Book of the New Sun

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,273
Location
Auckland, NZ
Okay, I'm going back in - I'm starting The Citadel of the Autarch today. Comments and overall reviews will crop up here in due course.
From the first pages it seems as if there has not been a big gap between the end of Sword of the Lictor and this volume, which makes a nice change, from the perspective of becoming acquainted with what's occurring on the page.
 

Simbelmynë

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2019
Messages
46
Okay, I'm going back in - I'm starting The Citadel of the Autarch today. Comments and overall reviews will crop up here in due course.
From the first pages it seems as if there has not been a big gap between the end of Sword of the Lictor and this volume, which makes a nice change, from the perspective of becoming acquainted with what's occurring on the page.
I’d be interested to get your final thoughts. The Book of the New Sun is possibly my favourite series of all time. I’ve read it twice and can say it definitely benefits from a re-read. When I picked it up the second time it was such a joy to fall back into the style of prose, and all the little mysteries started to reveal themselves a little further, bit by bit.

There are also a few short stories based in the same setting, at least one of which - The Map - helps to clarify a few things about the nature of Urth.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,273
Location
Auckland, NZ
I finished The Citadel of the Autarch last night. One could make the same general comments as for the other three books in the tetrology of course (dense, difficult to follow, inventive, strangely engrossing, well drawn scenes) but by now I think these are a given, so I'll not dwell on Gene Wolfe's slightly maddening, yet unique style.

I was hoping that, as the end of a series of books that are meant to stand alone (I know there are sequels, but this was written as a complete series and is always published as such), the book would reach a more definitive conclusion relating to the whole point of the books (i.e. the coming of the New Sun). One might argue that the pay-off in Citadel is that it explains what was going on in books 1-3, but to be honest, well before the end of this volume I understood who was what, what had happened and exactly what was going on. The end of Citadel therefore didn't have this pay off for me as there was no great 'reveal' such that the scales fell from my eyes. I read to the end and thought to myself, "well yes, okay, that was fine, but I'd worked all that out already and why didn't you finished the story"?

The four volumes of The Book of the New Sun are effectively an extremely dense and confusingly written 800 page prologue to a book written four years later. Having read it all, Urth is now in a position to consider obtaining a New Sun. That's a slightly trite over-simplification, but I did feel rather cheated. After reading all four books the over-riding purpose in the plot hasn't actually begun. I realise the follow on stand alone novel, The Urth of the New Sun does just this - and I guess I now have to read it - but one doesn't read an extremely dense and difficult four book series as a prelude to a separate 5th that was written years later.

Anyway - that aside - what did I think of the series as a whole, and would I recommend it? I think its a rewarding journey you take with Severian, and many of the scenes are excellent and beautifully drawn - Wolfe can write very well, when he cares to. Some of the diversions are unnecessary and slightly maddening, but they do lend the books a strange mystique that is memorable. At the end of the day, I'm glad I read it. It is certainly memorable, different to anything else I've read and mostly entertaining. Many have suggested that you have to re-read the series to get it (Wolfe even asks you to at the end of this book), but I think I get it already and life is short, so whether I do go through it again we'll have to see. I read those sections that were most confusing to me more than once in this reading and went back occasionally and re-read earlier passages to ensure I understood what was going on, after all. And would I recommend it to others? Probably not. Not because its bad, but because the chance would be too high that the person I recommended it to would stop talking to me, in high dudgeon. It's too idiosyncratic and purposefully difficult to recommend. Wolfe goes out of his way to make it as impenetrable as possible, after all - that's his style. I think folk should make their own minds up whether to give it a go. But if you do - you will have to read the later 5th book, or the main crux of the novels doesn't actually start, let alone finish.
 

picklematrix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2018
Messages
464
I always think of the 5 books as one book.
Is URTH a valuable addition?

I haven't read it, yet at least, but I have been made to believe that it further explains the previous books, which is not necessary for everyone.

Its even been stated that Wolfe only wrote it to bring literal minded readers up to speed on the setting.
 

althea

If I won't be myself,who will be?
Joined
Oct 28, 2014
Messages
334
Location
North Wales
I think Gene Wolfe is an acquired taste.I acquired it some time ago. In the beginning I was a bit bewildered by his style,but grew to enjoy it.
I love it when people make up their own words.
 

althea

If I won't be myself,who will be?
Joined
Oct 28, 2014
Messages
334
Location
North Wales
I recently read this quote about Gene Wolfe. Unfortunately it's second hand to me,so I don't know who said it.
"If Wolfe had written Murder on the Orient Express, there would be no Hercule Poirot to divine clues from triviality. The reader would play the role of the detective. And the characters would seem strangely unfocused on the murder altogether. There would be an on-going debate among readers about whether there was a murder to begin with. And the story would unfold from the point-of-view of a red cap who was hopelessly smitten by a waitress in the dining car. "
 
Top