Questions regarding Book of the New Sun...Help!

abaiaspecter

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Nov 5, 2012
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I'm on my third read through of The Book of the New Sun. While several of the mysteries have been solved, I'm still frustrated with a few:

1) How does the Claw work? I understand it's all Severian's doing, and he uses the claw to focus his energies, but why does it work sometimes and not always? Why does it glow? And how can Severian call upon such powers in the first place? He's the New Sun, but the New Sun is a white hole, right?

2) In The Citadel of the Autarch, what's the significance of the extended dream sequence in the chapter titled 'Fever'?

3) Is Father Inire Fechin?

4) Can you show me actual instances where Severian withholds information from the reader because he feels uneasy talking about it?

5) What did Severian wake in the Mines of Saltus?

6) A number of paintings described by Severian (a dancer whose wings seemed leeches, a woman with a double bladed dagger wearing a mortuary mask) are impossible to figure out. There is the obvious Neil Armstrong reference, but what else is he naively describing?

7) What's the big fuss about Dorcas being Severian's grandmother? Does it serve any function apart from shock value?

These books have taken up a LOT of my time, as I'm sure it has yours. I'm just another fan hopelessly caught in Gene Wolfe's web of words. But if you'd be kind enough to answer even a few of my questions, I'd be extremely grateful.

Also, I haven't read Urth of the New Sun, as I haven't the time. I wouldn't mind spoilers, so please go ahead if you like.
 

Stephen Palmer

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Hi,

I'll answer as many of your queries as I can 'off the top of my head,' but here's a link to an article I wrote, republished a few years ago on Ultan's Library, the online Gene Wolfe resource.

http://www.ultan.org.uk/religions-implications-new-sun/

----------------

I think the Claw is a bit of a red herring, as it is Severian who works the "magic." You could argue that the claw is an object of deliberate fooling. Also, it is a pyx - the actual object is the "flaw." The New Sun is a complex conglomeration of many things, including the Conciliator. It is also the possible future white hole.

I don't think Father Inire is Fechin.

Perhaps the mother/grandmother/Dorcas/Catherine thing is all set out to show that Severian is a flawed character who must perfect himself.


You definitely should read The Urth Of The New Sun, it is an essential part of the work, not just a tacked-on fifth volume. Much that is obscure in TBOTNS is answered there...
 

abaiaspecter

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Many thanks, Mr Palmer. :) Normally I wouldn't worry about figuring everything out in a book, but science fantasies such as The Book of the New Sun are rare, and with every passage or sentence of startling beauty, there are a hundred odd plot choices that seem to take away from the book's grandeur. For instance, near the end of The Claw of the Conciliator, Severian rides an ox which apparently wasn't one before he brought the Claw out, as the Herdsman remarks. I can't quite figure out the nature of the New Sun. Also, I have a sneaking suspicion Dorcas killed Jolenta, especially with her going on and on about how it was actually a blood bat. If that is the case, I'll probably have to rethink everything all over again!
 

Merlinme

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Many thanks, Mr Palmer. :) Normally I wouldn't worry about figuring everything out in a book, but science fantasies such as The Book of the New Sun are rare, and with every passage or sentence of startling beauty, there are a hundred odd plot choices that seem to take away from the book's grandeur. For instance, near the end of The Claw of the Conciliator, Severian rides an ox which apparently wasn't one before he brought the Claw out, as the Herdsman remarks.
As I understand it, the point about the ox is that it is actually a bull, i.e. a male. An ox is a castrated bull. Ox are much more placid than bulls. What amazes the herdsman, the miracle, is not that the ox became a bull; the miracle is that a bull allowed them to ride it, presumably because of the power of the Conciliator.
 
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