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[ kindle ] The Book of the New SunAuthor Gene Wolfe –

Recently Voted The Greatest Fantasy Of All Time, After The Lord Of The Rings And The Hobbit, Gene Wolfe S The Book Of The New Sun Is An Extraordinary Epic, Set A Million Years In The Future, On An Earth Transformed In Mysterious And Wondrous Ways, In A Time When Our Present Culture Is No Longer Even A Memory Severian, The Central Character, Is A Torturer, Exiled From His Guild After Falling In Love With One Of His Victims, And Journeying To The Distant City Of Thrax, Armed With His Ancient Executioner S Sword, Terminus Est This Edition Contains The First Four Volumes Of The Series

10 thoughts on “The Book of the New Sun

  1. says:

    The Book of the New Sun SFF s greatest and most challenging epicOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureTHE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN is considered by many SFF readers as the greatest, most challenging, and most rewarding SF fantasy epic ever written in the genre At the same time, its baroque language, ambiguous plot, unreliable narrator, and depth of symbolism are likely to discourage most casual readers Therefore, new readers need to dedicate themselves to unraveling the many layers of plot, religious symbolism, literary references, and narrative sleight of hand They also need to understand that it is essentially a single integrated work, so reading individual volumes is not enough to render judgement You need to read all four volumes to appreciate what Gene Wolfe has painstakingly crafted If you do so, you will be rewarded richly indeed.I ve actually read the entire series twice in the past two decades, and decided that I would listen to the audiobook editions narrated by the excellent Jonathan Davis to give me a new perspective on the whole creation He is the ideal narrator for a work this ambitious, as he tackles the baroque story with gravitas, confidence, and enthusiasm I can t imagine a narrator better suited to the task.THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN is that type of work, one that rewards multiple readings and reflection and still retains many of its mysteries tantalizingly out of reach If you are someone comfortable with complexity, mysteries, and a lack of explanations, you should be able to enjoy Wolfe s elusive style.This time I also prepared myself by reading Marc Aramini s Between Light and Shadow An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986, an 826 page analysis covering Wolfe s output through 1986, including all of his short stories and his novels The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Peace, Free Live Free, and THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN Aramini s analysis sheds much light on the key underlying themes of the story, namely the death and resurrection of the Urth via the coming of the New Sun, the ambiguous messianic nature of the protagonist Severian, the healing power of the Claw of the Conciliator, and Severian s duty to undergo testing by alien powers to determine if humanity is indeed worthy of this rebirth.There are so many themes and ideas in Wolfe s epic that it has spawned an informal school of analysis, including books such as Michael Andre Druissi s Lexicon Urthus, Robert Borki s Solar Labyrinth Exploring Gene Wolfe s Book of the New Sun and Peter Wright s Attending Daedalus Gene Wolfe, Artifice and the Reader Therefore, it would be presumptuous of me to try to analyze his magnum opus in a brief review such as this Rather, I will just touch on the most important themes of the book and dispense with a discussion of plot details, which you can discover on your own.To drastically simplify things, THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN is the story of the young apprentice Severian raised in the guild of torturers called the Seekers for Truth and Penitence He recalls to the reader his complex path from lowly apprentice to the Autarch of the Commonwealth, the most powerful ruler on far future Urth This world lies millions of years in the future, to the point that our own world is no longer even a memory It is a baroque fantasy world filled with mysterious terms such as archon, carnifex, cataphract, chalcedony, fuligin, hipparch, lazaret, monomachy, optimate, pelerine, psychopomp, quaesitor, thaumaturge, and uhlan None of these terms are coined by Wolfe, but rather reflect his erudite love of obscure and archaic terms They lend an air of incredible antiquity to the world of Urth, and the story takes direct inspiration from Jack Vance s THE DYING EARTH.Severian encounters all manner of friends foes, allies and enemies, lovers, thieves, soldiers, actors, priests, witches, commoners, malevolent creatures, inscrutable aliens, and other powerful beings whose intentions are unclear What they all share is an interest in the fate of Severian, for though he does understand this himself for much of his journey, he is destined to not only become Autarch but to serve as the representative to the stars to determine if the dying red sun of Urth is worthy of being renewed in both a symbolic and literal sense, ushering in a New Sun and renewed era of humanity It is an outcome that is constantly alluded to but never fully explained, though Wolfe later explored this is detail while still retaining much mystery in a companion coda called The Urth of the New Sun 1987.The religious symbolism of the story is both explicit and complicated Severian is positioned as the obvious messiah, the living embodiment of the New Sun, and as he wields the cross shaped executioners sword Terminus Est, the Christ like imagery is plain for any reader to see And yet throughout the story, Severian himself is a naive and conflicted character, one who struggles first to set aside his training as a torturer and executioner, and later as a man fighting to understand his role as a possible bringer of redemption and resurrection to a corrupt and dying world This goes far beyond a Christian allegory such as C.S Lewis CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, for instance Of equal importance is the religious talisman that comes into Severian s hands by accent, the Claw of the Conciliator This object seems capable of bringing the dead back to life and healing fatal wounds when Severian wields it, and is associated with the Conciliator, a figure of the ancient past who is both Christ like and may also have extra terrestrial origins.THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN also incorporates a number of stories within stories, told by various characters and also in the form of stage plays performed by the characters echoing the story itself from the author s perspective during key moments in the narrative One could write a dissertation on interpreting the meanings of these stories as they relate to the overall themes of the book, and this effort is far beyond me, but Marc Aramini does discuss the implications of a number these stories in his book Marc Aramini s Between Light and Shadow An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986, including Dr Talos play Eschatology and Genesis , The Tale of the Student and His Son , The Tale of the Boy Called Frog , The Cock, the Angel, and the Eagle , The Armiger s Daughter , as well as some extremely vivid dreams of Severian This literary device is equally vital to understanding the layers of meaning in his book Peace.The story is further complicated by the roles of Abaia, Erebus, and their servants the undines, underwater beings of great power that seem intent on conquering humanity, but at the same time provide aid to Severian at times and may even benefit from the inundation of Urth if Severian is to succeed in bringing the New Sun They are constantly observing Severians progress, but it is unclear whether they seek to aid or prevent his quest.We also have the even inscrutable role of the Hierodules, alien beings from other worlds that reside on Urth and also take a keen interest in Severian and his path to becoming the Autarch Despite their implied powers, they sometimes seem to indicate that they serve him, but this in never made entirely clear They appear to have a connection with the current Autarch, but it is not apparent whether they favor Severian over his rule.Finally, there is the ambiguous role of the reigning Autarch himself, and his mysterious advisor Father Inire They obviously wield great power, and if they were to decide Severian were a threat to them they could easily have him killed Yet they instead appear in various guises in his adventures, never clearly his ally or enemy, always with opaque intentions and tantalizing comments Father Inire in particular seems to control the power to travel between the stars via the sinister power of mirrors and labyrinths an obvious nod to Jorge Luis Borges , but does not demonstrate to what end he might use them.In the end, THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN does not easily yield up its secrets to interpretation or analysis, but this is most certainly the source of its lasting appeal to discerning literary SFF readers over the last 35 years There are layers of meaning that remain obscure even after multiple readings, but it is clear that Wolfe has crafted a masterpiece that is worth the attempts to conquer it, a literary Mt Everest that every serious reader in the genre will be drawn to again and again, and there is much to be gained in each attempt, whether the peak is attained or not.

  2. says:

    Umwow I have now read this book twice in the past year, and am looking forward to regular rereads every December.I had heard lots of fantastic things about Gene Wolfe, and this series in particular, so I figured this was the best place to start The first time through, I thought it was good A little slow in parts, and other times it was difficult to keep up with what was going on, but overall Very enjoyable I rated it a modest 3.5 stars, figuring I d revise my rating up after subsequent rereads A couple months later, I was still thinking about TBotNS, so I revised my rating to 4 stars.Then some random impulse possessed me I, who give little time to rereads, and had already done one this year to do a reread in December, a year removed from my first reading As anticipated, it was even better but I was surprised by just how much better it was As expected, much of the book made sense, puzzle pieces fit together readily, and good parts from my first read felt like old friends But many of the slow parts now raced by, and the handful of short stories retold by the narrator Severian which before had mostly bored me I now savored I found myself moved and rendered misty eyed by unexpected passages It was, in a word, MAGICAL.My new rating was to be 4.5 stars, but it wouldn t stop there For throughout much of the book, I felt almost like I was studying a religious text which indeed, it is, at least in story There s a depth to Wolfe s book that invites scrutiny and searches for meaning Not being much of a critical reader myself, I m fine with the realization that I ll never grasp 90% of the true substance of TBotNS but just as someone like myself can be absolutely terrible at Go, yet appreciate the profound brilliance of the game, so too can I recognize the genius of Wolfe s masterpiece 5 stars it is.This review tells nothing about the actual story of the book, and I will not apologize for that Rather, I think that that is the way TBotNS is best approached know that it ostensibly takes place millions of years in the future, and go from there Be warned that though the first time through may confuse, it will also reward, and subsequent visits bring yet greater rewards As for me, I m looking forward to many years of rewards.

  3. says:

    Reading this book is the closest I ve come to replicating the sensation of dreaming.

  4. says:

    After the final analysis, I believe The Book of the New Sun tetralogy is a dystopia But it s not all, the book is also a picaresque novel Severian a gloomy and outlawed picaro embarks on the quest of his life, to find his future and his destination in the dying bleak world But there is to it his exotic adventures in the luxuriantly decadent world can t be nothing but thoroughly decadent as well so the book follows in the footsteps of the darkest myths of the past I was no sooner calm than I realized that I had dropped Terminus Est, and at that moment losing that blade seemed terrible than the chance of death I dove, not even troubling to kick off my boots, forcing my way through an umber fluid that was not water purely, but water laced and thickened with the fibrous stems of the reeds These stems, though they multiplied the threat of drowning many times, saved Terminus Est for me she would surely have outraced me to the bottom and buried herself in the mud there despite the meager air retained in her sheath, if her fall had not been obstructed As it was, eight or ten cubits beneath the surface one frantically groping hand encountered the blessed, familiar shape of her onyx grip.At the same instant, my other hand touched an object of a completely different kind It was another human hand, and its grasp for it had seized my own the moment I touched it coincided so perfectly with the recovery of Terminus Est that it seemed the hand s owner was returning my property to me, like the tall mistress of the Pelerines I felt a surge of lunatic gratitude, then fear returned tenfold the hand was pulling my own, drawing me down Severian, like an ancient mythical hero, is protected by gods, he can raise the dead and work other miracles Were you born as you are Or was Piaton actually thrust upon you in some way Already, I think, I had begun to realize that my life would depend on finding out as much as I could about this strange being.The head that spoke laughed My name is Typhon You might as well call me by it Have you heard of me Once I ruled this planet, and many I was certain he lied, so I said, Rumors of your might echo still Typhon He laughed again You were on the point of calling me Imperator or something of the sort, weren t you You shall yet No, I was not born as I am, or born at all, as you meant it Nor was Piaton grafted to me I was grafted to him What do you think of that Evil waylays Severian at his every step so he must fight and destroy it and keep advancing toward his mysterious goal.

  5. says:

    I just raised my rating from 4 stars to 5 after my second read through The Book of the New Sun ranks among the best books I ve read in my 55 years on the planet I can see why the NYT called it a major work of twentieth century American literature and the Washington Post called Gene Wolfe the finest writer the science fiction world has yet produced The story is set so far in the future that the Sun is dying That is all I ll say about the plotno spoilers here Very well written Deeply conceived Full of hints and clues that you don t recognize until they reveal themselves later in the narrative The narrative is so convincing because he shows you Severian s the protagonist world and rarely explains it In this way your own speculations about the physical world, society, class structure, the character s experiences, history, cosmology, technology, philosophy, etc., engage you in this world s creation with the readerly rewards that accrue thereof I stopped short countless times to gaze in wonder though a window to the imagination he d just opened Some of these ideas he explores in depth Others come and go in a sentence or two how many are still there waiting for me to find Beings for whom time flows in the opposite direction than it does for us who know your future because the first time you meet them is the last time they meet you Evolved beings who ve created a reality that is outside of time and not subject to the cycles of destruction engendered by the expansion and contraction of our universe think Big Bang to Big Crunch and back againand again The Moon, glowing green because it was forested by men at the dawn of mankind a dawn that is still millennia in our own future Entire mountain ranges carved in the distant past into titanic statues of long forgotten rulers, so ubiquitous that Severian is overwhelmed when he first sees a mountain uncarved A researcher from one of mankind s possible futures dwelling in a house with three stories, each of which exists in a different Age moving between them is as simple as going up and down the stairs As Severian descends across the face of a high cliff he passes though not just the geological record, but the rock entombed cities of earlier civilizations of man What I ve glimpsed through these portals has now become part of my universe Thank you Gene May I call you Gene

  6. says:

    I read this at the recommendation of a friend, otherwise I probably would not have finished it It s a very odd book The premise is interesting enough, and the writing is actually pretty good as well, if from a bit of an odd perspective However, somewhere between those two it falls apart There is no thrust to it It feels aimless Individual scenes are good, but have little to do with the scene before them or after them There is great detail spent on things that are not relevant to the plot, and things that are relevant to the plot are often vague and underdeveloped This is all, I suppose, somewhat realistic, but it does not make for a good story.The end ties things together somewhat, but not nearly well enough to justify a disjointed 900 page book.

  7. says:

    My favourite book of all Bar none This is so far removed from what people think of as fantasy or science fiction that it is almost impossible to describe to someone who is yet to read it Some of the most finely crafted writing there is In any genre Gene Wolfe is one of those authors who some people just don t get, his style can be disjointed temporally and ambiguous descriptively but if it clicks you will be a fan for life.This is undoubtedly his masterpiece The Book of the Long Sun and The Book of the Short Sun are wonderfully written tales and The Urth of the New Sun is darkly crafted dream of a book but this is unparalleled Even if the label of fantasy or science fiction turns you off do not hesitate to enrich yourself by reading this You will lose yourself for days and you will not return unchanged.

  8. says:

    I don t get it It s sloppily constructed, intentionally vague, and peopled with ridiculous characters There is distinction between wit and mere cleverness, and this one clearly belongs in the latter category I m not sure exactly what happens and upon perusing the other reviews I find I am not alone in that , but I also don t care what happened Getting through the fourth book was a laborious chore that I only embarked upon in the faint hope that it would make sense of the first three books the second and third of which were read for the same reason Though it wears a cloak of science fiction it is mere fantasy, complete with all the idiotic plot devices which make fantasy unbearable extended dream sequences, magic swords, mysterious people who all know than the narrator but refuse to let him in on their secrets, prophecies and demons and angels Blah.

  9. says:

    In the fantasy genre, coming of age tales abound Commoner becomes emperor stories abound Nobody becomes great wielder of magic stories also abound The Book of the New Sun is all of these But it s also a story told in the first person by a possibly insane former torturer who claims to have perfect recall, but who may have multiple personalities Oh, and did I mention he is a Christ figure I won t even begin to try to summarize the series, though The back cover jackets do a decent job, but they fall short This is, after all, Gene Wolfe And Wolfe does not like traditional narratives, tidy storylines, clear endings, obvious character motivations, or reliable narrators So if you delve into this world, be prepared you re in for a very wild ride.The set up is interesting and chillingly prescient It is so far into our future way farther even than the world of Dune , that the sun is actually dying There is very little light on the earth, and that physical darkness is mirrored in the abysmal darkness of humanity in moral terms Nothing, and I mean nothing, is taboo any There is very little virtue people merely survive, and the bad ones survive obscenely In this world we find a strange, innocent soul Severian is a young torturer, who commits the unthinkable he falls in love with one of his victims and allows her the easy exit of suicide, rather than subject her to the intricate and horrendous tortures of a guild that has made torture into artisanal craft Even stranger than this he continues to practice his trade though it is mostly execution, not excruciation and it does not make him callous, cruel, or corrupt He is childlike, even as everyone human and superhuman begins to vie for his attention, and it becomes clear that he is destined for something great and terrible But that s all too tidy and not at all Wolfian The actual account is nowhere near that linear We are interrupted by Robin Hood style bandits who turn out to be far worse than the corrupt king they battle a troupe of actors whose leader may or may not be the Devil himself ugly, lamprey faced aliens that could actually be angels carnivorous monsters who speak with the voices of the people they devour And then there s the healings, the transformation of water into wine, the satanic parody of the Eucharist It s very nearly too much to swallow.But through it all, Severian s simple, humble voice keeps us anchored We begin to see that for a world so far gone in a moral sense, there is a kind of brilliant irony in making a former torturer the worst of the worst become the eventual Redeemer of a planet on the brink of death But is he the Redeemer Can we even trust him Has everything he recounted simply been the hallucinations of a fractured personality gone mad Who knows And it doesn t matter, because ultimately, the story is a gorgeous one Though the world he describes eerily recognizable in subtle hints is darker than black fuligin, in the parlance of the novels , it provides the ideal canvas for brilliant explosions of beauty that are searing in their intensity No, this series is not for the squeamish It s ugly, dark, and frightening in parts But underlying it all is vivid hope, joyful because it is so pierced through with grief.

  10. says:

    Where do I start with this This is probably the most intellectually stimulating work of fantasy or science fantasy, whatever you call it I ve read Wolfe doesn t pull his punches, he expects his readers to catch all the little hints and references he drops, and then he starts playing around with it to amuse both himself and the reader This book has its often humoristic meta It has intertextuality It has an unreliable narrator, approaches science fiction under so many angles, and a puts up a damn creative defence or at the very least discussion of christianity.All while telling a fantastic, coherent story with imaginative prose The best part of it is, anachronistic as the work is, that the bigger picture of the story is slowly woven into something that starts making sense Most books start up a plot from a firm base and then build onwards from there, like a tower, but BOTNS is like a tapestry where you discover colours and patterns as you go on As the final pieces all fall in place near the end, it becomes something beautiful and different entirely.Dense prose and dry at times, yes, but after reading long enough I felt it simply grows on you with this fascination that keeps you turning pages, wanting to delve deeper, making you eager to know what happens next Infused with the catholic beliefs Wolfe holds, yes, but as Pullman Wolfe s ideologically opposite, yet similar counterpart though I believe Pullman merely aspires what Wolfe successfully achieves once said Every kind of work has a moral voice, whether we want it or not view spoiler Has this book converted me from staunch atheist to committed christian, as Severian is slowly converted by the in universe BOTNS and his travel experiences No hide spoiler