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On Blue's Waters (The Book of the Short Sun #1)

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,053 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
On Blue's Waters is the start of a major new work by Gene Wolfe, the first of three volumes that comprise The Book of the Short Sun, which takes place in the years after Wolfe's four-volume Book of the Long Sun. Horn, the narrator of the earlier work, now tells his own story. Though life is hard on the newly settled planet of Blue, Horn and his family have made a decent li ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 2nd 2000 by Tor Books (first published September 2nd 1999)
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The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene WolfeThe Sacred Band by Janet E. MorrisHell Bound by Andrew P. WestonThe Claw of the Conciliator by Gene WolfeThe Fish the Fighters and the Song-Girl by Janet E. Morris
High Literary Fantasy
67th out of 125 books — 44 voters
The Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussThe Wise Man's Fear by Patrick RothfussThe Meat Market by James ChalkBlood Song by Anthony  RyanThe Secret of Excalibur by Sahara Foley
First Person Fantasy Sci Fi
103rd out of 171 books — 94 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,826)
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Perry Whitford
Sep 24, 2015 Perry Whitford rated it it was amazing
The first book in the final leg of Wolfe's defining work, the Solar Cycle odyssey, comprising no less than twelve books in total.

And "odyssey" is the operative word here, because there is little question that Homer's epic poem forms the template for this narrative as Horn, the principle narrator of the preceding, Book of the Long Sun, sets off to find the missing hero of that work, Patera Silk.

Horn travels across the water's of the planet Blue, encountering along the way a Circean witch, a cycl
Oct 17, 2011 Christopher rated it really liked it
On Blue's Waters is the first volume of Gene Wolfe's science fiction trilogy "The Book of the Short Sun". This trilogy is a follow-up to his four-volume "Book of the Long Sun", and both of these works take place in the same universe as his acclaimed tetralogy "The Book of the New Sun", all forming what is often referred to as the Solar Cycle. Before coming to this work, you should have read "The Book of the New Sun" and "The Book of the Long Sun" and my review will assume you have.

The basic plot
Oct 25, 2012 Janet added it
Shelves: fiction, sff, bookclub, 2010
This is the first book in 'The Book of the Short Sun', which follows 'The Book of the Long Sun'. I found the first 70 or so pages slow going, as they assumed a knowledge of the characters and setting that were in the previous series. However, it began to be interesting, and then became compelling. The story is told in flashbacks and digressions, with the narrator making retractions and corrections as he goes, which appeals to my love of an unreliable narrator.[return]The planet has gods and godd ...more
Daniel Otto Jack Petersen
Sep 30, 2015 Daniel Otto Jack Petersen rated it really liked it
This is not a proper review. No idea why this was marked as 'want to read' for me. Pretty sure I'd already read it when I signed up to Goodreads years ago. Anyway, it's possibly my very favourite book by Gene Wolfe. And this Book of the Short Sun trilogy is probably my favourite among the 'Solar Cycle', even though I know the initial Book of the New Sun is rightly considered his magnum opus and masterpiece. I just prefer a number of things about this series, even though it gets so dense it's nea ...more
Althea Ann
Sep 28, 2013 Althea Ann rated it really liked it
I've all of the volumes of Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun," but none of the "Book of the Long Sun," which I believe is really intended to be read before this book (and its sequels).
I did intend on sometime getting around to the Long Sun. However, this one was on a birthday wishlist, so it got bumped up! And - it is an excellent book.
The story is science-fantasy - in a far future, humanity has left the artificial world known as the Whorl, and has recolonized two planets, Green and Blue. On the eart
Nov 17, 2008 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing
As the first book in a trilogy, that is loosely (very loosely) tied in with some 9 other books also from Gene Wolfe, this book has a heavy burden to let people get their feet wet without drowning. As I have read the other books, I can't fairly judge how well he pulled it off, but as the only set of Wolfe's books that I feel I'm starting to get a handle on, it must be more accessible than his others (or maybe just better hidden). I would suggest that part of the availability of the book is Wolfe' ...more
Aug 31, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it
Once again, Gene Wolfe is blowing my mind. While this series is a continuation of his "Solar Cycle" and continues roughly 20 years after the "Book of the Long Sun", he's taken a different approach to the narration. The narrator, Horn, was a very minor character in the previous series. Now, having left the gargantuan starship on which he was born and lived for his early life, Horn has been living on one of two vastly different planets. One is the home of vampiric shape-shifters, and both bear the ...more
Feb 17, 2014 Mark rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 21, 2011 Gary rated it it was amazing
Another Wolfe book to love. This one centering on Horn, the kid Silk stole the ball from as he had his enlightenment to kick off the long sun books. In that one act, Silk and Horn became bound and it becomes increasingly so. In this book, you'll find out what the inhuma's are. There are always weird Gods, strange vanished races, astral projecting waifs and animals that talk or bite that can be expected in any wolfe story along the way.

Horn is very amoral for a moral chap.
the "short sun" series is probably among wolfe's most accessible works. although, like many of his other books, they are part of the same autarch omniverse he's created, they almost stand alone, and they're more purely science-fictional than his other efforts. the prose is still rich, the ideas are still startling, and the questions asked are still unanswered, but, for all that, this is wolfe at his most approachable.
Dec 26, 2009 Paul rated it it was amazing
I loved it. But of course, I loved all of Gene Wolf's books. This series comes aftr the Book of the Long Sun, and doesn't make a whole lot of sense without it. It spans three worlds, one human-made and two where humans have been trying to settle after a long long journey across the stars. HIs language is beautiful, though dense, and it brings together effortlessly fantasy, sci fi and horror into a cohesive whole.
James Wilde
Jun 22, 2014 James Wilde rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wilde-shelf-1
Complex. Intriguing. Gene Wolfe novels really stick in your head. His writing is vivid and cinematic, in the sense that I, at least, can think back through his novels and run them forward with full color details, images, feelings, and wonder.
Jan 11, 2015 Robert rated it really liked it
Another strong showing from Gene Wolfe. The style is highly discursive, jumping from topic to topics, memory to memory, all filling in pieces as you go along. A worthy opening to the Long Sun series' sequel.
Rogerio Senna
Feb 02, 2014 Rogerio Senna rated it really liked it
Sad, filled with guilt and regret. Liked it. :-)

So distinct from the previous series. But very good nonetheless.
Dec 05, 2013 Alex rated it it was ok
It's a struggle to review this book, in part because it comes with so much unfair baggage. The marketing suggests that the Long Sun and Short Sun novels are part of a "cycle" with the New Sun books, but the New Sun books are so radically different in tone, so comparatively immense and rich, the connection feels more like a gimmick to sell me books. Too bad, because Wolfe's works really deserve to be approached without this stuff.

Trouble is, space vampires and a siren designed for the ugly, dist
Fantasy Literature
Aug 24, 2013 Fantasy Literature rated it really liked it
Shelves: ryan
Gene Wolfe has earned a reputation for writing novels that benefit from being read twice. His works are often complex and they do tend to reward careful reading, so much so that it’s not uncommon to hear prospective readers asking which of his Solar Cycle works is the easiest to read. Wolfe’s Book of the Short Sun trilogy is certainly not the place to start, but it is an otherwise fine finish to this distinguished cycle of stories that bridge the gap between fantasy and science fiction, and for ...more
John Lawson
Horn from the Long Sun trilogy finds his new home on Blue to be less than he hoped. It's people were disappointing, the conditions were harsh, and the teachings of Silk were being slowly distorted or forgotten. So he goes on a quest to find Silk and return him to New Viron. Along the way, he impersonates Silk, takes a detour to Green, and has lots of mermaid sex. Failure ensues.

That's not a spoiler, actually. The book is written as a memoir, the first of a trilogy, and he admits early on that he
Jay Michaels
Jul 22, 2012 Jay Michaels rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
I was looking forward to reading this sequel to Gene Wolfe's "Earth of the Long Sun" 4-part series. Unfortunately, the narrative voice for the character of Horn verges on delirious (in the *bad* sense), and the perspective jumps back and forth between present and future time periods. ("Oh, wait, I haven't told you about that yet. Never mind, let me go down this other rabbit trail...")

It took me two whole weeks to get through 381 pages, so I don't think I'll continue with this series. My local l
May 31, 2012 Elgin rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
I loved Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" series and his "Book of the Long Sun" series. This is the first of the "Book of the Short Sun" series.
I was very disappointed by it...nowhere near the standards achieved in the other two series, so I doubt I will read the others in the series anytime soon.
This story did not really have a central theme other than relating the adventures of a traveller, and these adventures did not hang together in a coherent story. And one thing is HATE is authors who pretend
Feb 05, 2010 Kyra rated it liked it
Since this is the first book I read - I did not read the Long Sun series - it was ....ummm, challenging to figure out what the hell was going on. But that did add a layer of interest to it which I suspect might have been lacking otherwise, since there were obvious plot rehashes from previous books here and there which I would have found boring if I had read the Long Sun books.
Ponderous but well-written, fascinating protagonist. But slow as hell. Thus the three stars.
Jul 14, 2007 Katie rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
Well.... it's the start of a new triology and the sequel to a tetrology and so it has a little bit of a split personality problem. Also the narrator seems to have some identity issues, leading me to reaffirm Wolfe's title as the Master of the Unreliable Narrator.
This book is a little slow, but better things are promised, and I'll reserve real judgement until then.
Adam Vine
Jan 14, 2016 Adam Vine rated it really liked it
Slower than the other "firsts" in the Solar Cycle, and with much less opacity. But I'm intrigued to see where it's going, and the end was one hell of a good mindfuck. Could've done without the million scenes of Seawrack talking about the sea (one would be enough), and the constant present-tense storyline chapters, though. Those were overdone.
Theo Petersen
Mar 05, 2010 Theo Petersen rated it really liked it
This one took me two tries, as the first time I sat down to read it I was not in the mood for its narrative structure -- a past tense story with many asides to the writer's present as well as allusions to events that haven't happened yet in the narrative. I liked it fine the second time, with all the usual Gene Wolfe weirdness.
Niall Mcauley
Feb 10, 2014 Niall Mcauley rated it really liked it
The first time I read this, I hadn't read The Book of the Long Sun, which made it both more and less confusing in different ways, so now I'm rereading it having read TBotLS, and there's a ton of stuff I didn't pick up on first time.

Excellent stuff either way.
Sep 26, 2012 Agnieszka rated it really liked it
It's not as good as the New Sun books, but it's still Gene Wolfe, which is the sort of thing you'll like if you are into that sort of thing. Lots of philosophy again in the vein of what does it mean to be human, and of course ethics.
Paul Nash
Aug 06, 2009 Paul Nash rated it it was amazing
Gene Wolfe is simply one of the best novelists we have -- read the entire series, as there are layers within layers, and a subtle, haunting quality that grows and develops as the story continues.
Feb 19, 2013 Rob rated it really liked it
Another interesting an enticing read from Gene Wolfe! It required perseverance to start with, as it's written to such a different style. But it's well woth the effort.
Jan 09, 2008 Bob(by) rated it liked it
This was okay. The writing is high quality of course. Most all Gene Wolfe is. It just didn't hold my interest well and I barely finished it.
Jul 26, 2013 John rated it liked it
Not as good as his book of the long sun. Has a bit too much weird sexual content. Not graphic per se, but not relatable.
Shannon Appelcline
Dec 22, 2012 Shannon Appelcline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
An equal to the New Sun. A dense and enthralling puzzle of a book with a terrific storytelling structure.
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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...

Other Books in the Series

The Book of the Short Sun (3 books)
  • In Green's Jungles
  • Return to the Whorl (The Book of the Short Sun, #3)

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“I have tried hard to punish myself for that, and certain other things. No more. Let the Outsider punish me; we deceive ourselves when we think that we can measure out justice to ourselves. I wanted to end my guilt. What was just about that? I should feel guilty. I deserve it.” 0 likes
“But love is the last need a group has, not the first. If it were the first, there could be no such groups. Justice is the first need, the mortar that binds together a village or a town, or even a city. Or the crew of a boat. No one would take part in any such thing if he did not believe that he would be treated fairly.” 0 likes
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