulls you right into the complex and you never realize how much of a fractal you've entered.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great book
Gene Wolfe at his best as he weaves the whorl and Horn in an enigmatic manner that exemplifies his style. I am always just short of being frustrated with Wolfe. You wait and wait, read and read, hoping for something significant to happen yet never seems to, only to discover that ithas already happen but you didn't know. The frustration and mystification will only increase with subsequent books in the series as Horn devolves into
a multi-dimensional confusion of characters and space-time reality. I fell in love with the siren Seawrack and feel pity for Krait the alien vampire...or is he a manifestation of Horn's son Sinew? Wolfe will tease and tempt you but never really answer any of your questions while seducing you with effortless, gorgeous prose. I miss Silk.

3-0 out of 5 stars Wolfe Blindness: a minority report
I've never much cared for the Wolfe I've read (which isn't all that
much), but he gets so much praise from people whose opinions
I respect that, every few years, I try him again [note 1]. This time,
I tried On Blue's Waters (1999), since I recalled seeing some comments
that the Short Sun 'series' (which appears to be one long novel) is
unusually accessible. Plus, I saw a blurb by Michael Swanwick
praising Wolfe as the world's greatest working novelist, in *any*

Anyway, Blue's does have clear prose and an unambiguously sfnal
setting -- Blue is a pleasantly Earthlike planet that has recently been
settled by colonists from the Long Sun generation-ship, which is a
VERY large spaceship indeed. This is good, because I recall being put
off in both the New Sun and Long Sun books by the fantasy-that's-
really-SF tomfoolery [note 2].

Blue's also has a broken-back plot structure that got in the way of
Wolfe's story (IMO), but there was enough going on to lure me into
finishing the thing, even after it became obvious that this wasn't a
stand-alone book (another annoyance). Anyway, Wolfe's conceit
here is that On Blue's Waters is the memoir of the viewpoint
character (with complications noted in the reviews cited below).
Fine, except that it's a *first draft* memoir (written with a quill pen
on handmade paper....), and the narrator is constantly jumping around
from story-present to various times in his past, which I found both
confusing and annoying. Plus the bridge-bits (which make it a
'memoir' rather than flashbacks) are meandering and rather dull.
And there are all these carried-over characters from the Long Sun
books, that I'm supposed to recognize, I guess...Faugh.

So here I am again, wondering how Wolfe has acquired such a
stellar reputation from books that I find, at best, annoyingly 'literary'
and at worst unreadable. Why would Wolfe structure Blue's as a
confusing, meandering and dullish pseudo-memoir? How is this
better than using a conventional first-person with flashbacks plot-
structure? Why does Wolfe deliberately fracture and obscure what's
basically a fine travel-adventure yarn? His choice, of course, and he
clearly knows what he's doing, but it sure doesn't agree with me.

I'm guessing that the Short Sun is as straightforward as Wolfe is
likey to get, at novel-length anyway, and I liked On Blue's Waters
well enough that I may continue into Green's Jungles sometime --
but I'm afraid that most of the glittering jewels that others see in
Wolfe's work look like dusty pebbles to me.
Note 1).I vividly recall a long-ago weekend in some godforsaken
mining camp when for some reason all I had to read was Free Live
Free. And it rained. It was a VERY long weekend, and it was years
before I touched another Wolfe.

2). I abandoned both series (after about 1.5 of each), not because of
this, but because I Didn't Care What Happened to Those People.
I have had better luck with his short stories -- I've liked maybe 1/3 of
those that I've read, as opposed to, basically, none of the novels.
I believe that I've sampled most of what Wolfe's fans think is
his best work....

Review copyright 2002 by Peter D. Tillman
First published at Infinity Plus, with links and discussion:

5-0 out of 5 stars "A Voyage to Green"
Reading this brilliant first portion of "Short Sun," I repeatedly wondered if Wolfe had not decided to pay homage to David Lindsay's woefully unknown masterpiece, "A Voyage to Arcturus."In many ways, Horn seems much like Lindsay's character, Maskull, metamorphosizing to meet the demands of each situation, using and abusing those who offer him aid while trying to overcome his base urges and rise to the status of savior.

Wolfe is never content to simply tell a story, though, and his narrative complexities often scare off readers...Severian's memoir in The Book of the New Sun is, sadly, seen as overly long-winded by some; the progression of intrigues in Long Sun is considered, by many, the book's greatest weakness, along with its treasury of characters.Short Sun is no different: Horn's meditations are deeply personal, more of a confessional than anything.It is fitting that Horn, like Severian, narrates in the first person.Where Severian is distinctly amoral, relating his actions, ranging from murder to rape and worse, with no hint of regret, or even the notion that he should feel regret, Horn relates his actions with perfect honesty and marked shame...his memoir is a plea for mercy, while Severian's is simply a chance to allow others to remember.

Wolfe's characterization is at its peak, here, and I do not believe he has ever written more human characters.I'm eagerly anticipating the arrival of the next two volumes in my mailbox! ... Read more

8. The Knight: Book One of The Wizard Knight
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 432 Pages (2005-01-01)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$6.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B0041T4R78
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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A young man in his teens is transported from our world to a magical realm that contains seven levels of reality. Very quickly transformed by magic into a grown man of heroic proportions, he takes the name Abel and sets out on a quest to find the sword that has been promised to him, a sword he will get from a dragon, the one very special blade that will help him fulfill his life ambition to become a knight and a true hero.

Inside, however, Abel remains a boy, and he must grow in every sense to survive the dangers and delights that lie ahead in encounters with giants, elves, wizards, and dragons. His adventure will conclude in the second volume of The Wizard Knight, The Wizard.

With this new series, Wolfe not only surpasses all the most popular genre writers of the last three decades, he takes on the legends of the past century, in a work that will be favorably compared with the best of J. R. R. Tolkien, E. R. Eddison, Mervyn Peake, and
T. H. White. This is a book---and a series---for the ages, from perhaps the greatest living writer in (or outside) the fantasy genre.
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Customer Reviews (98)

4-0 out of 5 stars over my head
I think you really have to like dense literature to like this book.It's like reading brothers Karamazov, except instead of Russian dudes talking for hours on end about people whose names you can't pronounce, it's about a stud knight/wizard/demigod.

Most of it went over my head...so did the brothers karamazov.

It's one of those things I know would be better if I read it a second time, I think there is some thick, richness there behind the simple narrative.But then again, it was kinda boring, and the pace pf the narrative was all over the place, and everything that is important is talked about only indirectly.So much so that I could tell you a lot of stuff that happened in the book, but I'm not even sure what it's about.I think you have to be smarter than me to really appreciate this book.It seems that a lot of people are, so that's good.I think you will probably feel about this book the same way you feel about Shakespeare.

1-0 out of 5 stars Maybe the writer is good, but the book is horrid.
This is the first Gene Wolfe book that I've read, and it will probably be the last. The narrator of this book is a fairly dumb teenage boy, so I realize that this shoddy, jumpy narrative is done on purpose, but I fail to see the reason for this. Why write a book from the point of view of someone who can't write?

The characters have no discernible motivation for whatever they do. Things happen for no reason and lead to nothing.

The main character is unlikeable. There is no humor at all in the book: everybody is dead serious all the time. The potentially interesting, emotionally charged moments get glossed over in one sentence, but quarreling with random cranky people gets described in loving detail over several pages.

I am sure Gene Wolfe is a great and capable writer. He decided to write a crappy book and he successfully achieved his goal.

2-0 out of 5 stars Weakest novel I have ever read by Wolfe
I found this novel to be a sign of Wolfe's declining powers as a writer. Things that made his earlier novels interesting such as the unreliable narrator and large narrative gaps have now become indicators of weak and lazy writing. Also, I find the voice of the narrator to be inconsistent: sometimes sounding like a boy, sometimes sounding like a man, sometimes sounding like an omniscient narrator. There are some great Wolfian scenes in the novel, particularly when Able is taken into the sea to be healed and climbs the tower with Garsecg. However, I never developed a close connection to the hero or any of the other characters in the novel. I have no motivation to read the second part of the series.

2004 must have been a weak year for Sci-Fi novels for this to get a Nebula nomination. For that matter, the novel appears to be wholly based in the Fantasy genre without any narrative twists to bring it back half-way to the Sci-Fi school; perhaps Wolfe does those twists and turns in the second novel? I am looking at the critical quotes inside the cover from Gaiman, Publisher's Weekly and the Washington Post and I am left to wonder if I can ever trust these kinds of glowing, adulatory quotes again.

2-0 out of 5 stars Wolfe's storytelling methods that previously were so unique and enthralling now seem like limitations
Gene Wolfe's THE KNIGHT is the first half of a fantasy diptych called "The Wizard Knight". Abel, an American boy in his early teens, finds himself transported to another world with similarities to Norse mythology, divided into seven tiers of reality. Abel lands in Mythgarthr, a plane similar to medieval Earth, and dreams of becoming a knight. He has intriguing interactions with the Aelf, a race of elemental spirits and tricksters, and the dragons who inhabit the worlds below, and he has his sights set on the flying castle of the Valfather in the world of Skai above.

Over the three decades prior to THE KNIGHT, Wolfe had developed a distinctive method of storytelling where narrators are unreliable and some important plot events are not described directly, but left to be subtly revealed though other events. Certainly this helped make early Wolfe efforts like THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS or "The Book of the New Sun" so great, though these works also had a number of other fine points such as excellent prose and clearly developed settings. Unfortunately, with THE KNIGHT it seems that all that is left to Wolfe's style is this principle of unreliability and enigma. Abel gratuitously leaves so many things undescribed for no reason other than Wolfe being stuck in a rut of book as enigma. Half of the action is passed over only so that Abel can fill it in later, the human characters are wooden and even the amusing animals seem like throwbacks to earlier Wolfe novels. Wolfe's use of Abel as narrator, writing a long letter to his brother Ben back in America, is also inconsistently applied. For the most part, Able writes like a 13 year-old kid, but at times he launches into highfaulting explanations or ethereal descriptions of the plot where it's clear that Wolfe has taken over as he would in third-person storytelling. And Abel's boyhood reluctance to write about sex and violence becomes most apparent only after he has become a man and has already been through fierce battles and gotten lucky with a fairy queen.

I read THE KNIGHT as soon as it was first published in 2004, as Wolfe had been favourite writer for many years. My disappointment with the book was so crushing that I stopped following what Wolfe has written since. Sure, if you're looking for a riproaring fantasy novel, then THE KNIGHT may entertain you, though you might not find all of it to your taste. But when Wolfe had written some major masterpieces, a novel that can only be satisfyingly read as light entertainment seems like a failure.

5-0 out of 5 stars A truly refreshing take on the classic elements of fantasy
I want to start by saying that this is one of my favorite fantasy books, period.But to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from it when I picked it up.Wolfe is fantastic, but I wasn't sure how the sort of dense, tricky prose I've come to expect from him would mesh with the traditional elements of simpler fantasy.I needn't have worried.

If you haven't read Wolfe before, every book he writes revolves around one thing: the narrator.They're all told from a first-person perspective, and the narrator always colors -- and, at times, filters -- the stories according to their own perspective.Here, the narrator is a young child from the American midwest.This choice gives the entire story a delightful tone.The description of the more fantastic elements of the story is very understated -- how is a child expected to properly describe a dragon? -- which leaves much to the imagination.The story features the same sophisticated themes you'd expect from a Wolfe book, but the main character is not always aware of exactly what is going on.So while the world that Wolfe describes is significantly more complicated than that of your standard swords-and-sorcery fantasy, the main character's depicts it as relatively simple and straightforward.

As with all Gene Wolfe books, this requires a bit of work from the reader to properly enjoy -- you'll almost definitely want to read the series through twice -- but it's well worth your trouble.It's still a good deal more accessible than Wolfe's more famous works. ... Read more

9. An Evil Guest
by Gene Wolfe
Hardcover: 304 Pages (2008-09-16)
list price: US$25.95 -- used & new: US$10.19
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B003STCOLI
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Lovecraft mets Blade Runner. This is a stand-alone supernatural horror novel with a 30s noir atmosphere. Gene Wolfe can write in whatever genre he wants--and always with superb style and profound depth. Now following his World Fantasy Award winner, Soldier of Sidon, and his stunning Pirate Freedom, Wolfe turns to the tradition of H.P. Lovecraft and the weird science tale of supernatural horror.

Set a hundred years in the future, An Evil Guest is a story of an actress who becomes the lover of both a mysterious sorcerer and private detective, and an even more mysterious and powerful rich man, who has been to the human colony on an alien planet and learned strange things there. Her loyalties are divided--perhaps she loves them both. The detective helps her to release her inner beauty and become a star overnight. And the rich man is the benefactor of a play she stars in. But something is very wrong. Money can be an evil guest, but there are other evils. As Lovecraft said, "That is not dead which can eternal lie."
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Customer Reviews (34)

2-0 out of 5 stars disappointing
I love Gene Wolfe's writings and have read almost everything he has written.This novel is far below his standards in every way.It was intended, so far as I can tell, to be a pastiche of a noir detective story along the lines of the Shadow, future sci-fi technology with mysterious aliens, and elements of the Cthulu mythology of H. P. Lovecraft.But the elements just did not blend: the result is a Frankenstein monster.Also missing were the dazzling authorial skill that we are accustomed to from Wolfe -- the shifting points of view, non-linear timelines, and captivating imaginary worlds.The only good point was that the book was short and readable.I sincerely hope that Mr. Wolfe is OK and will return to be one of the best writers alive. --John Dreher (from my wife's account).

5-0 out of 5 stars Don't miss the point
This is a fun book to read with a ton of great new ideas. It manages to mix pulp with Sci-fi an horror. Follow in a main character who seems to have little knowledge of what's going on (as the reader might feel also) while slowly reveling minute but important parts of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed that fact the the main characters let their emotions over come their better judgment--as anyone who's been in love could tell you is easy to do. Althewhile, a strangeness flows through the story that keeps you on the edge, never quite knowing what is possible or what will happen next. If you've given yourself up to Wolfe before--not expecting to have everything handed to you or even having some mysteries never solved...or even addressed properly. It's all a mystery, all to keep you wondering and thinking. You cannot expect to have every loose end tied or even to fully understand the ending. Though, that doesn't stay that the story isn't completely engaging. But if you cannot stand a clear cut, good over evil ending then this may not be for you. Otherwise, if your more interested in a sense of wonder with a lot of truths about the nature of humanity then this is for you. I'm biased as I've been reading Wolfe since Shadow and Claw and have learned to accept to go with the flow of his writing, knowing I'll never understand half of what he is hinting at--yet still loving every second of every page.

5-0 out of 5 stars More than meets the eye
A fascinating read, but you have to be alert. Best to read it more than once, and pay attention! What seems like a lightweight pulp adventure novel, mixing 1930's style detective thriller with H.P. Lovecraft, is really a complex, multi-layered, mind-bending investigation into time & space.

Missed it on the first go? Try noticing these things, and see where they take you:

- Cassie's address
- Which of the characters is a werewolf
- How much the characters weigh
- Which characters never appear together
- Cassie's eating
- oh, and anchovies

I've probably given away too much...

2-0 out of 5 stars The Evil was that I bought this
I am a Gene Wolfe fanatic. I have read the New Sun pentology four times. I have read the Long Sun books, Knight/Wizard, and others. The point is, I thought that anything with Wolfe's name on it would be gold. The only gold in this book was referenced in the title - An Evil Guest - which is gold in the hand, according to the forward.

When I saw that Wolfe had written a Lovecraftian pulp thriller, that was what I expected. What I got was something that felt more like a Busby Berkeley film with a hint of Lovecraft and a touch of Hitchcock. It was like throwing a hint of cinnamon and a touch of sugar on a slab of liver. While that might sound appetizing to some, to me it was retch-worthy. Even the horror sequences were not horrific, and the eerie sequences came off as cartoonish.

Please note that I will not go into spoilers here, but I read the entire book and feel like I wasted my time. If Wolfe was trying to emulate Neil Gaiman, which I suppose is possible, he failed. Gaiman has a knack for injecting absurd juxtapositions into a single story and making them work. Wolfe should have left out the Judy Garland/Joan Blondell dingbat if he wanted to create a 1930's pulp thriller that was set in what a Lovecraft contemporary might have thought the future.

I wondered while reading it if his intent was to reference the early romance work of Robert W. Chambers, a "what if Robert W. Chambers wrote a weird tale that was also a romance, instead of one or the other" but even still this scenario would not redeem this book. I bought it brand new, off the shelf, thinking I was paying tribute to my favorite author, and now I just feel burned.

I give it two stars because it was still well-written, though at no time did I ever feel like it was written by Gene Wolfe.

4-0 out of 5 stars Riddles and puzzles and inside jokes.
This felt like a book of riddles. It was chock full of allusions to other modern fantasy stories, other reviewers mentioned "The Tree is My Hat". I noticed "Someone Comes to Town..." among many others. Even the name "Woldercon" sounds like a convention. I'm sure there are hundreds that I missed. If you read a lot of modern fantasy, this book is delightful, if just in looking for those clever references.

In my estimation, this book was Wolfe's version of Hamlet's speech to the players -- sly advice to his contemporaries. It seemed to have a lot to say, allegorically, about publishing and storytelling and even modern entertainment cinema. In some ways, it encompasses the history of sci-fi/fantasy from it's pulp roots to becoming the driving force behind mass market entertainment. It's a love letter and a warning to the genre itself. Maybe that's just my reading and Wolfe intended none of that -- but that's what I saw in it, and one of the most brilliant things about Wolfe's work is that he gives us a glass to gaze into and find our own meaning within.

But regardless of a deeper meaning, the plot itself is a wonderful puzzle. It's tricky and intricate, and I can't say I completely understand it. But there's a lot of it that seems disjointed and random, but when you happen to notice certain connections (like the hoppers) it fits together.

This book's only failing is that it doesn't quite work on the surface level. Many of Wolfe's best stories can be enjoyed without worrying about the deeper meanings or the "loose ends" of the plot (which, when tugged on, unravel new levels of insight about the worlds and characters). This is even more disappointing because of the "pulp" feeling of the whole thing, the disjointed nature of the plot distract from simply enjoying this as a story.

I've read "An Evil Guest" twice so far, and look forward to future re-readings. It is one of the more frustrating of his stories, but I keep coming back to it. To me, it's certainly one of the best books published last year, and essential reading for anyone who is a serious fan of modern fantasy. ... Read more

10. Soldier of the Mist
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 335 Pages (1987-10)
list price: US$3.95 -- used & new: US$24.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0812558154
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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"A marvelously fluent, evocative historical . . . glowing, fascinating intricate work, full of gods and ghosts and magical metamorphoses, set forth in a modern prose that agreeably captures the rhythm and spirit of the period."--Kirkus Reviews. HC: Tor. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (11)

3-0 out of 5 stars An interesting premise nonetheless results in one of Wolfe's lesser works
Gene Wolfe's "Soldier" series, of which SOLDIER IN THE MIST is the first volume, chronicles the experiences of Latro, a Roman mercenary formerly fighting for the Persians against the Greeks. Wounded in a battle outside the temple of Demeter, Latro is cursed by the Goddess to perpetually forget his experiences everyday. His only means of retaining some memory of his life is to write daily in his scroll, and therefore the narrative is first-person. As a curious recompense, Latro gains the ability to see the Olympian gods at work in the world, and forms a bridge between the Greeks and their understanding of the divine world.

The novel begins with Latro's awakening after the battle and discovery of his new forgetfulness. A defeated mercenary of the enemy, he is made a slave and frequently shifted from owner to owner. The book climaxes one of the last battles of the Persian Wars, and hints at the coming Peloponnesian Wars.

I thought the series quite disappointing because there is little direction. Instead, these two novels chronicle aimless meanderings. In Wolfe's masterpiece The Book of the New Sun, Severian's ultimate fate was to become the New Sun and save Urth, and The Book of the Long Sun led to the deliverance of the Whorl's inhabitants. In Latro's chronicles, on the other hand, there is no specific goal, and Wolfe basically uses Latro to explore Greece of 2,500 years ago and its culture which can seem as alien to the modern reader as anything in a science-fiction work. This is less fascinating then it sounds; I'm a Classics major I found the narrative lackluster.

Indeed, the series suffers from the common problem of historical fiction - trying to fit the protagonist into too many major events. It feels more that Wolfe created Latro to show off his favourite historic events instead of developing a solid protagonist and working from there. Similarly, because Latro can see the gods, it occasionally seems like Wolfe brings in each god or godess in order to have them all included somewhere instead of using this plot device only when absolutely necessary.

At least this volume doesn't suffer from its problems to the degree of its sequels, so I'm giving it three stars. In SOLDIER OF ARETE there's a confusing scene in which Latro finds himself in Thrace that drags on for what seems even longer than the infamous tunnels subplot of The Book of the Long Sun. I haven't even read SOLDIER OF SIDON, but reviews indicate it gets even worse.

In you've never read Wolfe's acclaimed and genuinely stunning writing, I'd recommend starting with The Book of the New Sun. The "Soldier" series sprung from an interesting concept - to chart the lives of the Greeks and their ancient society through an unreliable narrator - but the implementation is unsatisfying and the series so far ranks among Wolfe's lesser works.

4-0 out of 5 stars A fractured tale, beautifully rendered
Anybody who has seen the recent movie "Memento" knows the premise: the protagonist (in this case a wounded mercenary) has lost his longterm memory, and so can only remember what happens to him for one day. In both the movie and this book, he tries to compensate by writing down what he needs to know. Gene Wolfe's fine novel, however, far predates "Memento", and the world it describes, Greece in the 5th century BC, is a far more exotic and alien place.

As a piece of craft, this is a wonderful book--full of apt and elegant descriptions, sparely but deftly rendered characters, and eruptions of violence that pack surprising power. Wolfe is a writer who transcends the genre he happens to be working in, which is something of a miracle in today's pigeon-holed, dumbed-down publishing climate. My only complaint is that he perhaps takes his conceit too far, throwing in one or two too many shifts in time and place (and, in the case of one character, even gender) so that the plot remains less involving that it might have been.

All in all, this is a remarkable achievement.

4-0 out of 5 stars An interesting idea, deftly rendered.
Someone said elsewhere that this felt like an exercise for Wolfe, and I know what they mean-- using a Memento-like plot (a main character who loses his memory at the end of every day) Wolfe sketches the world of ancient Greece through the eyes of a soldier named Latro.

The details are compelling-- I was uninterested in the real historical value (people should not be trying to derive history lessons from fantasy novels) but Wolfe does a good job, as usual, of creating a realistic and detailed world for Latro to inhabit.

The plot is somewhat less compelling. It is nearly a necessity of the trope that he chose that the plot becomes confusing (particularly in times when Latro couldn't write his journal) and I'm sad to say that I often didn't feel any kind of guiding line that was coherent enough to motivate me through the confusion.

Interesting for Wolfe completists or real fans of historical fiction, not a place to begin with his work otherwise.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not the best by Wolfe, but good
This book is set in Ancient Greece, during the Persian Wars. The protagonist, Latro, is a soldier who has recieved a head wound and forgets very quickly. Therefore, he keeps a journal to tell himself who he is and what has happened to him--and that journal is this book. When I first heard about this, I was skeptical that a coherent novel could be written this way, but Wolfe makes it work without stretching believability too much.

Wolfe describes the setting effectively. In order to prevent the reader from using prior knowledge of Greek history or mythology to unfair advantage, he usually replaces the Greek proper names with the protagonist's translations (sometimes incorrect!), which are then rendered into English. This makes the reader nearly as disoriented as the characters, making the book more interesting. Some readers may be annoyed that Wolfe never stops to explain anything, but I think it's better this way, since it avoids the contrived plot devices and character behavior that are often necessary for more explicit exposition. Wolfe's characters are realistic enough, and it's interesting to watch Latro's development as a character and the ways he deals with his affliction.

Of course, I do have some complaints. The first few chapters were boring, and sometimes the plot seemed to drift, as if the author, as well as Latro, had forgotten what he was doing. This aside, Soldier of the Mist could make a good introduction to Wolfe for those who find the New Sun series intimidating. I rarely had much trouble with that longer (and better) work, but some do, and they may be glad that the worldbuilding, allusions, and descriptive language have been toned down. If you have already read and liked Wolfe, then read this. It won't change your life, but it is a solid and rewarding novel.

5-0 out of 5 stars A correction
Another reviewer thinks that Latro is a legionaire.Tain't necessarily so.Read the book yourself, the history lessons of ancient Greece and the Romans, Latins and Etruscans you can work out at for yourself.For now, just know that the army of the Great King had conscripts from kingdoms near and far. ... Read more

11. Sword & Citadel: The Second Half of 'The Book of the New Sun'
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 416 Pages (1994-10-15)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$7.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312890184
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
The Book of the New Sun is unanimously acclaimed as Gene Wolfe's most remarkable work, hailed as "a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis" by Publishers Weekly, and "one of the most ambitious works of speculative fiction in the twentieth century" by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Sword & Citadel brings together the final two books of the tetralogy in one volume:

The Sword of the Lictor is the third volume in Wolfe's remarkable epic, chronicling the odyssey of the wandering pilgrim called Severian, driven by a powerful and unfathomable destiny, as he carries out a dark mission far from his home.

The Citadel of the Autarch brings The Book of the New Sun to its harrowing conclusion, as Severian clashes in a final reckoning with the dread Autarch, fulfilling an ancient prophecy that will forever alter the realm known as Urth.

"Brilliant . . . terrific . . . a fantasy so epic it beggars the mind. An extraordinary work of art!"-Philadelphia Inquirer

"The Book of the New Sun establishes [Wolfe's] preeminence, pure and simple. . . . The Book of the New Sun contains elements of Spenserian allegory, Swiftian satire, Dickensian social consciousness and Wagnerian mythology. Wolfe creates a truly alien social order that the reader comes to experience from within . . . once into it, there is no stopping."--The New York Times Book Review
... Read more

Customer Reviews (43)

5-0 out of 5 stars Demands to be read at least twice
I have just finished reading the third and fourth novels in Gene Wolfe's THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN and my immediate opinion is that I need to reread all four novels again.This is a challenging, dense, and fascinating work.I must be honest and confess that I did not see the genius in the work that many other highly intelligent readers have seen, but that could say more about me than about the work.I think readers need humility when failing to see genius in works that so many others have identified as such.

I do have two concrete complaints with the book.One is that I do think it is way too wordy.I have absolutely no trouble with long books.WAR AND PEACE is among my favorite books, while THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV and IN SEARCH OF LONG TIME are my two all time favorite books.But I do have a problem with books that have a lot of words that don't do much work.And I honestly feel that that is the case with THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN.Perhaps I will feel differently on a second reading.My second complaint is that Wolfe has Severian continually make subtle distinctions that are simply too fine to make much sense.I found this both frustrating and mildly tedious.I am sceptical that I will find this less frustrating and tedious on a second reading.

Still, you have to be impressed with the enormous effort that Gene Wolfe has undertaken to write a highly intelligent and ambitious work of fiction.The work is also fascinating for its genre hybridity.One can debate whether it could properly be considered fantasy or SF.The form is very much that of fantasy.The setting is remarkably similar to sword and sorcerer books and Severian's world bears a sharp resemblance to that of the Dark Ages in Europe.But it is also set countless millennia in the future and the planet he explores features remnants of the achievements of previous generations.So even though the overall form is fantasy, it technically is SF.This allows Wolfe to do countless things that normally are not possible in SF or fantasy.

One of the marks of the series is superior characterization, far beyond what one normally encounters in either SF or fantasy.Wolfe also takes a very purposeful, patient approach to telling his story.I frankly think that the pace is too slow and that the entire sequence could have been perhaps two-thirds its current length, but, again, when a few years from now when I read it again, perhaps I will feel differently.

I have not yet read THE URTH OF THE NEW SUN but plan to do so after I finish some reading/writing projects that will delay my doing so.I don't know a great deal about this book except that Severian is once again the narrator, so I obviously suspect that it continues his story.At some point I hope to continue on to read both THE BOOK OF THE LONG SUN and THE BOOK OF THE SHORT SUN, but, again, a variety of obligations may delay this until later this year or perhaps even to another year.But I'm convinced that this is a major work of SF/Fantasy and heartily recommend it to anyone in search of a sophisticated work in either field.

4-0 out of 5 stars Its good but...
There is no doubt this series is a major work and that it is light-years ahead of most books in the genre - but still, it suffers from remaining a genre piece.

Wolfe is a master of intricate symbolism and mysterious plotting - but the more mundane aspects of novel writing in this work are often neglected in favour of the more intellectually mind bending stuff. And the books suffer for it.

For instance - how many plot coincidences can a story get away with? In book one, in one very busy day, the hero encounters nearly everyone of importance in a variety of seperate yet entirely coincidental incidents, has about four major adventures all in a row and acquires the major "artifact" of the series as well. All before dinner! Then he does more later. As the plot rages on, in a future world teaming with people and cities, our hero just keeps "running into" people he has either lost before or who have significant revelations for him just at the right time.

It is possible all these amazing and never ending coincidences could be explained by the intervention of higher powers - but then, where's the cleverness in that?

(BTW The Urth of the New Sun is even more busy in this way)

Its strange - all the cosmic stuff going on in the book is in fact far more believable than the day to day mecahanics of the plotting - which at times (I'm sorry to say) are laughable, unless you continue to see this as purely a genre work - in which case these things are forgiveable.

Also the rather adolescent attitude to women throughout the story (Severian is unable to see females as anything other than potential conquests, the big nerd that he is) also unfortunately kicks these books back into the sci fi ghetto, where its all about the hero hitting on anything that moves in a skirt and getting his way unless they turn out to be badies.

Personally I think Wolfe has done better in other works. This stuff is still brilliant in many ways, but in the end it largely a matter of taste as to whether this is the "best book ever written".

5-0 out of 5 stars Awe-inspiring.
Lord of the Rings looks like the A-Team in comparison. Seriously. The Book of the New Sun is an excellent, deep, complex, prose-infested novel that will leave you speachless. It's so deep, that truly, it's a story that is meant to be read many times. This book will leave you gathering your thoughts over and over again. A true treasure-trove. And as it has for me, writting this review, it will leave you at a loss for words. Get it. Get it now. This is the 2nd half of 4 part volume. Be sure to read the 1st half FIRST. Otherwise, you'll be lost.

2-0 out of 5 stars Sadly the whole is less than the sum of the parts
I was really looking forward to this book.It was a painful process admitting to myself that I didn't like it.

The book has a nice start; an interesting main character, nice pacing, good setting/interesting society/etc, but it just doesn't go anywhere as a whole.Our man Severian has well written, if somewhat random, adventures and recollections.

For myself the main shortcoming is the linear plotline and single point of view, e.g. I was here and I did this, then I woke up there and did that.This is covered up somewhat by frequent jumps to other points in time as the book is told as someone writing their memoirs.There are occasional references to a particular goal but they seem tacked on and have little relevance to the scene in which they are mentioned.

There are terrific scenes, great partial plot lines and stories but the epic is missing.Like Chinese food from the supermarket; it looks good in the case but in the end it just doesn't satisfy. Unfortunately the first half (this book) is the better of the two.

5-0 out of 5 stars So glad I discovered Wolfe, great read while waiting forDance with Dragons
How come Wolfe isn't more popular? I love Gene Wolfe's masterpieces and plan on reading everything he's ever written, or at least all the great ones. Are his writing styles and vocabulary just too deep for the masses? There are so many made up animals mentioned in the books that leave it all up to the imagination, what's an arsinoither? I love some of the amazing beings in the books that make it so bizarre, like the cacogens(aliens who pose as humans), cyborgs(who also try to be human), and zointhropes(animals that gave up their humanity). The story is often confusing and the scenery constantly changing, Severian does most of his traveling on foot and covers whole continents. What happens if you don't succeed? You get your manhood taken away. Talk about motivation to succeed. ... Read more

12. In Green's Jungles (Book of the Short Sun, Book 2)
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 384 Pages (2001-05-04)
list price: US$16.99 -- used & new: US$9.52
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312873638
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
This is the sequel to On Blues Waters. It is narrated by Horn, on a quest from his home on the planet Blue to find the heroic leader Patera Silk. In is also a section of Wolfes major new fiction, The Book of the Short Sun, building toward a strange and seductive climax in Return to the Whorl, now in hardcover.Amazon.com Review
Gene Wolfe has stymied and delighted smart science fiction readers for years. His complex, multilayered narratives, untrustworthy narrators, and puzzle-box characters send those of us who like that sort of thing into paroxysms of thrilling speculation, re-reading, and just plain guessing what it all means. In Green's Jungles is the middle book of Wolfe's opus trilogy, The Book of the Short Sun (the first is On Blue's Waters). It is by no means necessary to start with his other series, The Book of the New Sun and The Book of the Long Sun, in order to enjoy what is most likely the final examination of the universe Wolfe has created. But critics and fans are mostly in agreement that they are best read in order, and that the Short Sun series is the best of an astonishing bunch.

In Green's Jungles follows narrator Horn as he voyages to the planet Green (Blue's companion) and to the abandoned generational starship known as the Whorl in search of the godlike Patera Silk. As Horn recounts his adventures, his own identity becomes muddled, and we find out his interactions with the vampiric inhumi of Green and the strange alien Neighbors were deeper than we knew. In fact, Horn may not be himself at all anymore. Tantalizing story details drip slowly from Wolfe's pen:

Through the ring a Neighbor saw him, and she came to him in his agony.... she said, "I cannot make you well again, and if I could you would still be in this place. I can do this for you, however, if you desire it. I can send your spirit into someone else, into someone whose own spirit is dying."

So who is Horn? Has he become Patera Silk--it seems so, for people begin mistaking him for the heroic leader. Is he the warrior king Rajan, or is he something entirely new, formed by the strange places and people around him into a savior of worlds? Identity, love, and faith weave through the themes of In Green's Jungles, and Wolfe has added another masterpiece to a shelf full of them. --Therese Littleton ... Read more

Customer Reviews (16)

5-0 out of 5 stars Here and there and back here again, but you're all different
I'm certainly glad I wasn't reading these as they came out or else I would have been very confused in trying to remember exactly what was going on.I don't think Wolfe writes series as much as a long sustained novel with defined breakpoints, thematic or otherwise, which makes reading the entire trilogy straight through a much easier prospect than over the period of a few years.

This is more pronounced here than in the previous Long Sun series, which while intricate, was nothing like this in terms of complexity.That narrative was mostly straightforward, ornate as it was, while here it bends and twists and redefines itself constantly by giving us new information and altering what we already knew.It follows the tone set by the first book, we still have Horn searching for Silk and we still have the first person narrative, we still have Blue and Green and the Whorl . . . and yet it's all gone different, like Wolfe said to everyone "Okay, you think you got the first book?That was just kid's stuff, now the real fun starts."

With Horn still narrating, things become much more elusive, even as he's telling you exactly what is going on.He's on Blue and then he's on Green and maybe he's not actually there but just thinking about it.He's starting to look like Silk or people start mistaking him for Silk or maybe he's switched bodies.The story starts to unfurl in multiple time periods at the same time, with the two parts echoing each other, Horn telling you what just happened and using that as a launching point to tell you what happened previously.The story swoops to certain points and dodges away at the last second before returning there later to deepen the significance of it.Identity becomes an open question, not just of Horn but it seems that every character starts to have more than one name and appearance, and with each change they are perceived differently, even if they haven't really changed.

Wolfe still has the sometimes frustrating (and exciting) habit of making you work for your revelations, with important events happening offscreen and the outlines of it being sketched later, sometimes much later, so that you have to be constantly putting small pieces together to make the bigger picture.And yet we probably won't get the largest picture until the next book is over, and even then it will probably take a sustained reread through everything if you want to have the hope of fitting it all together.

But as complex as it all is, Wolfe makes it work due to the precise and unhurried nature of his prose, the consistency of Horn's voice and the way he can make Green and Blue feel both real and dreamlike at the same time, how the shapeshifting feels more solid and right out of some buried myth, the legends always present and not simply made up.There's a level of thought behind this that is kind of staggering and drags you along with it, if you're willing to be dragged.I wish more SF was like this but not every book (I think my brain would get tired) because it just preserves how unique Wolfe is in the field and how unique a writer he is overall.

5-0 out of 5 stars Challenging--but as brilliant as it gets
The Book of the Short Sun will be one of the finest reading experiences of your life... if you can get through the thing. The difficulty in extracting those rewards out of the text is considerable and not to be lightly discounted. Reading these books will require supreme effort. Willing readers will have to be intensely interested with how individuals relate to historical and semi-mythical figures, religion, and their own personality as influenced by these themes. These books are about as far as you can get from the popular concept of "space opera" and thrilling, "page-turning" fiction. An analogy to Moby Dick is probably very appropriate as that work due to the very slow pacing, the introspection, and the great literary symbols stomping through the setting reified and alive. Any scholar of literature should be deeply fascinated by these books.


There is no shame in not reading these books. They are terribly difficult and an exercise in stamina though we feel most people should at least try once. If you have attempted Shakespeare and been turned back because of the language; if you have attempted Moby Dick or novels by Henry James only to be turned away by the lack of progression in the plot; if you have attempted James Joyce's Ulysses but been baffled by the interior monologue, then Short Sun is probably going to daunt you as well. But we feel the rewards of this book are equal to those giants in literature.


5-0 out of 5 stars Better than the first book!
Gene Wolfe can be a frustrating writer: his prose is often elliptical, his plots and characters unusual, his text obscure and dense. He's a master of indirectness: he'll leave out what for other writers would be "important plot points".

In this second volumn of Book of the Short Sun, we spend most of our time *not* in Green's jungles, but the intersecting plots and deft, subtle interplay of the different characters leave us with both a clear picture of the main character's (Horn/Silk) time there. We get crumbling cities, in-human (and human) monsters and other trappings of, say, a good Burrough's Barsoom tale presented entirely as backstory to the current events in which the lead character has become embroiled.

On Blue's Waters (the first volume) was a beautiful work, marred (I thought at the time) by the overly obscure ending. But this novel (a lot clearer to follow, with a more conventional linear story) actually improves the first book. I can't wait to read the final volume now...

3-0 out of 5 stars Fine -- but Lacking
In Green's Jungles covers Horn's second stop on his way home to the Lizard.Contrary to its title, the novel only barely touches on events, many of them major, that took place on Green.Most of the story focuses on a war between two neighboring cities.I found In Green's Jungles more difficult to enjoy than volume 1, and was often annoyed at Wolfe's unnecessary convolution of simple events.Moreover, the war between the cities, as well as most of the characters involved, seemed inconsequential.This induces the suspicion that the whole book might have been written to stretch a two-book story to trilogy length.Even so, it was a pleasure to read, and I highly recommend the entire series to SF fans who enjoy Wolfe's unique and puzzling style.

1-0 out of 5 stars Wolfe torments his readers
Mr Wolfe is a writer of powerful imagination, but he has a bad habit of leaving out the dramatically most important parts of his stories, tormenting his readers! Herein, he hops from the future to the present to the past, and back without warning, dwells on trivial detail while he omits most all major events in the stories, mixes short stories and nightmare visions into the "plot", so the bewildered reader has no idea what might be really going on. The reader has to work too hard.

The writing in the first part (of this last part of the ten plus book Sun series), "Blue" was comprehesible in comparison.

Where was the editor with the red pen?

If you want to save money, this book does not seem to be important to the plot line of the series and can be easily skipped. It reads as it were notes or an undeveloped plot outline.

The plot continues in "Return to the Whorl" you can safely bypass this.

Ultimately the concept (be forewarned, I give away the plot here) of one caracter morphing into another is quite clever, but this this book will leave you wondering what the heck you just read! ... Read more

13. Soldier of Sidon
by Gene Wolfe
Mass Market Paperback: 320 Pages (2010-03-02)
list price: US$7.99 -- used & new: US$4.54
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0765355884
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

Latro forgets everything when he sleeps. Writing down his experiences every day and reading his journal anew each morning gives him a poignantly tenuous hold on the world and his own identity.

Latro finds himself in Egypt, a land of singing girls, of spiteful and conniving deities. Without his memory, his is unsure of everything, except for his desire to be free of the curse that causes him to forget. The visions Gene Wolfe conjures--of the wonders of Egypt, and of the adventures of Latro as he and his companions journey up the great Nile south into legendary territory--are unique and compelling.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (17)

3-0 out of 5 stars Memento in ancient Egypt
Imagine a version of the movie "Memento" where the hero has lost his ability to remember anything for more than a short time -- only set in ancient times. That gives a taste of this novel.

It's the third in a series and I didn't read the earlier entries. But I soon caught up. The Greek or Roman soldier Latro retains his grasp on reality by writing down everything that happens to him -- because every day is a blank slate to him. He is on a quest down the Nile River to Nubia and beyond.

Latro also has the ability to interact with other-wordly creatures, a waxen woman who sleeps in a coffin and comes to life at night, a mysterious cat or leopard and other strange supernatural creatures.

The writing is very good. Wolfe has a way of putting down words in a crystal clear way. Latro is a gifted observer and kind of idiot-savant, incapable of telling a lie. His relationship with his concubine Myt-Ser'eu, is sweet -- an ancient version of the Adam Sandler movie "Fifty First Dates."

But ultimately, I have to say that I became a bit bored with this book. There wasn'[t enough of a narrative arc -- just one thing after another. It never really reached any kind of climax or resolution.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great concept, incredible execution.
It's an amazing device; Latro was injured performing his duties as a soldier, and cannot retain memories, losing everything when he goes to sleep. To remind himself of who he is and what he is trying to do, he writes down everything that happens each day. The story is told through the record he keeps, and because he sees everything fresh, it allows the rich setting and fascinating detail of the ancient Egyptian setting to be told without pretense or over-description. It's a riveting read.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Wolfe in Roman clothing
Any reader who fondly remembers the previous two titles in this series will enjoy the third.My only complaint is that action seems rushed toward the end.Latro takes less time resolving the plot at the end of his long, river jouney than Willard does to kill Kurtz at the end of his.

3-0 out of 5 stars More than we needed, unfortunately
I am a great fan of Gene Wolfe and the Soldier in the Mist stories. The first Latro novel was a marvelous conceit (narrator with no memory) explored brilliantly. The second book extended the story effectively if not memorably. Soldier of Sidon is tiresome. Sorry, true believers, but there it is. Latro's lack of memory continues to create a few intriguing moments, but for the most part it becomes an excuse for a pastiche of disassociated events vaguely connected but more typically just irritatingly incomprehensible. By halfway through, I was skimming at one sentence per paragraph, then slogging back when it became clear that I had become unintentionally (rather than intentionally) lost.

We got it the first time. The reminder was fun. Enough already.

3-0 out of 5 stars Latro, a Roman mercenary who was ...
(***** = breathtaking, **** = excellent, *** = good, ** = flawed, * = bad)

... cursed by the gods to forget everything upon waking each morning, must carry around a scroll that he frequently updates with his adventures to serve in place of his missing memory.Now he struggles through an exploratory mission down the Nile from ancient Egypt to unknown Nubia.

Latro is an appealing guy and his situation is fascinating, but after awhile this book seems to go on forever, outlasting any narrative tension.Longer review at ImpatientReader-dot-com. ... Read more

14. Epiphany of the Long Sun:Calde of the Long Sun and Exodus from the Long Sun (Book of the Long Sun, Books 3 and 4)
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 720 Pages (2000-11-04)
list price: US$19.99 -- used & new: US$10.02
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312860722
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
The two novels combined in this omnibus (Cald of the Long Sun and Exodus from the Long Sun) comprise the second half of Gene Wolfes long novel, The Book of the Long Sun. Publishers Weekly calls it One of the major SF series of the decade The complex language is lovingly crafted. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (22)

4-0 out of 5 stars Mixed bouquet of tediousness and roses
I desperately want to give Caldé of the Long Sun four stars as I have been keenly fixated on exploring the previous two novels in the series. Also, I read this third book of 300 pages in the series in merely two days, so it's obvious I was still captivated by Wolfe's prose and plot. BUT the book starts abruptly and continues to stagger and waver until the very end. It's like the book itself received a good conk on the head and isn't able to walk straight... much like the characters in Caldé of the Long Sun.

As in Lake of the Long Sun (book 2) when the characters were strained through hardship the main cast themselves changed in attitude and speech transforming them for the worst. It was difficult to follow them even though they should have been familiar after reading about them for 500+ pages. The change was unwanted. In Caldé of the Long Sun, this strain becomes overbearing when the hardships pile upon injury which stack upon disconnectedness. The characters' profiles which were molded in Nightside of Long Sun are shattered. It is difficult to sympathize with a cast you have since grown distant from through unfamiliarity.

What causes this abrupt change is a series of head concussions, perpetual bodily injury, insomnia, starvation and over activity of Auk and Silk. Their thoughts are poorly formed and wandering as they draw up improbable scenarios, talk to long dead individuals and skew their own memories of the past. These passages are not reader friendly; I found myself frustrated when encountering each delusional monologue. How many times can Silk get shot, knocked unconscious, bruised, battered and beaten? While dragging yourself through Caldé of the Long Sun you'll be surprised how often; and then sigh as you encounter injury after injury.

Some of the more minor characters come and go from the plot without knowing what happened to them, if they have left or have died or are just quiet. I found myself rereading entire pages to see where the characters have disappeared to and often gave up and wrote it off. Granted, it's easy to lose someone in a dark tunnel during the 200 pages of darkness, darkness, darkness.

There are parts of Caldé of the Long Sun which perk my interest in reading about the generation ship which the entire cast find themselves on and how everything seems to by alphabetized (sibling, class seating, villages, etc). I even became intrigued with new mysteries like the Plan of Pas, the greater importance of the Outsider and the Windows.


When I started the Long Sun trilogy (Nightside of the Long Sun: 5 stars), seemingly held to high standards by popular readers, I fell in love with the detailed sumptuousness of a chaotic day in Silk's life. The foundation of the series was had utmost perfection for a further three books to build upon. I told myself that when I would eventually come to the conclusion of book four, I would lament/celebrate with a glass of champagne. However, when getting into the meat of the spanning plot (Lake of the Long Sun: 4 stars and Caldé of the Long Sun: 3 stars), I found the characters to be waning in their behavior, leading me to unnecessarily confuse who was who and who held what intentions. It was at this point that I decided the conclusion of the series didn't earn its weight in champagne. Sad.

`Exodus' does pick up speed from where Caldé seemed like it was dragging a codpiece full of coal. Much of the book four plot takes place in or around the subterranean tunnels, where Silk's revolution, the Trivigaunti army from the next city over, the tri-centennial biochem soldiers and the deposed city government of the Ayuntamiento are in a free fall of alliances and backstabbing. The nuances of the good-willed agreements becomes increasing complex as does the perpetual name dropping of the military: generals, generalissimos, lieutenants, sergeants and of the clergy: pateras and mayteras. Then there are the nicknames of some of the cast and I KNOW there's an index of names but I find it inconvenient as each synopsis is too brief.

Amongst the plethora of negotiating platitudes, there is the quiet crescendo of revelation, the unveiling of the some of the secrets the Whorl has in store and where the Whorl is headed. Some of these mysteries have light shed upon them while most secrets, ultimately, remain enigmatic due to the author's elusive prose or possibly because of his myopic view of science in the Long Sun series. The answers I've been dying to hear reveled, rather than being dwelled upon and inferred, are shortcoming. For the series as a whole, it's very poor science fiction and the technology and reason's for the broader background (The Whorl and all its wonders) is elusive. THIS would be the said baby's breathe, a visual superfluous addition to a floral bouquet, which is missing to the greater whole.

Additionally, I deduced who the Outsider was in book one didn't need to be bluntly told that the Outsider is the God of the Gods, the creator of the Mainframe Gods, the ultimate Maker. Book four becomes a little preachy when these matters are demonstrated while the other nine Gods often reveal idiosyncratic (BTW: I tend to use this word a lot in my reviews) tendencies and makes for a rather vibrant polytheistic culture.

Parting questions to raise debate: Does Wolfe snub the polytheistic cultures (as presented in the Whorl), brushing them off as amnesic and supernatural while placing his views of a monotheistic God on a self-imposed alter? Good Silk took refuge in the Outside and began to shun the other nine `Gods' because he himself believed in this monotheism or did Wolfe superimpose his conversion of faith on a character of his own creation?

Sorry Wolfe, you're novels don't appeal to me but your one short story, The Ziggurat, gives me hope that your collections can redeem your alleged high reputation.

3-0 out of 5 stars Chaotic and disappointing conclusion to the Long Sun series
By the conclusion of the second book in the LONG SUN series, our hero -- brave, naive, clever, wise, reverent, young Patera Silk -- had been granted a vision by the god called the Outsider and conversed with other gods; had begun consorting with thieves and prostitutes; had committed robbery and attempted murder and had killed in self-defense; had fallen in love, been badly injured, acquired a sentient talking bird, and found that he had a natural knack for swordfighting; had discovered that the doctor caring for him was a spy from the matriarchal city of Trivigaunte; had learned that the ruling Ayuntamiento (city council) of his native city of Viron was run by insane, power-hungry robots (more or less); and had been popularly acclaimed Calde (mayor) in opposition to the Ayuntamiento.

Having subjected Silk and his compatriots to all of these wild and improbable events and revelations over the space of a few days, Wolfe could have chosen to settle things down in the third book of the series, CALDE OF THE LONG SUN. Instead, he ramps up the civil war that was developing at the end of book two, introduces a huge army of women from Trivigaunte, nominally on Silk's side, and practically doubles the already-large cast of significant characters. This is not a positive development, as I found keeping track of who's who, what's what, and why's that to be beyond my meager mental capabilities. Worse, there's little payoff to the additional complexitly; most of the book is spent in pointless dithering, blathering, bantering, and rumination.

This continues in EXODUS FROM THE LONG SUN. Early on, however, we learn that the gods (or at least one of them) want people to begin abandoning the "whorl" and exploring nearby planets. As we learned in the first three books, the whorl is falling apart and many of the supplies intended to support colonization of a new world have been foolishly squandered. Mounting a planetary excursion is going to be no small feat in a spaceship where nineteenth century technology rules. This effort could be interesting, but Wolfe doesn't seem to care about it very much. Thus, EXODUS becomes increasingly disconnected and disjointed towards the end. It's very like a film that was edited together after a quarter of the scenes were lost through careless handling.

The good: Wolfe's sharp, thoughtful, satirical treatment of religion, religious faith, and religious and political corruption remains provocative, even if it does not add much to what he achieved in the first two books. There are enough twists and turns in the plot to sustain the reader's interest.

The bad: Wolfe can't hold his focus in the second half of THE BOOK OF THE LONG SUN; there's too much going on, most of it pointless. Readers who were hoping for big revelations about the whorl, its mission, and its objectives will be disappointed. The journey is ... the only reward you're going to get. How's that for an epiphany?

The verdict: Sigh. Good enough to buy, disappointing enough to kvetch about at length.

4-0 out of 5 stars Better on the second read
I recently decided to re-read the Long Sun books, since they were sitting on the shelf from a decade ago, and all I could remember of them was that they were good. And that I had been somewhat confused by them. So, resolving to read slowly and thoughtfully, I read them again. If anything, I think I enjoyed them more this time, though that probably has more to do with me growing older than anything else. They're not perfect (thus the 4 stars), and Wolfe does play some games that I find a bit annoying, but that's easily overlooked. For instance, one could be mightily pissed that, after reading a third-person narrative for 1200 pages, one reads that the entire story was actually "written" by one of the secondary characters in the book. Take that seriously, and you have to re-evaluate the entire sequence based on that character's limited knowledge of events. So, I just decided that was a device of Wolfe's to lead into the next trilogy (The Short Sun books) and ignored it. Other than a few unexplained oddities here and there (e.g., What is the significance of Maytera Marble's various names, why does she lie about being originally named Molybdenum?), the book (it's one long book, just as Lord of the Rings is one book) is quite straight-forward and a great story. We never do find out (in this book, anyway) who the gods really are, though we can guess. Silk is a fascinating character, and if you don't find that to be true, this book is not for you. This is Silk's story, and he likes to talk. Boy does he like to talk. He's a very thoughtful, sensitive, and intelligent man, yet he falls in love with a whore who couldn't be more different from him. She's about as deep as a puddle. Not sure what Wolfe is trying to say there. There's hints of Wolfe's Roman Catholicism all over the place. Silk's religion is like a Catholic-Pagan hybrid. It's fascinating to read, if you treat it almost like an archeological puzzle. Where did the Whorl (the generation starship the book takes place in) come from, and who launched it? Where is it going? Is it off course, or broken? The Cargo (Silk and everyone else inside the Whorl) have lost much knowledge of their own past, and we are limited in our understanding just as they are. Over the course of the book, we see Silk grow from a shy parish priest into a great leader, and a similar change occurs in one of the "sisters," Maytera Mint. It's interesting to see how belief can help people grow and become who they are meant to be, even though we know (and Silk knows, towards the end) that the gods are not really as we think they are. This is, after all, science fiction, not fantasy. It's some of the most subtle and well-written fiction of any kind that I've read in quite a while. Just prepare to take your time with it, like a fine meal.

5-0 out of 5 stars It's just the Whorl that we all live in
Gene Wolfe takes patience.His writing and by extension his stories, are subtle things, rarely spelling out what the reader needs to know but dancing around it instead, sketching the outlines of what he's trying to reveal and leaving it to the reader to fill in the blanks.A lot of writers do this and then have the characters explain it all at the right moments, so that the reader can feel accomplished by having put together the scenario before they were "supposed" to.Wolfe hardly does this, revelations come in asides and as seen from a distance.Often the characters don't understand what is being revealed and it's only because we have a different perspective that we don't even know what's going on.But we're not in the story.

SF has had a long history of being far more literary than most non-genre or even genre fans realize (it's had a willingness to experiment with form and subject matter to a sometimes fearless degree) and of those Wolfe is one of the few who can go toe to toe with the so-called literary heavyweights of the day.This omnibus here collects the second half of the Long Sun series and continues the story begun in the first half.Patera Silk has been appointed calde apparently by popular demand, armies are in the city, and matters are barely tottering on the edge of chaos.While Wolfe doesn't do anything vastly different here, the SF elements are scaled back for a more meditative sequence of events . . . having already sketched out the contours of this world, now he's giving everyone a chance to play in the boundaries of it.

Readers looking for big climaxes or stirring bombastic speeches are probably going to be disappointed, the story is pulled along in strings of tiny revelation and it's more the accumulation of events that gives the overall tale its weight.Wolfe never wastes anything, every seemingly random story some character tells, every tossed off detail, it all fits in somewhere and lends weight to the greater narrative.Constantly shifting location and yet maintaining and even, unhurried pace, he manages to capture the scope of great things happening and people trying to keep the world and the people they care about safe.

Silk remains of his best characters, an unmoving and sometimes unwilling pillar in the center of the action, calm and worried, decisive and gambling, he's all too human and the story wouldn't have half the emotional heft it does without him.This story, more than any other, is the sum of its parts, none of the pieces stand out but all of it interlocks to form the story itself, arcing and grand, wistful and epic.It won't dazzle unless you're paying attention but if you are, it becomes worth the effort.

And in the end it isn't about the mysteries of the Whorl, those become almost incidental to the tale itself, but the people who live in it and what they have to do to survive.Even if survival means stepping out entirely.

1-0 out of 5 stars Not profound... but profoundly awful
I loved the Book of the New Sun, and some of Wolfe's other works, so I tucked into this huge opus with glee. Over 1200 pages later and how do I feel - pretty darn irritated and quite keen to reclaim the many hours of my life that I seem to have wasted reading it.What is it all about - I don't know.Does anyone know?Not judging by the other reviews here.Wolfe has a skillful way of sucking you in with the promise of great revelations in the end - but in this series of books there are no revelations, no explanations.The main characters end up leaving the ship (The Whorl) - wow didn't see that coming, did you?Only 700-800 pages ago.No doubt erudite devotees of the author will come up with some profound deeper meaning locked away within it's pages - but what about the reader who wants to actually enjoy what he reads and feel rewarded at the end?I like the review lower down on this page by the guy who has read the entire series 6 times already - but still hasn't quite worked out how to describe what it's about.Says it all really. ... Read more

15. The Fifth Head of Cerberus: Three Novellas
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 256 Pages (1994-03-15)
list price: US$15.99 -- used & new: US$6.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B0044KN1JE
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Back in print for the first time in more than a decade, Gene Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus is a universally acknowledged masterpiece of science fiction by one of the field's most brilliant writers.

Far out from Earth, two sister planets, Saint Anne and Saint Croix, circle each other in an eternal dance. It is said a race of shapeshifters once lived here, only to perish when men came. But one man believes they can still be found, somewhere in the back of the beyond.

In The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Wolfe skillfully interweaves three bizarre tales to create a mesmerizing pattern: the harrowing account of the son of a mad genius who discovers his hideous heritage; a young man's mythic dreamquest for his darker half; the bizarre chronicle of a scientists' nightmarish imprisonment. Like an intricate, braided knot, the pattern at last unfolds to reveal astonishing truths about this strange and savage alien landscape.
Amazon.com Review
A brothel keeper's sons discuss genocide and plot murder; ayoung alien wanderer is pursued by his shadow double; and a politicalprisoner tries to prove his identity, not least to himself. GeneWolfe's first novel consists of three linked sections, all of themelegant broodings on identity, sameness, and strangeness, and all ofthem set on the vividly evoked colony worlds of Ste. Croix andSte. Anne, twin planets delicately poised in mutual orbit.

Marsch,the victim in the third story, is the apparent author of the secondand a casual visitor whose naïve questions precipitate tragedy in thefirst. The sections dance around one another like the planets of theirsettings. Clones, downloaded personalities inhabiting robots, aliensthat perhaps mimicked humans so successfully that they forgot who theywere, a French culture adopted by its ruthless oppressors--there arelots of ways to lose yourself, and perhaps the worst is to think thatfreedom consists of owning other people, that identity is won at theexpense of others.

It is easy to be impressed by the intellectualgames of Wolfe's stunning book and forget that he is, and always hasbeen, the most intensely moral of SF writers. --Roz Kaveney,Amazon.co.uk ... Read more

Customer Reviews (33)

4-0 out of 5 stars Three Novellas
Gene Wolfe's 'The Fifth Head of Cerberus' is three linked novellas, although the nature of the link isn't clear until the last story. This was not as difficult a read as I found Wolfe's later 'The Book of the New Sun' to be. Although I greatly enjoyed that series, I always had the feeling I was missing a lot of what was going on under the surface. 'The Fifth Head of Cerberus, although still somewhat opaque (especially the second story), is much more straight forward. In this case the answers are ambiguous but at least I felt I knew what the question was.

5-0 out of 5 stars Anthropological Mystery/Speculative Ethics
If you were expecting space opera, yes, you will be disappointed.The Fifth Head of Cerberus is a novel with some serious literary intentions.Many (most?) fans aren't really keen on that when they pick up an sf novel.

But I would like to comment about the many reviews that claim this book is difficult, that it requires repeated readings, that it has many possible interpretations.(BTW, if you want to get someone interested in a book, don't tell him that he has to read it several times to understand it!)

Wolfe's narrative style is not opaque or contorted. It is straightforward and elegant throughout. It does switch scenes, sometimes frequently, to tell the reader what the other characters are up to, and it does go back and forth in time, to some extent.These are techniques to which any reader of any genre of fiction in the 21st century is well-accustomed.

Be that as it may, The Fifth Head of Cerberus is a mystery novel, in this case a speculative anthropological mystery.Like many mystery novels, it includes a number of riddles whose solutions intertwine. The most fundamental is how the societies of the fictive planets reached their very peculiar current condition. The solutions are not spelled out for the reader in the courtroom denouement of a traditional detective novel, though they are finally revealed by means of a legal evidentiary investigation.There is one solution (the "fourth story" mentioned by some reviewers) that explains the intertwined enigmas.A plethora of alternatives is neither required nor possible.The reader can gradually come to know the fourth story by means of clues scattered liberally on almost every page of the other three.The most important clues are repeated, often several times, and well signalled.Others are cleverly or clumsily dropped by the wayside.Nothing is wasted.Every sentence has significance. An unexplained or puzzling remark or occurrence is a signal of something that will assume importance later.

The mystery (or mysteries) can be solved easily on a single reading.One has to be awake to detail, keep in mind obvious clues, and should probably pause now and then to mull over what might solve the riddles currently in play, what explanations might work, what is the evidence pro and con: like reading a detective novel. Still, several reviewers have insightfully pointed out that the "fourth story" of the triad (i.e the various mysteries' explication) is not found on the printed page but is carefully constructed by the author in the alert reader's imagination. By the end, the reader has all the information he needs to share the author's vision of the history of his planets and characters.

Though the story and the anthropological speculation behind it make for an enjoyable and moving tale, The Fifth Head of Cerberus contains some philosophic themes that run deeper than the mysterious plot.Every part of the narrative illustrates or exemplifies these more profound themes.Wolfe does not make philosophical statements but ruminates, always employing the narrative and characters, always "showing rather than telling".

Other reviewers have discussed most of these themes, but have neglected the most important, that is, the moral character and behavior of the novel's people and animals (and machines). I have been told that always at the forefront of Wolfe's writing is morality, the moral dimension of his subject matter.If so, The Fifth Head of Cerberus is no exception.The foundational characteristic of Wolfe's imagined world is that the physical and mental parts of all its living beings are malleable and transferable.Every character embodies the moral strategies and behaviors called forth by this psychophysical (inter-)changeability.By our standards, all three protagonists are amoral members of amoral societies, yet their lives are undergirded by inescapable ethical infrastructures. Some reviewers have asked what the novel is about. I answer. It is about morality, ethics in an invented world and in our own. Morality in extreme circumstances is what each of the three narratives and the triad as a whole are about. And again, not a sentence is wasted.

The Fifth Head of Cerberus was published at the time when genetic engineering and cloning technology had only begun to break down the boundaries of our physical identity. Today, the book should be recommended reading for any seminar in Speculative Ethics.(Or Speculative Anthropology, if there should be such a discipline!)

1-0 out of 5 stars Oh, please
A huge disappointment. Another "serious" sci-fi novel that makes everything opaque and tedious and intentionally baffling so no one will mistake it for "kid-stuff". This book says "I'm literature, dammit!" and attempts to prove it with lots of smoke and mirrors. Divided into three parts, each of which offers its own irritating aspects. Part one is the least annoying (that's not saying much). Part two is narrated in pseudo hippy-dippy Native American Cosmic-Speak. Part 3 is set mostly in a cartoonish, unintentional parody of a hellish prison, run by the evillest of evil evil-guys (including imperious slave owners who are often French- Haw!). Is this one guy actually an alien? Or is that guy? Have they themselves forgotten? Is this a meditation on identity? Oh, who gives a...

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliance
This book is, quite simply, brilliant, especially if you like sophisticated puzzles.The three tales, each of which stands on its own, intertwine in mysterious ways to lay out a fourth, untold story.I've never seen anything else like it, and it stands up to repeated readings.In fact, you'll want to read it several times to catch all the hidden clues and meanings that Wolfe has scattered through the book (and they're NOT revealed at the end... you have to find them yourself).Just brilliant.

5-0 out of 5 stars vintage wolfe
In the first novella, the familiar voice of Severian appears in full bloom. It was so comforting and familiar to join with this world weary narrator that I had grown so close to in the New Sun series. The events recounted in the story were almost secondary to my pleasure at being with that voice again. The second novella reminded me of R.A. Laferty's best anthropological expositions and is a magnificent centre piece. The third novella is Kafkaesque and does create some connections with the first two stories though many questions are left unanswered and many postulates are left unexplored. I want a sequel but since Wolfe has not produced one in the intervening thirty-five years, I doubt there will ever be one. So it goes. ... Read more

16. The Claw of the Conciliator
by Gene; illustration by Toni Taylor Wolfe
 Hardcover: Pages (1993-01-01)
-- used & new: US$22.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B000GSDLK2
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars The most moving books I've ever read
Challenging, deep, sad, powerful...

To be honest, it took me a couple of tries.The first time I tried to read The Book of the New Sun, I stopped about halfway through the first volume.It didn't seem to be getting anywhere.I forgot about it (so I thought) for a long time, reading more "normal" fare.

But something haunting, dark, and insidious kept bringing my mind back to that misty night in the graveyard (chapter one of the first book), and the strange images and ideas that followed.I realized that I'd been reading it at face value - a young man and his adventures within an ancient city of the future.Yawn.

But there is so much more there which is between the lines, which is what ultimately drew me back.I was curious to try again and see what I'd evidently missed.

I read more slowly, without expectations of a magical ring and a dragon.Or even a journey to exotic lands.Or even a narrator who is telling the truth?Or even a narrator who is sane?

Once I approached it with an open mind...it blew my mind.Gene Wolfe is just a master spellweaver.There is magic in this book that is not the kind that flies from a wizard's fingers.It is much deeper, and ultimately...completely real and beautifully sad.Words escape me.

Just try it, go slow, and keep an open mind.It is not for everyone, but if you are one of the many who it is for, you are very lucky indeed.

"If you wish to walk no farther with me, reader, I cannot blame you.It is no easy road." - Severian

2-0 out of 5 stars Ultimately no
For the third time, I've found Gene Wolfe to not be the engaging genius that so many other reviewers have. It's clearly well formed with regards to language, I like the rich setting and the plot is a lot more engaging than the other Wolfe I've seen, but it's still ultimately unsatisfying. There just seems to be a narrative pointlessness to the whole thing, a deliberate undercutting of theme, and a lot of authorial ambivalence about if the work is genre or non, or if genre whether it commits to science fiction or fantasy. The whole thing is rather alienating, and while skilled in some ways, I can't pronounce it good.

Certainly there's a lot of subtle writing at work, playing with unreliable perspectives and shades of ambiguity. I don't see this project as worthy in itself, however, and it's not anchored to anything particularly exciting. It feels like a book too geared at expressing its own brilliance to actually be terribly interesting or engaging. Wolfe's narrative comes a lot closer to delivering an effective genre story than Memorare or There Are Doors does, but by the same token that leaves me frustrated by how much the book backs out of delivering an effective story. The other thing I find particularly alienating about this piece is the way it plays unreliable characters as against a distant and remote/weird setting. The ultimate result is to produce a type of alienation and remoteness that made it increasingly hard to feel invested in the story as it progressed. I was never entirely bored, but by the end I was rather frustrated and glad that this book ended.

Since this piece was, for whatever strange reason, a Nebula winner, some context. It gained this award in 1981, the year after Benford's Timescape and the year before Bishop's No Enemy But Time. Of the other shortlisted candidates for 1981 I haven't read any or their authors and can't say for sure if a more deserving winner was passed over at that stage. I'd tend to suspect it, however.

Similar to and better than: There Are Doors by Gene Wolfe

Similar to and worse than: Dying Earth by Jack Vance

3-0 out of 5 stars A slow, symbolic epic
The torturer Severian continues his journey towards his city of exile. Along the way he evades attempts on his life and becomes caught up in the schemes of the rebel leader Vodalus, which takes him to the House Absolute and a reunion with several companions from the previous book.

I had a hard time maintaining much interest in this book. Sevarian spends a large portion of the book involved with a theatre troupe, and and me the whole book feels more like a stylized play than a story taking place in a fully-realized world. The whole world it takes place in seems very small, and Severian runs into the same people over and over despite journying what seems to be quite a distance. A good portion of the book is taken up with the Theseus-like fable of the Corn Maidens and a play about the Autarch. I'm sure these were dense with symbolism, but they slow the story even further and I just did not have the interest to try and work out how all the symbols might relate to the larger story. At this point I am not interested in continuing my re-read of this series.

4-0 out of 5 stars complex but compeling
'Claw of the Conciliator' is the second book in Gene Wolfe's 'Book of the New Sun'. This book, somewhat confusingly, does not pick up where 'The Shadow of the Torturer' leaves off, which is somewhat surprising since the end of the first book was kind of a cliffhanger. We never do find out (at least in this book) what happened at the end of first book.
This illustrates the nature of Wolfe's writing, it is somewhat cryptic as we always see Urth through Severian's eyes and he asssumes the reader has knowledge about Urth, it's history and environs that the reader does not. Also Wolfe uses many archaic words which many readers find frustrating. This didn't bother me to much as it is usually clear from the context what the word means, and it definitely adds atmosphere, as well as another layer of meaning, to the story. There are definitely a lot of layers of meaning and allusions, not all of which I grasped. It is a very complex but compelling work, which cannot be judged in isolation, but really as part of the whole 'Book of the New Sun' work.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Free SF Reader
Severian, a member of the Guild of Torturers, is journeying. He again
is involved in executions and violence, so this book may well be a bit
strong for some, or creep people out.

A very non-romantic fantasy.

... Read more

17. Peace
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 272 Pages (1995-06-15)
list price: US$16.99 -- used & new: US$11.55
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312890338
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Living out his final days in a small midwestern town, an embittered elderly man, Alden Dennis Weer, explores his unique imagination, which has the power to obliterate time and reshape reality. Reprint. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (16)

3-0 out of 5 stars Not quite what the back cover leads you think
So I started this thinking it might be about ghosts or fantasy worlds.Nope.Think old man's wandering thoughts.It's not BAD, but it's not great, either.There's a few small mysteries, a couple of which are cleared up, others that aren't.There are a few ghost/fairy tales, but they are told by people, not happening.The most fantastic world is that this old man is in a huge house (think Winchester Mystery House)and he can consult dead doctors about a stroke he's going to have.But mostly it's childhood reminiscing, with some adult memories, in that slightly depressing style popular at the time.It's a well-written book, the characters are complex and realistic.Just not much happens.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wolfe's finest novel.
Peace is not a book for everyone.It is best left to experienced readers who are eager to look between the lines.Casual readers will be frustrated by this novel, as with much of Wolfe's work.

This book is a masterpiece deserving a place next to the works of Dickens, Hemingway, and Melville.Like other fine literature, it is a work which should be savored with multiple readings. Like many of Wolfe's works, Peace is a horror story in disguise.If you're not paying close attention, you may not notice the mystery haunting this book.

I can assure you that while much of the book may not seem to make sense at first, everything does add up.What appears random is not.The pieces of the puzzle are scattered across the various unfinished stories in the novel.One story's beginning must serve as another's end.Characters masquerade across different stories.If you give up, as some reviewers apparently have, you can always search the internet for answers to this book's many riddles.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Book Not Easily Shaken Off
Although virtually unclassifiable, Gene Wolfe's 1975 novel, "Peace," was chosen for inclusion in both David Pringle's "Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels" AND Jones & Newman's "Horror: Another 100 Best Books." While the novel certainly does have shadings of both the horrific and the fantastic, it will most likely strike the casual reader--on the surface, at least--as more of an autobiography, telling, as it does, the story of Alden Dennis Weer, in the first person. Weer, a 60-something bachelor who has suffered a stroke shortly before he begins his tale, and who may or may not be a ghostly spirit, gives us the story of his life, in piecemeal fashion, withholding much and skipping about in accordance with the vagaries of his consciousness. A product of small-town America, somewhere in the Midwest (the fictitious burg of Cassionsville) of the early 20th century, Weer has many interesting incidents to think back on and ponder. The town where he spent his entire life, and his relatives, friends and coworkers, are revealed to us, "Our Town" fashion, but with innumerable digressions and tangents of tangents. I should mention right here that "Peace" is hardly an easy read. Its story is certainly nonlinear, its anecdotes always interrupted by Weer's side thoughts (he constantly leaves his tales unfinished, in favor of some other tale that has just popped into his head), his side thoughts seemingly inconsequential and meaningless. He is just as likely to ramble off into the telling of a fairy tale that he read as a boy, in the middle of one of his narratives, as not. Even Pringle has to admit that it is "definitely not a book for the impatient," and Roz Kaveney, writing about "Peace" in the Jones & Newman volume, tells us that the book "hops back and forth through [Weer's] life without resolution and without any clear sense of who ultimately he is." And that last statement is absolutely true. Weer, we get the feeling, is holding much back from the reader, and though we come to like and admire the man, we never get a clear picture, with all his circumlocutions, of who he is. His pinball consciousness may be hard to follow (but still, isn't this representative of how most of us really think...nonsequentially, with other thoughts and snatches of song and extraneous images constantly intruding?), and the man/ghost remains a cipher by the novel's end, but still, we sure do learn a lot about Cassionsville by the telling.

Or do we? In a key statement early on, Weer tells us that some of his remembered events "never occurred at all, but only should have, and that others had not the shades and flavors" that he has chosen to give them. He is an unreliable narrator at best. Still, the tales he tells us are fascinating ones. We learn of his eccentric Aunt Olivia, a lover of all things Chinese, and her three suitors; of Weer's job at a synthetic orange drink factory; of the local druggist's experiences with a man who is slowly turning to stone; of the local bookseller who is engaged in a very peculiar sideline; of Christmas at his grandfather's house; of Olivia's quest to obtain a rare porcelain egg. Many of Weer's tales seem to lack a payoff, although that payoff may come 100 pages later, while he is telling another tale. Other stories are seemingly the pointless ramblings of a meandering mind. Still, Wolfe writes beautifully, in this, a change from his usual sci-fi/fantasy epic format. "Peace" (that title is a troubling one...if Weer really is at peace when he writes his life story, that peace certainly does not seem to bring him any real solace) is a book that almost demands to be read slowly, and then reread in parts. Many casual statements and even characters that at first blush appeared unimportant acquire a greater significance at second glance. I'm not sure that I agree with Pringle when he declares the book to be "a masterpiece," but have no problem with his declaration that it is "moving and delicately written." It certainly is different, and, as I suggested up top, a completely sui generis experience. Mysterious, atmospheric and tinged with nostalgia and the grotesque, it is a book not easily shaken off.

3-0 out of 5 stars If only we could give half stars...
I am a fan of Wolfe and I enjoyed the book, but unless you are already of fan of Gene Wolfe, I would suggest starting with "Free, Live Free" or the New Sun series.
As a first novel it is an extraordinary work and most of his work compares with some of the greatest writers in the English language and that is the problem. Rossi's assesment of it being unreadable is as over the top as saying it should take a place on your shelf beside The Bard and Dickens, but for most readers it will be about as much fun as reading classic books for English Lit.
I want you to give Wolfe a try, but start somewhere else and don't let fan club comments of the five star crowd push you into the deep end.

5-0 out of 5 stars let this book draw you into Gene Wolfe's writing
Peace had been on my shelve for a long time, until, on one quiet sunday afternoon, I decided to go to my bookshelves and pull it out to read.

I closed it with a big gasp, only a couple days later.

This book is one of those that draw people into the genre. It is a very well written, thought provoking novel, that begs for a re read after the last line.

Gene Wolfe proves himself to be a master wordsmith, his writing is, for lack of a better word, succulent. If you are ready to be mesmerized by a book of magnificent literary proportion, read this one. ... Read more

18. The Shadow of the Torturer
by Gene; illustration by Michael Mariano Wolfe
 Hardcover: Pages (1995)

Asin: B000MBF7HI
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (22)

5-0 out of 5 stars Finally on audio!
For those of you enjoy audiobooks, this is the perfect time to finally read (or to re-read) Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer. Audible Frontiers recently put it on audio and the excellent Jonathan Davis is the reader.

The Shadow of the Torturer introduces Severian, an orphan who grew up in the torturer's guild. Severian is now sitting on a throne, but in this first installment of The Book of the New Sun, he tells us of key events in his boyhood and young adulthood. The knowledge that Severian will not only survive, but will become a ruler, doesn't at all detract from the suspense; it makes us even more curious about how he will get there and what he experiences on the way.

What makes Gene Wolfe's epic different from everything else on the SFF shelf is his unique, evocative storytelling style. The reader isn't given all of the history and religion lessons (etc.) that are often dumped on us at the beginning of a fantasy epic. Rather, Severian's story is episodic and seems like it's meandering lazily, taking regular scenic detours, as if there's nowhere to go and plenty of time to get there. Because the story isn't a straight narrative, we don't understand the purpose or meaning of everything Severian relates -- we have to patch it together as we go. By the end of the book, we're still clueless about most of it and we're starting to realize that Severian is kind of clueless, too. Much of the power of this novel comes from the sense that there is world-building and symbolism on a massive scale here, but that explanations and revelations for the reader would just cheapen it and remove the pleasure that comes from the experience of discovery.

In addition to being unique in style, The Shadow of the Torturer is a gorgeous piece of work: passionate storytelling (heart-wrenching in places), fascinating insights into nature and the human condition, beautiful prose:

Perhaps when night closes our eyes there is less order than we believe. Perhaps, indeed, it is this lack of order we perceive as darkness, a randomization of the waves of energy (like a sea), the fields of energy (like a farm) that appear to our deluded eyes -- set by light in an order of which they themselves are incapable -- to be the real world.

I enjoyed every moment of The Shadow of the Torturer. I love the oddness, originality, and challenge of it, the way that events I knew I saw coming didn't happen, and the unsettling sense that there's way more going on here than I'm being explicitly told and that it will probably take several readings to fully (if possible) uncover it. I can't wait to read on in The Book of the New Sun with Jonathan Davis. This story is deeply emotional and introspective and, as usual, Mr. Davis's performance is perfection.

5-0 out of 5 stars entrancing
For those like me who occassionally like to delve into fantasy worlds given weight and ambition, this is definitely an excellent book. Wolfe plays with the nature of his world and the identity of its characters--all of whom come to life under his masterful skill--and takes the traditional quest of the hero who will become himself off into previously uncharted directions. Many will find Wolfe to be dense and perhaps confusing, but a careful read of the text is both entrancing and rewarding. This book and the series that follows are a fine treat and should be sought by all lovers of fine speculative fiction.

1-0 out of 5 stars "Please, not the Book of the New Sun. Anything but the Book of the New Sun!!!"
A few words on Torture:
1. Reading this book is an Excruciation.
2. I would rather be waterboarded than read this book again.
3. Given the choice of reading another book in this series or putting my left eye out with a butter knife, spreading it on toast, and eating it, I would take the eye-toast.

I read these gushy reviews by these deeply-intellectual reviewers and I believed.
Like the prisoners of the Guild, who hope (hopelessly) to be released without being tortured, I turned each page hoping beyond hope that the boredom and confusion would end; that sense could be made; that there was, indeed, a purpose.
It is too late for me, I will bear the scars of this persecution of incomprehensible boredom for years...but there is still time to save yourself!!!

4-0 out of 5 stars Hopefully the payoff comes in the next book
'The Shadow of the Torturer' is the first book in Gene Wolfe's 'The Book of the New Sun' tetralogy. The story is narrated by Severian who is a member of the Guild of Torturers, until he is cast out for showing mercy to a client. The setting for the story is Earth (or Urth) in the far future where civilization has regressed and the sun is red and dying.
The book is very well written, but unfortunately the story just stops without any kind of resolution. Wolfe creates an intriguing world and there are hints of great things to come, but it is definitely a bit of a tease. It's difficult to rate a book like this, if the rest of the series is great then it is a great book, but if the rest of the series fails to deliver, then this book would have to be considered a failure. The series has a very impressive reputation so I will read on in hopes that the payoff will come.

3-0 out of 5 stars Low Recommendation
Minimum Maturity Level - Adult.
Sexual Situations.No Bad Language.

Previous Reading Required - None.
This book is the start of its series.

Reading Level - Advanced.
The author seems to make up words that I could not find in the dictionary and doesn't go into much explanation on what they are.Sort of like when you say 'horse', you know exactly what it is without definition.The author even explains this in his Appendix at the end of the book.

Rate of Development - Medium Paced.
The characters and plot develop throughout the story almost at a slow pace.Several characters are also introduced late in the book which doesn't give much time to develop.

The Story - Adventure.
Severian has been raised to be a Torturer in the Guild of Torturers.And it is exactly as it sounds.The guild tortures people for a living.People that are given to them by other leaders or authorities.It's not the guild's job to judge their 'clients', just to perform their duties.Severian sets out on his own due to consequences at which I cannot spoil for you, and finds the outside world is more that he thought.In the meantime, he meets various characters and is 'challenged' by someone unknown and he sets out to fulfill this 'challenge' which usually results in death.As a professional torturer, that doesn't seem to be a problem for him.

My Suggestion - Low Recommendation.
I found that the advanced use of words the author conveys to be a bit confusing at times and there's some detail of the world but not as much as I would of liked.The main plot seemed very trivial and should of been maybe a side plot instead.So that means there isn't any climatic ending here.Just kind of fizzles out a bit.There is a bit of mystery in it but from the point you are mystified to the point it is solved is like the amount of time to run to the grocery store.It definately opens up for the second book.But I'll be reading that another time, maybe when I run out of other books to read.

... Read more

19. The Urth of the New Sun: The sequel to 'The Book of the New Sun'
by Gene Wolfe
Paperback: 384 Pages (1997-11-15)
list price: US$16.99 -- used & new: US$9.42
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312863942
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Gene Wolfe has been called "the finest writer the science fiction world has yet produced" by The Washington Post. A former engineer, he has written numerous books and won a variety of awards for his SF writing.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (28)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Urth of the New Sun shines just like its predecessors
If you've read the Book of the New Sun and you're wondering whether or not to read this book, then rest assured it is well worth the read.The book seamlessly continues the story of Severian in his journey to bring the new sun in the same style as the previous novel.Wolfe brings light to certain unanswered questions from the first book, without ruining its mystique.

3-0 out of 5 stars good, but not as compelling as others in series
Ok, I love Gene Wolfe's work, and own most of it in hardcover because my paperbacks grew tattered and dog-eared; this one (still in paper) looks brand-new.This work just doesn't feel right; not because the prose isn't interesting, or because of the abrupt end. It just isn't compelling enough to pick up again. There's a weird "vibe" that you get when you read much of his work that stays with you, and it just feels missing from this one- and the abrupt end doesn't leave you wanting more, it's just irritating.

5-0 out of 5 stars Just buy it already.
If you've read the first 4 books of The New Sun series and enjoyed them, just buy this book right now. There's no point in reading a review, or spoilers or anything else, positive or negative. Just buy it and read it.

After you finish, you'll probably be intrigued enough at some of the hidden meanings to re-read the first 4 books in the series. In fact, the last 4 times I've re-read the series, I started with this book first as it lends itself well to being both the first and last book, because Severian's adventure is somewhat cyclical, like Finnegans Wake or what Giambattista Vico would deem a 'storia ideale eterna'.

3-0 out of 5 stars Questions Answered, but New Ones Arise
The Urth of the New Sun: The sequel to 'The Book of the New Sun' (New Sun) isn't so much a book as a lengthy pontification on the nature of man.As compared to other beings, Severian, tells the reader his philosophies as if they are to become volumes in his gospel (which is what we are supposed to believe.)

This is told via travelogue, where we find out where Severian has gone, what he's done, but not why.He spends much of his time trying to work through the largest of all Why questions, without resolving that satisfactorily.

But, at the end of the book, Gene Wolfe stops writing.We never find out the answers to Severian's questions because it seems that the author tired of the internal socratic dialogue, realizing that others tried before and also didn't come up with definitive conclusions.

All that said, Wolfe is still a talented writer, and even with flaws the volume is worth a read.I didn't throw it in frustration, but instead I savored the words and only became perplexed after days pondering the plot and realizing that those errors came through retrospectively.

Enjoy it, and the whole series.

- CV Rick

4-0 out of 5 stars Answers more than it entertains
The Urth of the New Sun is a coda to the Book of the New Sun, so going into it one has to expect a few things:

1) A story that builds heavily on what has gone before- this book is not for newcomers to this world!Read New Sun first.
2) Uncomplicated plots- this book is about half a story.Don't set your expectations too high.

However, if you can look at Urth of the New Sun getting past these first two hurdles, this book is the key that unlocks the secrets of the Book of the New Sun.Insight is provided on many questions left unanswered in the original tetralogy, and especially we learn a lot about Severian's character.

This isn't quite the Severian of New Sun, but it's still someone who has grown from there; still questionably insane, still the product of his society.Some more information is provided on the world.

All in all, the book is enjoyable, especially if you feel like you missed some major element of the Book of the New Sun.Urth of the New Sun isn't an incredible read, but it definitely filled me with some flashes of insight that made it well worth reading. ... Read more

20. Pirate Freedom (Sci Fi Essential Books)
by Gene Wolfe
Hardcover: 320 Pages (2007-11-13)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$8.02
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B001O9CG76
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description

As a young parish priest, Father Christopher has heard many confessions, but his own tale is more astounding than any revelation he has ever encountered in the confessional . . . for Chris was once a pirate captain, hundreds of years before his birth.
Fresh from the monastery, the former novice finds himself inexplicably transported back to the Golden Age of Piracy, where an unexpected new life awaits him.  At first, he resists joining the notorious Brethren of the Coast, but he soon embraces the life of a buccaneer, even as he succumbs to the seductive charms of a beautiful and enigmatic senorita.  As the captain of his own swift ship, which may or may not be cursed, he plunders the West Indies in search of Spanish gold.  From Tortuga to Port Royal, from the stormy waters of the Caribbean to steamy tropical jungles, Captain Chris finds danger, passion, adventure, and treachery as he hoists the black flag and sets sail for the Spanish mainland.
Where he will finally come to port only God knows . . . .
Pirate Freedom is a captivating new masterpiece by the award-winning author of The Wizard Knight and Soldier of Sidon.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (26)

3-0 out of 5 stars Good Swash Buckling, Not So Good SciFi
Every couple of years I read a Gene Wolfe novel just to see what he's up to. I know a lot of SciFi fans who think he's a god (see the reviews) but frankly I've never gotten it. This book surprised me however as it is a novel about a pirate with some inexplicable time travel thrown in. The time travel is minimal, almost an aside, and does nothing for the plot.

I cannot in good conscience recommend this for SciFi fans. But if you are into sailing ships, pirates, adventure, romance, and all that, you'll probably like it. BTW, I'm pretty familiar with the parts of the world where this takes place and Wolfe is pretty accurate on the accounts.

I'll just have to see if I want to return to his work in a couple of years.

5-0 out of 5 stars Spot the other time-travelers
This book rewards close reading with careful attention to detail. There are a couple of other time-travelers involved besides the obvious one. If you find them, the book becomes much more entertaining and there are fewer coincidences in the plot.

5-0 out of 5 stars Peripety
Pirate Freedom is simple enough on the surface, but it stays with you after you read it and makes you want to pick it up again. Why? - Is it because you couldn't quite puzzle out side details of the plot, or because you have a sense of missing a deeper meaning.A seminarian of the future chooses to leave his order before vows. Unexplained Providence sends him into a life of "Pirate Freedom". This tale is told in flashback by the Priest - so compare his life in the present as Priest to his life in the past as Pirate for their relative "Freedoms". Ultimately, in either life, he is bound, not by treasure or vows, but by love. You will want to keep this book so don't wait for the paperback.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wolfe is Wolfe
Once I read all the Jack Vance I could get my hands on, I thought that life was just a shade duller.No more Grateful Dead concerts and no more Jack Vance (though at least Jack is still alive, but...)

Then I found Gene Wolfe.Oh happy day!A writer who feels and thinks and tells a ripping yarn.What else do you need to know?He is wonderful and his writing is fantastic.

So what about Pirate Freedom?Well, it is not the New Sun.Nothing is.Still it is a good story, well told, and with a nice twist at the end.I think you will like it - I did.

1-0 out of 5 stars Appallingly Bad
I have been dazzled by almost everything Wolfe has ever written, even his relatively recent Knight and Wizard books, which were aimed at younger --quite young -- readers, yet still had a certain something to command one's admiration.This pirate book, while perhaps of some minor interest to a sailor (which I confess I am not), is dull and simple in plot and character development beyond my ability to describe. Worse, the writing is awful -- drab, nearly demeaning in style. It is hard to believe that Wolfe wrote it.I tossed it three-fourths the way through. I will not miss it. ... Read more

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