Cities of the Red Night
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Cities of the Red Night (The Red Night Trilogy #1)

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  2,938 ratings  ·  146 reviews
While young men wage war against an evil empire of zealous mutants, the population of this modern inferno is afflicted with the epidemic of a radioactive virus. An opium-infused apocalyptic vision from the legendary author of Naked Lunch is the first of the trilogy with The Places of the Dead Roads and his final novel, The Western Plains.
Paperback, 332 pages
Published May 4th 2001 by Picador (first published 1981)
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1984 by George OrwellThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerAnimal Farm by George OrwellBrave New World by Aldous HuxleyFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Cult Classics
104th out of 362 books — 596 voters
Naked Lunch by William S. BurroughsThe Soft Machine by William S. BurroughsCities of the Red Night by William S. BurroughsJunky by William S. BurroughsNova Express by William S. Burroughs
The Best of William S. Burroughs
3rd out of 18 books — 12 voters


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Arthur Graham
Cities of the Red Night follows a dual narrative, slipping fluidly between the early 18th century exploits of a libertarian pirate crew, led by gunsmith Noah Blake, and the late 20th century “private asshole” (Clem Snide) hired to find the decapitated remains of one Jerry Green -- victim apparent of a bizarre hanging/sex cult. It is worth noting that hanging and the spontaneous erections/ejaculations induced by this mode of execution factor heavily into both tales, at times serving as the litera...more
Scott F
An amazing roller-coaster ride through the unconscious. The main plot lines (a pirate story, a detective story, a sci fi/fantasy story) run parallel at first, but frustrate any hopes of proceeding in a straightforward fashion - they get more and more confused, hazy, and collapse into one another, until eventually you have no idea what you're reading. But this is misdirection, and here lies Burroughs' genius: even as you try to make sense of the inexplicable, he is painting in your peripheral vis...more
Mike
WSB doing bathhouse steampunk: a cut-up tale of boys, pirates and cowboys, queens, ejaculating weapons and wangs, private dicks and drugs all set in cities, deserts and jungles situated at various point in time and reality. There isn't much in the way of character development, most of the players are adolescent in form (as well as sexuality). Theatrical throughout to the point of sometimes becoming a gay burlesque within a gay burlesque. Regardless the chemical additives running in his veins, Mr...more
Frances
This was my first (and so far only, although I am about to start The Place of Dead Roads) William S. Burroughs book, so I don't know how it compares to his other work. The cut-up technique makes the plot almost impossible to follow, there are naked boys everywhere, it jumps wildly back and forth in time and main character, so if you want a straightforward read choose something else.

HOWEVER, if you want something that is highly artistic, unique, and slightly shocking, go for it! This has become o...more
Tempo de Ler
Cidades da Noite Vermelha terá necessariamente que ser um dos livros mais confusos, estranhos e repulsivos que eu já li… William S. Burroughs foi muito bem-sucedido nesse propósito. É também um livro que eu não gostei de ler

As narrativas, separadas pelo tempo, espaço e sabe-se lá mais o quê (!), tornam-se cada vez mais caóticas e bizarras até um final do qual é muito difícil tirar algum sentido. Contudo, não foi sua complexidade que me impediu de apreciar a obra.

Também não foi a sua violência v...more
Perry Whitford
Virus 23 is a virulent and fatal disease that causes sexual frenzies and violent death and is threatening to break out into a pandemic. The virus has been latent since pre-history, before the existence of white-skinned peoples, caused by a meteorite / black hole incident in the Gobi Desert, where peaceful townships suffered mutations when the radiation triggered the virus and turned paradise into The Cities of the Red Night.
Burroughs, in an uncharacteristically (mostly) coherent vein, adopts (mo...more
Mike Kleine
There are times when you know something is probably good and you know others think its probably good and for some reason, you should probably read that something but no matter how many times you try, you just can’t ever get over the mind-fuck that ensues. And yes, there are good mind-fucks but sometimes, there are also bad mind-fucks. This one is a terrible mind-fuck.

The premise is awesome: lots of people are dying because of an epidemic/plague/what-have-you and some queer stuff takes place (it...more
Robert Kaiser
I loved Cities of the Red Night, as well as the Red Night trilogy as a whole. I have been through the trilogy twice now, and plan on reading them all at least one more time. When discussing literature with friends, I always tell them I think Bill Burroughs should be ranked up there with the greatest of American writers and that, if it weren't for the level of homophobia in this country, he would be considered the American James Joyce. I was an honors student in a university English program, and...more
J
Having recently read The Rolling Stone Book Of The Beats got me interested in checking out some Beat writing. It's been a long time since I read any Burroughs or Kerouac. The last thing was Burroughs' Exterminator!, which I really enjoyed, so I thought I'd have a go at Cities Of The Red Night. It's definitely getting into Burroughs with a bang. Non linear as they get, this story is impossible to explain. What would be the point? I'd say it's a metaphor for rulers and the ruled and the dream of o...more
Andy
AIDS-era Burroughs tale of a killer virus, pirate shenanigans and boys doing what boys do best(guess). After re-reading it I kicked it up one star to four because it reminded me of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Dusan Makavejev movies from the early Seventies. If you liked Holy Mountain or Sweet Movie you'll like this. The plot is a dog's breakfast but I'd read it in small spurts, yes spurts - we need to use that word in a Burroughs review.
Del Herman
Anthony Burgess referred to this 1981 installment in the canon of Beat writer William Burroughs as "a piece of sexual strangulation" while J.G Ballard referred to the book as Burroughs creating a new "literary mythography". My position on the book seems to lean in a moderate position between the two critics, as I agree to a certain extent on both of their points. This is a mixed bag, I in some ways loved it and in some ways condemned it, my thoughts sometimes sympathizing with Mr. Ballard and at...more
Mat
A Warning of the Faustian Decline to Come........and it has already started.

I'm not sure why but this was a really enjoyable book to read over the summer. (Read this during the summer of 2011)
Many criticisms have been levelled at this book. However, I feel the reviewer of December 2, 2005 on amazon.com in particular has hit the nail on the head. It is not easy reading and is definitely not for the faint-hearted or prudish.

As the above reviewer points out, this trilogy is for thinking people an...more
Nathaniel
Burroughs can introduce himself:

"The usual costume is boots and chaps, bare ass and crotch. Some have tight-fitting chamois pants up to midthigh and shirts that come to the navel. Many are naked except for boots, gun belts, and hang-noose scarves. Nooses dangle every ten feet from a beam down the center of the room."

"Streaks of phosphorescent shit, a smell like rotten solder, burning shivering sick, he needs the Blue Stuff. Dry blue crystals of snow on the floor stir in an eddy of wind and a cry...more
James Newman
"Cities" affords a logical conclusion to the various literary techniques and experiments employed by Burroughs over three prolific if somewhat confused decades of work. The straight forward narrative style of his debut novel "Junky" is thankfully reinvented peppered with a Chandler type detective story which sets the early theme of the book. This overlaps a pirate story based on the apparently factual adventures of Captain Mission and his colony of Libertatians. The book develops to suggest an a...more
Michael William West
Hm. Not aged well, Burroughs. Or maybe I have, as I was mad about this aged 17 but now it seems tiresome. Taking the repetitive gay porn out of this would reduce its mass to a pamphlet. It would be an excellent pamphlet. The AIDS/Spanish Flu/Love as a virus conceit feels a bit of a vague platform. The cut-ups in CotRN seems more arbitrary than in earlier stuff, a shame because there's occasionally very interesting Burroughs-gents into astral projection, Shakespeare, ancient races and the state o...more
Jason
Burroughs's best, with reservations. In the intriguing parts of this 'everything AND the kitchen sink thrown-in' book you get (amongst MANY varying plots and scenes) non-Disneyesque liberal-minded pirate culture, Clem Snide's 'private asshole' detection into wealthy men seeking immortality through sodomy-strangulation, and an episode of a possible black hole in China's distant past that breeds a modern 'radiation virus,' B-23. All of these are wild, but solid narratives that are ruined by Burrou...more
Josh
Somehow both highly readable and largely incomprehensible. I got through half of it in a weekend, so it's no slog, but I still don't think I'm going to finish it. I'm already starting to feel like I've had enough of Burroughs' obsessions and, per numerous other reviews, I'm not even to the part where things get really weird.
Ken!
Everyone's injecting and ejaculating and exploding. I like that there's a detective story, a pirate story and I think an end of the world story going on at the same time but none of them were interesting enough to stop me from putting this down halfway through.
Brian Fagan
This is the only book I've read of Burroughs after Naked Lunch that really stood up to the author's immense powers. It's just as crazy only with a slightly more coherant storyline, but only slightly.

Great book with lots of homo-auto-erotic-axphysiation.
Andrew
Am I too old for William S. Burroughs? I read Naked Lunch when I was 17, and it was such a breath of fresh air. Obviously, Burroughs wasn't too old for Burroughs, and he was much older than me when he wrote Cities of the Red Night. This is the fourth book of his I've read, and it's easily the least impressive. And I'm not sure, but I think I probably would have liked it a lot more as an impressionable teenager. Some good bits here and there, some rather fun futurism and surrealism, but at the en...more
Patrick O'Neil
A bleak future, fascist government, servant boys, and balls of opium - It's Burroughs, need I say anything more?
Nicholas
After previously reading " The Western Lands" which marked a move away from the sex fantasy side of the authors nature into a more Egyptian magical realm,I thought I'd try this earlier work,only to be assailed by erect penises and rectal mucus at frequent intervals.Apart from that! the two intertwining stories of a modern day private eye and a band of 18th century pirates worked well,although inevitably at the end it dissolved into an almost incomprehensible time distorted orgy of sex and viole...more
Sam
Having finished reading of Cities of the Red Night for the first time i am consumed by the notion that i have completely wasted my time. The narrative of the first two acts, though apparently incomprehensible and very abstract at times, was quite fulfilling and i assumed that Burroughs would be able to bring the different narrative strands together and resolve his story. Alas, he does not do this very well or at least in any way satisfying to me.
I am perfectly willing to accept the possibility t...more
Mike Kleine
There are times when you know something is probably good and you know others think its probably good and for some reason, you should probably read that something but no matter how many times you try, you just can’t ever get over the mind-fuck that ensues. And yes, there are good mind-fucks but sometimes, there are also bad mind-fucks. This one is a terrible mind-fuck.

The premise is awesome: lots of people are dying because of an epidemic/plague/what-have-you and some queer stuff takes place (it...more
Socialbookshelves.com
William Burroughs is insane, and this novel is a weird tale of sex, surrealism and death spanning centuries that's inspired by his own experimentation with heroin, orgones and spurious religious beliefs. Cities of the Red Night is the first book in his final trilogy of novels (the Red Night trilogy), and it's followed by The Place of Dead Roads and The Western Lands.

Loosely speaking, the non-linear plot alternates between a group of pirates seeking the freedom to set up an anarchist community du...more
Socialbookshelves.com
William Burroughs is insane, and this novel is a weird tale of sex, surrealism and death spanning centuries that's inspired by his own experimentation with heroin, orgones and spurious religious beliefs. Cities of the Red Night is the first book in his final trilogy of novels (the Red Night trilogy), and it's followed by The Place of Dead Roads and The Western Lands.

Loosely speaking, the non-linear plot alternates between a group of pirates seeking the freedom to set up an anarchist community du...more
Steven Shroyer
I read this book back in 2006 when I began college at a small branch of Kent State University in New Philadelphia. 6 years later and now living in a small apartment in the same town I decided to re-visit this book.

How to describe this book in terms of plot? To put it in general terms there are 2 stories, one about a young man who joins a ship's crew in 1702 and ends up becoming involved in a revolt against the Spanish in South America, and one about Clem Snide a Private Eye(or "Private Asshole"...more
Leile Brittan
Eh, definitely a great premise, but I feel like old Bill Burroughs just doesn't pull it off this time around. Really in the end, the whole thing just seems like a mess. Don't get me wrong -- I don't have a problem with the fact that there is a non-linear storyline, or that almost all of the characters are homosexual drug addicts. It's just that all of those elements are also at the forefront of the second novel of the same trilogy (Place of the Dead Roads), and that instance I feels like he succ...more
Jim
It's been years since I've read Burroughs......I remember him as being brilliant.....one of those authors who becomes an obsession.....in the same way, atleast for me, that Mervyn Peake, and Samuel Beckett were obsessions, but not comparing them otherwise.)

Burroughs was brilliant. I need to re read some of him. Probably starting with this Trilogy.

(I think it's going to be the Year of the Trilogy (or greater) with me. Reading the Baroque Cycle now. (Which is another ball of wax entirely) Maybe...more
Mike
Guess I needed a fix…but not sure why?

CITIES OF THE RED NIGHT is more “readable” than NAKED LUNCH…kind uh. The beginning is intriguing…then there are the cities of the red night which, I am not sure, may have been a long description of a smutty delirium. I began to merely hear the sentences, opposed to listening to them…so I may have been unable to fully appreciate its true essence. If the text contains symbolic meaning, allegory, a concrete message, a consistent character, a consistent plot, o...more
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William Seward Burroughs II, (also known by his pen name William Lee; February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century...more
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“This book is dedicated to the Ancient Ones, to the Lord of Abominations, Humwawa, whose face is a mass of entrails, whose breath is the stench of dung and the perfume of death, Dark Angel of all that is excreted and sours, Lord of Decay, Lord of the Future, who rides on a whispering south wind, to Pazuzu, Lord of Fevers and Plagues, Dark Angel of the Four Winds with rotting genitals from which he howls through sharpened teeth over stricken cities, to Kutulu, the Sleeping Serpent who cannot be summoned, to the Akhkharu, who such the blood of men since they desire to become men, to the Lalussu, who haunt the places of men, to Gelal and Lilit, who invade the beds of men and whose children are born in secret places, to Addu, raiser of storms who can fill the night sky with brightness, to Malah, Lord of Courage and Bravery, to Zahgurim, whose number is twenty-three and who kills in an unnatural fashion, to Zahrim, a warrior among warriors, to Itzamna, Spirit of Early Mists and Showers, to Ix Chel, the Spider-Web-that-Catches-the-Dew-of-Morning, to Zuhuy Kak, Virgin Fire, to Ah Dziz, the Master of Cold, to Kak U Pacat, who works in fire, to Ix Tab, Goddess of Ropes and Snares, patroness of those who hang themselves, to Schmuun, the Silent One, twin brother of Ix Tab, to Xolotl the Unformed, Lord of Rebirth, to Aguchi, Master of Ejaculations, to Osiris and Amen in phallic form, to Hex Chun Chan, the Dangerous One, to Ah Pook, the Destroyer, to the Great Old One and the Star Beast, to Pan, God of Panic, to the nameless gods of dispersal and emptiness, to Hassan i Sabbah, Master of Assassins.

To all the scribes and artists and practitioners of magic through whom these spirits have been manifested….
NOTHING IS TRUE. EVERYTHING IS PERMITTED.”
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