If you’re an avid reader of fantasy books with nothing new read, I highly recommend reading Gene Wolfe’s masterpiece tetralogy, The Book of the New Sun. Published from 1980 to 1983, Gene Wolfe the books chronicle the life of Severian, beginning with his youth raised by a guild of torturers in a post-apocalyptic depiction of a world called “Urth.” In four relatively short volumes (each about 200 pages), Gene Wolfe manages to unveil a rich story filled a dizzingly diverse cast of characters; aliens disguised as humans, giant sea creatures, cyborgs, and otherworldly animals among others populate the books. Even for the experienced fantasy reader, this series will offer new dimensions to the genre that will leave you begging for more.
Dense and complexly written, but an ultimately satisfying read
The four books in the series (Shadow of the Torturer, Claw of the Conciliator, Sword of the Lictor, and Citadel of the Autarch) are written in a first-person narrative style from the trained torturer Severian’s point of view. Severian recalls the events of the books from a point in the distant future, prefacing his tale with the claim that he has a perfect memory and can thus recall events from years ago without difficulty. Throughout the books he ruminates on past events with a linguistic complexity that may initially turn off readers, but give it time; The Book of the New Sun gradually yields deeply rewarding insight as the story progresses.
What to expect
The Book of the New Sun challenges the reader to stop and consider every aspect of its far-reaching and ambitious story. The books differ from many fantasy series in that the action is slow building and subtle; there are few instances of epic face paced battles or dramatic showdowns between rival characters. But the story’s restraint is perhaps its biggest asset. Pieces of the story are woven together with such slow and steady intricacy, and when disparate storylines finally emerge and clash the effect is nothing short of breathtaking.
There are other narrative styles at play in the series in addition to Severian’s first-hand recounting of his story. There are stories within stories such as entire chapters dedicated to a character telling a tale from their perspective or, in the case of one chapter, the rehearsing of a play between characters. Seemingly insignificant characters appear and disappear only to remerge much later suddenly to contribute a stunningly profound dimension to the story.
Gene Wolfe as a master of the genre
Gene Wolfe is well known in the fantasy world for crafting masterful stories at since he began publishing his work decades ago. His works have received rewards and accolades from fantasy and literary institutions the world over. The Book of the New Sun alone won a World Fantasy Award, a Nebula reward, and multiple Locus Awards. If you’re more interested in fantasy short fiction, check out one of Gene Wolfe’s many short story collections.
In short, Gene Wolfe is a treasure to the fantasy community— I encourage any reader with a slight interest in the genre to delve into his work. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with what you discover.
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This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99 @gmail.com.
This is a guest post, I look at the links before I post them to insure they aren't offensive.(my subjective decision).