Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

April 18, 2004 at 12:00 am | Posted in 5 stars, Book Reviews, Science Fiction | 1 Comment

Long story short, this is a great book and strongly recommended. I’ve written a more elaborate discussion of the New Sun books in my review of Urth of the New Sun. In the meantime, here is what I wrote after reading Shadow of the Torturer, when I was very intrigued but not yet convinced.

A book with the precise opposite feel from what I was reading before. Where the Miles books are light and fun, Wolfe has written a dark and brooding book. It is pretty much the opposite of a procedural narrative in that vast amounts of the narrative…both the details of the world and actual events in the story…are presented through insinuation instead of through explanation. Wolfe, on purpose I’m sure, presents a constricted and hazy view of a vast world. After spending the first third of the book fumbling around trying to build a Grand Unified Theory of what was going on I finally just learned to sit back and let Wolfe handle it as he wished. That’s not to say it is Pynchon…somehow the characters and their motivations remain crystal clear amidst the blurry setting. I know I’m making it sound very odd, but it’s an odd book, and it’s one that works. The world, though hard to see, is fascinating, the characters are well-written, and then there is the matter of some underlying meaning…like reading Banks in his weirder moments, the reader can choose between letting the book carry them along for a ride or diving down and reading dialogue and stranger moments carefully in search of meaning. Either path is rewarding.

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  1. Hi, a very late comment, I know. I read this short review and also the Uther-one & am still wondering a little what that sentence means: „That’s not to say it is Pynchon…somehow the characters and their motivations remain crystal clear amidst the blurry setting“.

    I am right now looking for interesting, lets say „artful“ fantastic authors to read after I provoked in an article for a German newspaper with criticism of the overt praise of the artistic qualities of GOT/AsoIaF (into which your texts on the subject matter also provided me with some insights, thanks for that kind of in-debt analysis). The thesis being: Fantasy is largely lacking novels which try more than either following or subverting classic tropes, there is virtually no-one doing for the genre what eg Dick or Gibson did for scifi…

    …OK, trying to cut this short: Following readers suggestions I’m now on a „fantastic review journey“ (mostly in german, but one review can be read in english translation on ferretbrain – ) and I feel like Mr. Wolfe might be worth a look.
    Anyhow, I consider not being Pynchon kind of a malus in a writer 😉 … So my question would be: How much of a look is he worth (I withdraw that, youre clearly convinced of that author, which should be enough for me), so more importantly: can the Sun series by any means be qualified as fantasy (I’m rather loose on criteria there), as Wikipedia does, or is it in the end clearly science fiction?

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