Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Book of the New Sun” as Want to Read:
The Book of the New Sun
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  2,047 ratings  ·  72 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)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Book of the New Sun, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Miles Johnson This book demands a lot of investment. I would say that as much as any book I've ever read it demands a rereading; it's meant to be reread, or even…moreThis book demands a lot of investment. I would say that as much as any book I've ever read it demands a rereading; it's meant to be reread, or even researched. It's usually criticized of being cold and meandering, but that's also the spell of the book -- it's absolutely swollen with genre-bending omens and echoes of powers storming behind the fabric of our experience that never end but never reveal themselves. I like Ursula K. Le Guin's comment: "The groundnote of it all is human pain, so that this fantasy has the weight of vision." The book's most compelling fantasy/sci-fi element is the way experience is augmented, and this is furthermore an allegorical exploration of religious phenomenology, hemeneutics, on and on... There are aliens, time-travel, etc., but they're almost a footnote to the experience of body-snatching with which the book is preoccupied.(less)
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
327th out of 4,829 books — 16,848 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
29th out of 279 books — 818 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Chris Hawks
Um...wow? 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 plot...no 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.
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
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
Michael
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
Adam
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
Stuart
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
Cove
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
Miles Johnson
The ambitions of this book's concepts are by turns mystifying and stupefying. After finishing it for the first time, I'm not sure I'm even qualified to comment. It recalls that modernist chestnut: should art be difficult, after all? For all its savvy manipulations of genre and remarkable turns of phrase, is it an efficient story? BotNS is not difficult to read, but it is severely demanding. It must be reread -- everything about it from its major themes to its dissolute plot demands rereading if ...more
Jeff
Jan 03, 2015 Jeff rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: sci-fi
This book is very good. Set in what appears to be a dystopian future that's somewhat cycled back around to a medieval-like society, The Book of the New Sun is actually two shorter books (Shadow of the Torturer and Claw of the Conciliator) that follow the adventures of a journeyman of the torturer's guild.

I could give you a plot synopsis, but to be honest, this book is darned dense. That's both a praise and a criticism. Wolfe created a vibrant, breathing world in these novels. There are six in t
...more
Kim
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.
Dan Smith
Sweet mother of god I don't even know where to start.
Bill
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
Anthony
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
Ben
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
Gene
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
Luke
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
Darren
There are passages and scenes described in this book that are so poetic and will remain in my head forever. Other parts are turgid and don't seem to contribute anything.
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
Theo Stauffer
One of the best books I have ever read, of any genre, by any author.
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.
Redja
Read 4/4 to give all 5/5.
Nick Scheel
wow...just f4cking wow...
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • The Elric Saga Part I (Elric Saga, #1-3)
  • The Complete Chronicles of Conan
  • A Voyage to Arcturus
  • Bold as Love
  • The Sword of Truth Gift Set (Sword of Truth, #1-5)
  • A Glastonbury Romance
  • After London: or, Wild England
  • Camp Concentration
  • Rogue Moon
  • The Influence
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, #1-3)
  • The Chronicles of Amber (The Chronicles of Amber, #1-5 )
  • The Coming Race
  • Hello Summer, Goodbye
  • Tales of the Dying Earth
  • Ascent
  • The Victorian Chaise Longue
  • Light (Empty Space Trilogy #1)
23069
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...

Other Books in the Series

The Book of the New Sun (5 books)
  • The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1)
  • The Claw of the Conciliator (The Book of the New Sun #2)
  • The Sword of the Lictor (The Book of the New Sun #3)
  • The Citadel of the Autarch (The Book of the New Sun #4)
  • The Urth of the New Sun (The Book of the New Sun #5)
The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1) Shadow & 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)

Share This Book

“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.” 5 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.”
1 likes
More quotes…