Soldier in the Mist by Gene Wolfe

February 27, 2005 at 12:00 am | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | Leave a comment
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Gene Wolfe cements his role in my mind as the greatest living author of science fiction and fantasy (and one of the best of any genre) with another very strong book. More so than some of his other fiction, Soldier in the Mist is a high concept character piece (at least, I think–more on that in a minute). The main character, a soldier in the Pelopennisian Wars of ancient Greece, has sustained a head injury causing him to forget everything after the battle and continue to forget everything except the past fifteen hours or so. Luckily for him he is literate, and Soldier in the Mist is the record he writes for himself so that he can achieve some sort of continuity in his life. Did I mention his condition, being similar to the blindness and madness traditionally associated with religious vision, allows him to see and interact with the Greek Gods and Godesses? Well, it does. Complications ensue.

What most impresses me about Wolfe is the way he frequently uses the first person yet every narrator comes off as a unique person. That is what I most enjoyed about this book, which out of honesty I have given four stars even though I strongly suspect I would rate it five stars if I knew just a little more about ancient Greece. I will probably pick up a lot more the second time through…whether or not Wolfe books are your favorite SF, I think most people would agree (though they might see it as a negative) that the layering of the prose rewards rereading to an extent almost unique in the genre. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who finds Greek myths or history interesting. Everyone else is also advised to read it, though they might want to start with some of Wolfe’s more famous work first.

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