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 Post subject: The Book of the New Sun: The Shadow of the Torturer
PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 3:53 am 
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Master Pilot

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Independant review: The Shadow of the Torturer
This book, the first installment of The Book of the New Sun, is far from being self-contained. Rather, it sets the stage and introduces us to Severian, the narrator of all five books, and his world. The world is Urth: a sad, jaded future Earth that is based somewhat on Jack Vance's Dying Earth books. For example:

As far as the candlelight flew there was only row upon row of books stretching from the floor to the high ceiling. Some of the shelves were disordered, some straight; once or twice I saw evidence that rats had been nesting among the books, rearranging them to make snug two- and three-level homes for themselves and smearing dung on the covers to form the rude characters of their speech.

I consider The Book of the New Sun to be one of the best works of science fiction ever written; it therefore (and this should go without saying) holds its own alongside the best modern non-science fiction. The problem is this: a lot of people don't enjoy reading Wolfe. He employs elaborate symbolism, many difficult (but real) words, unreliable narrators, intricate foreshadowing, stories that contain themselves, and a dozen other literary devices. These devices are skillfully interwoven and must be understood in order to piece together the plot. Furthermore, Wolfe writes puzzles: he deliberately leaves important (and sometimes crucial) facts hidden to various degrees; Severian's omissions, his incorrect guesses, his reordering of events, his lack of emphasis when delivering important bits of information, and his outright lies all serve to obscure the true nature of events. I recall reading that Wolfe prefers not to insult his readers by mentioning any fact twice; most readers, I think, end up wishing that Wolfe would risk insulting them every now and then. People who enjoy sifting through clues, reading closely, and doubting the veracity of everything that is said often end up enjoying The Book of the New Sun enormously. It contains amazing imagery, first-rate world building, wonderful observations about human nature, and sparks, in many readers, the occasional jaw-dropping moment of clarity when some previously hidden connection is revealed. For readers who enjoy Wolfe but who need some help (and we all do, I think) it can be found in the form of reviews by John Clute, the essay Books in the Book of the New Sun in Plan[e]t Engineering, Castle of Days, Lexicon Urthus, and the archives of the Urth and Whorl mailing lists. *****
Before, you are wise; after, you are wise. In between you are otherwise.
Fravashi saying (from the formularies of Osho the Fool) <i>Edited by: danlo60 at: 5/20/06 9:16 pm
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 Post subject: Re: The Book of the New Sun: The Shadow of the Torturer
PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 4:29 am 
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Location: Chicago suburbs
The Book of the New Sun, four published volumes (Shadow of the Torturer, Claw of the Conciliator, Citadel of the Autarch, Sword of the Lictor) by Gene Wolfe. Did you know that this series fictionalization of Gene Wolfe's conversion to Catholicism.h taraswizard
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 Post subject: Re: The Book of the New Sun: The Shadow of the Torturer
PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 12:25 am 
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Lady Scryer
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Location: Michigan, USA
I was not aware of that, Taras, but if I ever work up the nerve to read that series, I will definately keep that in the back of my mind. ******************************************************

Our lives are the songs that sing the universe into existence.~David Zindell
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 Post subject: Re: The Book of the New Sun: The Shadow of the Torturer
PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2006 5:45 pm 
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Master Pilot
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I'd take that with a grain of salt. Wolfe has never said so directly, and there are even scholars who suggest it is a critical rebuke of catholicism.

I think I still need to read it a couple more times, and Short Sun a few more times, before I make any kind of judgement.

It's no secret that Wolfe is Catholic, though. Some call him a crypto-catholic, I believe, saying he's of the pre-Vatican II disposition. *shrug* The religious tones in Bria, WK, and even Latro are hard to miss, though. Heh, but I try not to hold it against him. ________________
I wanna feel the metamorphosis and cleansing I've endured within my shadow. Change is coming. Now is my time. Listen to my muscle memory. Contemplate what I've been clinging to. -Tool, "Forty-Six & Two" <i></i>


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 Post subject: Re: The Book of the New Sun: The Shadow of the Torturer
PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2006 4:05 pm 
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Location: Chicago suburbs
And the most well known fantasy writer of the 20th cent., John Robert Rueul Tolkien, was a Catholic, too. One of his childern said their father was a "spiky Catholic". taraswizard
Allan Rosewarne N9SQT/WDX6HQV
Chicago area
W/T forever, always
Plan C - http://planc.bravepages.com/main.html
Buff_fans_Chicago http://tv.groups.yahoo.com/group/buffy_fans_chicago/
live journal http://taras-wizard.livejournal.com<i></i>


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