The Book of the New Sun
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The Book of the New Sun (The Book of the New Sun #1-4 omnibus)

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  1,824 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Recently voted the greatest fantasy of all time, after The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is an extraordinary epic, set a million years in the future, on an Earth transformed in mysterious and wondrous ways, in a time when our present culture is no longer even a memory. Severian, the central character, is a torturer, exiled from his...more
Hardcover, book club, 950 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by SFBC (first published 1983)
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Ender's Game by Orson Scott CardDune by Frank Herbert1984 by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books
323rd out of 4,273 books — 15,499 voters
The Great Dune Trilogy by Frank HerbertThe Foundation Trilogy by Isaac AsimovThe Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsThe Ender Quartet Box Set by Orson Scott CardThe Hyperion Omnibus by Dan Simmons
Best Science Fiction Series
28th out of 249 books — 726 voters

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Community Reviews

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Chris Hawks I have now read this book twice in the past year, and am looking forward to regular rereads every December.

I had heard lots of fantastic things about Gene Wolfe, and this series in particular, so I figured this was the best place to start. The first time through, I thought it was good. A little slow in parts, and other times it was difficult to keep up with what was going on, but overall? Very enjoyable. I rated it a modest 3.5 stars, figuring I'd revise my rating up after subsequent r...more
Joe Frisino
I just raised my rating from 4 stars to 5 after my second read-through. The Book of the New Sun ranks among the best books I've read in my 55 years on the planet. I can see why the NYT called it "a major work of twentieth-century American literature" and the Washington Post called Gene Wolfe "the finest writer the science fiction world has yet produced."

The story is set so far in the future that the Sun is dying. That is all I'll say about the spoilers here! Very well written. Deeply...more
First Second Books
Reading this book is the closest I've come to replicating the sensation of dreaming.
Kerrin Shaw
My favourite book of all. Bar none. This is so far removed from what people think of as fantasy or science fiction that it is almost impossible to describe to someone who is yet to read it. Some of the most finely crafted writing there is. In any genre. Gene Wolfe is one of those authors who some people just don't get, his style can be disjointed temporally and ambiguous descriptively but if it clicks you will be a fan for life.
This is undoubtedly his masterpiece. The Book of the Long Sun and Th...more
Ian Mathers
I actually have a slightly different edition (hardcover, from the Science Fiction Book Club), but this is the only omnibus of all four volumes I could find on here. I ordered this as one of my six free books or whatever when I joined, because the description sounded neat and it was good value for money; I stumbled upon one of the finest writers, in any genre, North America has produced. Still mysterious, beautiful, profound and terrifying in turn, this series is very much a must-read for you. Ye...more
It's difficult for me to "review" this book because of the profound affect it had on me when I first read it. I will admit to being biased.

I read these books within a year or so after their individual release(s). My personal prelude to this series was LOTR/Sim, Zelanzy, Moorcock, Asimov, Heinlein, Vance, (as a kid I cut my teeth on Lewis, Hobbit, Lieber, Feist, Anthony, etc.) I had read through what many consider as classics of the genre, most of them multiple times. I tell you this because I t...more
I've read "The Book of the New Sun" cover-to-cover three times and every time it becomes richer, deeper, and more enjoyable. It is science fiction, fantasy, literature, and myth all at once. The story is set in far-future Argentina when the sun is dying and follows the confessions of Severian, a disgraced young journeyman who is kicked out of the Guild of Torturers for showing mercy to one of his victims.

At almost 1,000 pages of fine-print text, it is still one of the most engaging reads I have...more
Christy Ford
I read this at the recommendation of a friend, otherwise I probably would not have finished it.

It's a very odd book. The premise is interesting enough, and the writing is actually pretty good as well, if from a bit of an odd perspective.

However, somewhere between those two it falls apart. There is no thrust to it. It feels aimless. Individual scenes are good, but have little to do with the scene before them or after them. There is great detail spent on things that are not relevant to the plot,...more
Certainly one of the most subtle and complex science-fantasy epics in the genre. The surface story is only one aspect of what the author is after; there are far deeper themes lurking below. And the narrator is far from reliable. One of the few series I've read twice, and the second time round I discovered many new things to appreciate about it. Highly recommended.

Note: I wasn't nearly as pleased with The Urth of the New Sun or the Book of the Long Sun, and haven't read the Book of the Short Sun,...more
Aug 17, 2014 Cove rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: sci-fi
Although The Book of the New Sun is composed of four volumes, it is in reality the continuation of a single story and I have chosen to evaluate it as such.

More precisely, my rating for this book is 4.5 stars. However, it readily gets bumped to 5 stars on the full-point scale because the story is so epic and original. It really only loses a half star because the pace dragged slightly in a few parts, which is easily forgiven in light of its obvious strengths.

Science fiction being my favorite gen...more
Alejandro Gamen
This book is, as someone else said, at the same time brilliant and infuriating. It seems aimless, especially the latter half of the first book, and the third book in almost its entirety. It is as if the author substitutes character arcs (the motivation to move a story forward) for scenes that are difficult to know if they're nonsensical or allegorical, or both at the same time. Severian does change, but his changes are more evident in his actions than in any speech he makes, and in allegory (the...more
A book should not be this hard to finish. I tried, I tried Really hard. I was even able to get myself two-thirds of the way through the book, when I was completely against this at the half way point, but no; it was to agonizing to continue and put that much effort in a book I didn't need to read. It was just too long for a book that isn't really all that great.
At the beginning I thought it was pretty good, if a bit dull, but slowly it just lost itself by trying to be some great epic, which it re...more
Paul McCann
Picaresque pseudo-allegorical post-apocalyptic Bildungsroman and a few other things besides. Vance if he took himself seriously; some of the markers of the SF of its time, but owes much (thankfully) to the "humanist fantasy" (the best of Leiber and Saberhagen) of decades earlier.
Claudia Cristina
Gosh , Am I the only one to see the emperor naked ?!?! The book makes me queasy and not only mentally but physically, it goes against the grain .One of the few if not the only book I will not finish . I have looked at the 2nd part and it seems to go the same way so I will not open it .
Mike Zinn
Just great. One of the true classics of any genre. This book still haunts me more than 10 years after I finished it.
Was underwhelmed by the overall arc of the plot, and not impressed by the recondite vocabulary. At times this tetraology reads more like grist for the art of retcon.

And yet... and yet. I have in the past adored other books/series with similar flaws-- Gormenghast comes to mind. Like a lens that fitfully comes into focus on a hideous, but on further contemplation, strangely beautiful mishmash of dying protozoans. Several astonishingly clever ideas, too. More than several if you count all the stuff...more
Best fantasy/sci-fi collection I've ever read. Some disclaimers

1. The language is complex. This book takes attention and effort to read. There is a great deal of subtext and it must be read carefully to completely understand what is happening. I wouldn't recommend it as a quick, easy read.

2. The main character has a very male-focused mind. Women are secondary to his own ego and often fall over him in a an unrealistic fashion. I wouldn't let this detract you from reading the series, but it is so...more
I wish I had begun reading each book on its own; if I had, I wouldn't have bothered finishing either of the last two books. As it is, I'm giving the entire book an awkward "average" of the ratings. It's hard to extract each book's feel, but here are the ratings I believe I'd give each part:

The Shadow of the Torturer - *****
The Claw of the Conciliator - ****
The Sword of the Lictor - ***
The Citadel of the Autarch - **

While the later books continue to do a fantastical job of world-building, the plo...more
Sevarian the torturer is an outcast on a dying Earth for the crime of showing mercy to one of his 'clients.' We are shown a lot of this strange world by Sevarian as he wonders, staying ahead of those who would do him harm for his betrayel.

My wife read these as they came out and was on tanterhooks waiting for the rest. For some reason, I didn't read them until all four were out. I've bought the set at least 3 times that I know of-the first paper releases. The trade paperbacks which each have two...more
A journey adventure of a young man caught between the high and the low, the past and the future. It's an excellent world between fantasy and scifi, and a story told well, but I fault it for things mostly just happening to the hero - fitting in a way to the setting, but not great.
Luciano Zorzetto
This is an extensive epic fantasy book.

If I may draw a parallel for its style, it felt somehow like 'The never-ending story': stunning, original imagery, lots of subplots and countless open ends. I don't mean to say it's a book for kids, mind you.

You'll need patience to go through it and it helps if you enjoy rich, complex language: if you know some Latin or Greek you will feel like you're able to 'peek behind the curtain' as the author uses them to convey the sense of some forgotten language he...more
Molly Ison
I am a biased reviewer. First, I am beginning to suspect that I don't like multi-volume fantasy very much, with a few exceptions since there are always a few exception. Second, Wolfe and I fundamentally disagree about the nature of reality, and his view of it seeps through the corners of his writing in an unavoidable way. It's more than allegorical (except in one scene that almost exactly parallels a Biblical story) - it's better than that, but it's still close to the surface and tangled in the...more
Jay Bhattacharya
My high school English teacher once told me that James Joyce took a decade to write Ulysses, and that he expected his readers to spend no less time on it. The Book of the New Sun probably won't take a decade of your life, but it great repays close attention to details, an appreciation of well-crafted sentences, and at least one complete rereading. Most of all, it repays patience with the author, who knows what he is doing, even while the reader has absolutely no idea.
Nick Scheel
wow...just f4cking wow...
Second time reading this.
this book is a shot across the bow, followed by two amidships and one squarely in the stern, towards anyone inclined to erect a barrier between "literature" and science fiction. wolfe creates a rich world of fractal detail, where the clarkean coexists with the archaic with the seamlessness of elements that have already done so for eons. to this he adds a protagonist and plot where subtle details noticed only on a second or third reading can reveal vast but previously hidden concepts and connecti...more
Bill Bridges
One of the pinnacles of achievement in science fiction. A stunningly brilliant series that will stand the test of time, unto the age when our sun is a mere cinder. I read this many years ago, but I figured it needs to go on my goodreads shelf. I got my original paperback copies of the series signed by Wolfe at the World Fantasy Convention in Pine Mountain, Georgia, in the early '90s. He liked the White Wolf Werewolf: The Apocalypse t-shirt I was wearing, so I gave him one.
Although the subject matter is grim, and there is not a single really likeable character in the series - I love these novels because they are SO well written and SO totally different. I am rereading them again - with an on-line unabridged dictionary. The edition I own has the first two titles together (Shadow of the Torturer & Claw of the Conciliator) and a volume with the second two titles (Sword of the Lictor & Citadel of the Autarch).

The finest piece of science fiction literature that I've ever read, and truly one of a kind. Powerful, relentless, magical, violently beautiful, this books operates as much on an allegorical level below language as it does on the surface of the impossibly rich and well-drawn story and world. It is an essential book in any genre, and an unsettling fable of self, ambition, destiny, and the nature of truth and memory.
Matt Hlinak
‘The Book of the New Sun’ is challenging and complex, full of allusions that operate at multiple levels, and multiple readings are necessary to get it all. This work is as serious as literature gets, and people who say that genre fiction is not serious literature should be forced to read this.

Read my full review at
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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
More about Gene Wolfe...
The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1) Shadow and Claw (The Book of the New Sun, #1-2) Sword and Citadel (The Book of the New Sun, #3-4) The Claw of the Conciliator (The Book of the New Sun #2) The Sword of the Lictor (The Book of the New Sun #3)

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“And it came to me that these trees had been hardly smaller when I was yet unborn, and had stood as they stood now when I was a child playing among the cypresses and peaceful tombs of our necropolis, and that they would stand yet, drinking in the last light of the dying sun, even as now, when I had been dead as long as those who rested there.” 4 likes
“. . .Consciousness came and went.

Consciousness went and came like the errant winds of spring, and I, who so often have had difficulty in falling asleep among the besieging shades of memory, now fought to stay awake as a child struggles to lift a faltering kite by the string.”
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