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The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  1,185 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
A superb collection of science fiction and fantasy stories, The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories is a book that transcends all genre definitions. The stories within are mined with depth charges, explosions of meaning and illumination that will keep you thinking and feeling long after you have finished reading.


11 • The Island of Doctor Deat
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 15th 1997 by Orb Books (first published June 1980)
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A. Dawes
Apr 20, 2016 A. Dawes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I've read many of Wolfe's longer works. I admire his novels, but they also really grate on me. The women are all hot and desirable sex objects, which the protagonist usually has his way with, yet his other ideas are modern and interesting.

Wolfe tends to utilise unreliable narrators to great effect. He also creates a very cold atmosphere at times.

But here, at the novella/novelette length, Wolfe really won me over. The cold atmosphere works a treat, his exploration of theme is also tighter. Funn
Chess problem composers do this thing they call "tasks", where the challenge is to create a problem which has some unusual formal property. The most famous one is the so-called "Babson Task". You have to compose a problem in which White plays and forces mate in a certain number of moves. Black can defend by promoting a pawn, after which White will also promote a pawn, and it must be the case that if Black chooses to promote to a Queen, White can only win by promoting to a Queen; if Black promote ...more
Jul 25, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing
"Tracking Song" is one of the best stories ever..presages Jeffrey Ford's The Beyond and Jeff Vandermeer's Veniss Underground or Michael Cisco..truly surreal and disturbing.."Death of Doctor Island" does the same for Stepan Chapman's The Troika, and "Seven American Nights" is endless disturbing and witty(a weird Wolfe trait), terrific mindblowing fiction..note I used the adjective disturbing twice in this review...I could also have used chilling, intriguing,mystifing,bizarre,funny, and anything t ...more
Dec 17, 2008 Zach rated it it was amazing
I had originally given this 4 stars, just because some of the stories here didn't do that much for me (relatively speaking), but based on the amount of thought I've devoted to "Tracking Song" since reading it, I'm bumping it to 5 for that story alone.
Perry Whitford
Jun 12, 2011 Perry Whitford rated it it was amazing
Throughout the 1970's Gene Wolfe was a more committed writer of short stories than he was a novelist. This collection features many of his best from that time, from very short yet puzzling pieces like 'La Befana' to, long, dazzling pieces such as 'Seven American Nights'.

I prefer Wolfe's longer short pieces, which could be considered novellas. He leaves so much out, even in his novels, that the shorter the story the less room he has to say enough to point you towards the stuff he leaves unsaid.
Dec 08, 2014 Shawn rated it liked it
The great turning wheel that is my reading list (a hideous and chimerical patchwork monstrosity years in the making, fed by three major currents/sources and currently being revised into a form that can be utilized for the the remainder of my life) has now landed on the "genre short fiction 'to be read'" slot and so I consult my carefully curated lists and, sure enough, there is my list of genre short fiction stories that I have not yet read but have noted, over the years, as being worth my time ...more
Jan 14, 2009 John rated it it was amazing
I'm rereading this book for the fourth time maybe (I've lost track), going back to when I was in junior high, and I'm finding that my opinions of certain stories have changed over the years. I liked the title story a lot more than I remember, but I was shocked at how weak "Alien Stones" seems to me now. "The Death of Dr. Island" was originally my favorite story in the collection, but it didn't seem quite as good this time, even though I understood it better now than ever. That might be a case of ...more
Alice Lee
Oct 02, 2008 Alice Lee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
This collection of short stories is my introduction to Gene Wolfe, and boy was it an immersive read. This is exactly the kind of writing that can stand the test of time; every story deserves to be read, re-read, and then read again, each reading shedding new light in ways that give the story an wholly different dimension in which to be appreciated. For example, after reading Seven American Nights (my favorite story from this collection), I spent hours poring over online discussions pertaining th ...more
Kyle Muntz
May 01, 2016 Kyle Muntz rated it it was amazing
I just read through most of this for a third time. It's an odd collection in some ways, since it's mostly made up of novellas--and almost all of them represent some of Wolfe's best work. In particular, the best stories here are full of moments so strange the're basically surrealism, except tied to this very meticulous storytelling and great prose. Some standouts for me are The Death of Doctor Island (which has a really interesting, slippery use of dialogue, and so many brilliant scenes), Trackin ...more
May 22, 2007 Andrew rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who want to expand into weird and underappreciated short fiction
There's a popular blurb that says that Philip K. Dick was our Borges or Calvino, but that people don't know that because he mostly wrote Science Fiction. I think it's safe to put Gene Wolfe in that category - what he's doing, especially in his short stories, easily joins the ranks of Calvino, Borges, Barthleme, Nabokov, and even Joyce, and in many cases surpasses them. Since Wolfe is primarily thought of as a science fiction author, he isn't a household name in the way that the aforementioned ar ...more
Aaron Singleton
May 05, 2012 Aaron Singleton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf, gene-wolfe, horror
The best place to begin if you are new to Wolfe. A sampling of (some of) his very best short fiction. The highlights (IMO) are "The Death of Doctor Island", "The Toy Theater", "The Hero as Werwolf", and "Seven American Nights". If you like this collection, chances are you'll enjoy his longer works, too. Most highly recommended.
Jan 23, 2014 Allison rated it it was amazing
I grew up living next door to this author and am only now reading his work. I'm new to the genre, but really loved these stories. They're difficult and thought provoking, and almost better the second read. I'm hoping I run into Mr Wolfe around town and tell him how much I loved them!
Jun 18, 2008 Andreas rated it really liked it
Some stories in this collection are outstanding and I tend to rate the book higher but 4 stars is a fair rating. I haven't read "The Doctor of Death Island" yet but want to provide the following (spoiler free) review while the memories are still fresh.

When you open the book, slow down and take your time. The stories are not fast-paced. Instead you will find an almost overwhelming love for details that contribute a great deal to the atmosphere and, well, weirdness of the stories. If you need help
Nov 14, 2007 Sus rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sus by: Haengbok92
This profoundly strange book is... What is it? The strongest things in the strongest long stories here are the same things I've found so frustrating in his shorter, later works (as in Innocents Aboard): resonance and implication without resolution. The open structure of these stories can work (at least, for a reader like me), but they need to be long enough and move slowly enough for the depth itself to work: to create patterns that don't demand neat tying-up, to make echoes that will themselves ...more
James Adams
Dec 25, 2016 James Adams rated it really liked it
An interesting collection, wide-ranging in tone and content. I wouldn't consider these works particularly accessible, for the most part, but they are rewarding. I will readily admit to not understanding them all, but they are almost all engrossing, some hypnotically so. Still, as with any collection, there are highs and lows.
Highs: Both "Tracking Song" and "Seven American Nights" are austere, hypnotic stories involving very different quests. These are repetitive, but in such a way as to be tranc
Jan 27, 2008 Jeff rated it it was amazing
[from my book lover's journal; presumably written a couple months after reading]
The brilliance of Wolfe's work inspired me to attempt the The Book of the New Sun a 2nd time [i finished it—heavy lifting!]. Like Delany and Rushdie and others before them (Faulkner, Woolf, Poe, Le Guin), i fall in love with the author while reading. Maybe it's just the familiarity i feel toward the isolato (as one critic calls Wolfe's lonely, isolated characters) that draws me this strongly toward his work, but i al
Gene Wolfe is one of those authors where I couldn't help acquiring as many of his books as I could after reading just one series (the Book of the New Sun quartet), but didn't actually get around to reading those other books until recently. I didn't much care for Home Fires and stopped reading about halfway through; this collection of short stories is another matter.

Whereas Home Fires was fairly boring and straightforward (at least in the part I read), all the stories in The Island of Doctor Deat
Sep 15, 2010 Samee rated it liked it
Gene Wolfe. He writes finely crafted scifi. He's a Korean War vet. And he is one of the men who helped bring you PRINGLES. What's not to like? This collection of some of his best short fiction displays his strengths as a writer of 'literary' and conceptual scifi. I personally enjoy Wolfe because he manages to do homage to the genre while also paying attention to issues of craft, creativity, and construction. Notable stories: "The Island of Doctor Death..." linked trilogy, "The Hero as Werwolf," ...more
Jul 21, 2017 Arianna rated it it was ok
This was a slog for me. I don't know if it's Wolfe's writing style, or the complexity of each world Wolfe built, but each story presented a new, frustrating challenge. I bought the book due to the amazing reviews, but it just wasn't for me.
Jan 18, 2015 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this a lot. I didn't used to really like short fiction, but then I read that Theodore Sturgeon book last year and liked it a great deal. I found this in a used book store. Man do I love used books.

Some of the stories were very obviously Gene Wolfey, mixing science fiction and what seems like historical fiction. Primitive stuff. I love that shit. However Wolfe always uses this weirdly stilted dialogue, his characters talk like no one in real life actually talks. I didn't notice that in th
Aug 15, 2007 Christopher rated it really liked it
THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR DEATH AND OTHER STORIES AND OTHER STORIES (yes, it's supposed to be titled that way), first published in 1980, is Gene Wolfe's first collection of short stories. It brings together 14 works published in the 1970's, some of which originally appeared in Damon Knight's "Orbit" anthologies. Like with any collection of short stories it ranges widely, but the volume does contain some of Wolfe's finest pieces.

The first story in this book may make the reader wonder why exactly Wolfe
Greg Bates
Dec 04, 2012 Greg Bates rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
I am horrifically torn writing this review. On the one hand, Gene Wolfe is in my shortlist of favorite writers ever (depending on when you talk to me, I might say he is my all-time favorite writer) and when he is on, he's on. Many of the stories in this collection - "The Death of Doctor Island", "Tracking Song", "Seven American Nights" - could stand up in any "best of 20th Century Science Fiction" collection and are some of the most intricate, thought-provoking pieces of short fiction you'll eve ...more
Emilia P
Apr 10, 2008 Emilia P added it
Shelves: lost
I can't rate it because I only read a few of the stories.
I read them because they were related to LOST or so said my papa. And they were were.

The first one I read, "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories," which was basically about a little boy who was a part of a monster story and didn't know it.

The second one I read was "The Death of Doctor Island" which was the most clearly LOST related one...and it was kind of awesome...about a simulated island that's a satellite of Jupiter on which 3
Lewis Zimmerman
Apr 16, 2008 Lewis Zimmerman rated it really liked it
Certainly one of Wolfe's better books of short stories. However none of the stories quite reach the poignancy of his first rank works, such as the novellas in The Fifth Head of Cerberus. To appreciate Wolfe's stories you have to be able to accept the limited and very unreliable viewpoint of his characters. If you can consider the story and what the story tells about the storyteller in the book then you will get a lot more from Wolfe. In this he is like a science fiction (oh I hate the term) Faul ...more
Aug 10, 2011 Michael rated it liked it
This book was such a disappointment. I'd been wanting to read Wolfe for years and thought the collection of short stories would be a good place to start. Plus, a friend had highly recommended the story 'The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories'. After reading the collection, I have to admit that I had to force myself to finish the book. It's not that the stories are written badly, they're written wonderfully, and for the most part I started each story thinking, 'this will be the one that red ...more
Eric Wisdahl
Dec 02, 2008 Eric Wisdahl rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, sci-fi, fantasy
Unfortunately, short stories, novellas and novelettes are rarely my thing. I get just caught up enough in them to start really enjoying them and then they end. Eh, what can you do? As is, I can't quite decide whether I liked this book or I really liked it.

If any of the three main stories (the doctor / death / island cycle) had been full fledged novels I probably would have loved them. I also really enjoyed "the eyeflash miracles" and "seven american nights". In reality, the whole collection was
May 27, 2015 Slawkenbergius rated it it was amazing
Very interesting collection. I'm a big fan of Gene's novels and I was very excited to read some of his short fiction. After all, much of his long-form work is just a bunch of short stories strung together. I was very pleased with the result. My favorite stories were "The Hero as a Werwolf", a kind of take off on the "I am Legend" concept, and "Tracking Song", a delightful survival story. As is common in Gene Wolfe works, I felt compelled to re-read the whole thing once I was done. I haven't done ...more
Feb 18, 2009 Benji rated it it was ok
Although it received awards this is exactly the sort of science fiction that gives science fiction a bad name. It was ultimately depressing. The author is a geek and in every story some other geeky guy gets a hot babe in a really banal way. I know William Gibson does it too but its ok when he does it. Trust me. Neither artist nor philosopher some of his stories probably seemed new at the time in a cyber punky sort of way. Perhaps the science part of science fiction does go obsolete but when you ...more
John Walsh
Aug 19, 2011 John Walsh rated it really liked it
I've read a half dozen of Gene Wolfe's books and loved them without understanding them. This one takes the top prize--I don't think I get what happens in half of the stories. Yet I keep reading him. Not sure if that's something I should be admitting, but he's doing something right, since I bought a second copy of this one after losing track of the earlier mass market paperback. His stuff is certainly stimulating, and I hope some night I wake up and just 'get' him. But he doesn't bore me, and tha ...more
Isabel (kittiwake)
A book of very varied science fiction stories, notwithstanding the fact that three of them had very similar titles: 'The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories', 'The Death of Dr. Island', and 'The Doctor of Death Island'.

I like the fact that the stories tended not to be tied up neatly at the end, since all the unsolved mysteries gives you more to think about and means that the stories aren't instantly forgettable. My favourites were "The Death of Doctor Island", "Hour of Trust" and "Tracking
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Gene Wolfe is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He is noted for his dense, allusive prose as well as the strong influence of his Catholic faith, to which he converted after marrying a Catholic. He is a prolific short story writer and a novelist, and has won many awards in the field.

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award is given by SFWA for ‘lifetime achievement in science fict
More about Gene Wolfe...

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“This is what mankind has always wanted... that the environment should respond to human thought. That is the core of magic and the oldest dream of mankind, and, here on me, it is fact.” 1 likes
“He had a wild yellow beard and long, tangled hair that stood out from his head in a way that made it seem too large for his shoulders, though they were twice the width of mine. But these were not the things I noticed first. Nor, I think, the things that anyone would notice first. Before anything else, I saw his eyes: They were huge, and yellow as gold. And after that, I saw the way he moved. Cim Glowing is beautiful, and walks with liquid grace; but sometimes she looks clumsy beside him. I think I had guessed who he was before she called his name. “Ketin,” she said, and raised the endieva wand as though to strike, backing away until her shoulders were against the wall. “Yes, Ketin,” the bearded man said. His voice was like a storm five kilometers off.” 1 likes
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