The Shadow of the Torturer: Apprentice torturer Severian shows mercy for an imprisoned woman and helps her commit suicide rather than endure weeks of...moreThe Shadow of the Torturer: Apprentice torturer Severian shows mercy for an imprisoned woman and helps her commit suicide rather than endure weeks of torture. For his crimes, Severian is sentenced to travel too the village of Thrax and take up the post of carnifex. Will Severian make it to Thrax alive?
The Shadow of the Torturer isn't your grandmother's fantasy. The tale of Severian isn't the hopeful quest story that's been written and re-written umpteen times in the past fifty years. The setting reminds me of Jack Vance's Dying Earth but much more developed and with the specter of space opera hanging in the background. Gene Wolfe takes the bare bones of the standard quest story and clothes it with literary merit, from the unreliable narrator, Severian, to references to classic works. The scene in the necropolis near the beginning is straight out of Great Expectations. Or straight out of Great Expectations if Pip was an apprentice torturer and helped Magwitch in a fight rather than fetch him a file...
Wolfe's writing is baroque and reminds me of the New Weird authors like China Mieville. The Book of the New Sun definitely isn't a beach read. Be prepared to divine the meaning of words from the context.
Apart from Severian, the cast isn't all that developed, but then, the unreliable narrator should probably be the center of attention. Dr. Talos and Baldanders steal the show with what little screen time they're given.
That's about all I can say without giving too much away. The world Wolfe has built is full of fresh ideas. How many other books do you know that feature two men fighting with flowers with razor sharp leaves?
The Claw of the Conciliator: Severian's journey to Thrax continues and his path brings him into contact with both friend and foe. Will he ever make it to Thrax?
Claw of the Conciliator continues Severian's rise from apprentice torturer to eventual Autarch. Wolfe's inventiveness grows as Severian encounters man-apes, a giantess, witches, an androgyne who might be The Autarch, a giantess, and many other interesting characters, including Dr. Talos and company. More is revealed about the Claw of the Conciliator, though much mystery remains. I get the feeling a lot of secrets are still lurking in the background.
One aspect of The Book of the New Sun I really enjoy is how Gene Wolfe has a lot of sci-fi elements lurking in the background, like aliens, wormholes and the true nature of Jonas, and the casual mention of what might in fact be laser guns. Wolfe's a sly one.
(view spoiler)[My favorite part, by far, is the bit with the alzabo and Severian injesting a piece of Thecla's flesh and experiencing her memories. I suspect this will continue to reverberate through the next two books. (hide spoiler)]
I don't want to spoil too much but I enjoyed Claw more than Shadow, possibly because I was used to Wolfe's style. While I felt like I was still in the dark, Wolfe knows how to reveal just enough to keep you firmly ensnared. Like Severian says, it's a hard road. I can't wait to see where it finally leads.
2012 Note: I went ahead and bumped this up to a 5. I'm not sure if it deserves it but I still catch myself thinking about this book almost a year after I finished it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Mike Resnick's Oracle trilogy is about Penelope Bailey, a girl who can predict the future, and an assassin called the Iceman who is assigned to kill h...moreMike Resnick's Oracle trilogy is about Penelope Bailey, a girl who can predict the future, and an assassin called the Iceman who is assigned to kill her. Mendoza, the Iceman, wrestles with ethical dilemmas associated with killing someone who could change the universe for the better or destroy it.
The Oracle trilogy isn't as good as the Widowmaker Trilogy or the two Santiago books but it's pretty good. Iceman's struggle is believeable and well written, as it is in the subsequent two books dealing with Penelope.
One thing I have to mention is that the other killers Mendoza mentions are all featured in other Resnick books. That's the thing that drew me into Resnick's universe in the first place. Every bit of history or figure mentioned is featured in another of his books. The killing of Conrad Bland, for instance, is the basis of an entire novel, as are all the revolutions mentioned. Resnick's universe is tightly bound together but you won't be lost if you don't know all the details of the events.(less)
I read this while waiting for the last three Dark Tower books to come out. Jefferson Nighthawk proved to be a good Gunslinger surrogate.
Jefferson Nigh...moreI read this while waiting for the last three Dark Tower books to come out. Jefferson Nighthawk proved to be a good Gunslinger surrogate.
Jefferson Nighthawk is arguably the deadliest gunfighter in the galaxy. One day, he finds out he has an incurable disease and has himself cryogenically frozen until a cure is found, paying for it with all the money he earned bounty hunting. Unfortunately, inflation hits and Nighthawk's money starts running low. The facility he's housed in makes him a deal and creates a young Jefferson Nighthawk clone to earn money to keep him frozen. Unfortunately, the clone isn't exactly the most stable person, mostly due to the fact that while he retain's Nighthawk's skills, mentally, he's very immature.
This was the first of the original Widowmaker trilogy and pretty good, although the next two are better. Even though the clone is a jerk, you feel for him. The action is really good and by the end, you're hoping there's another jolt of inflation so they'll clone Nighthawk again, which they do...
Resnick's writing is never anything to shout about but is like a good bass player. He don't exactly notice he's there but the end result is enjoyable.(less)
This one picks up years after The Widowmaker left off. Once again, inflation makes it necessary to clone The Widowmaker. This time, the cloned Jeffers...moreThis one picks up years after The Widowmaker left off. Once again, inflation makes it necessary to clone The Widowmaker. This time, the cloned Jefferson Nighthawk has all of the Widowmaker's memories, making him quite a formidable bounty hunter. He gets involved in a revolution and the killing commences.
Like the first Widowmaker book, this one raises questions about identity. This iteration of Jefferson Nighthawk wonders about souls and things of that nature while he goes about his bloody business. The ending is much more open than the ending of the previous one, setting up Gathering of Widowmakers down the road.(less)
After a century in deep freeze, the original Jefferson Nighthawk is unthawed and cured of his disease. Unforunately, he's 60 years old and slowing dow...moreAfter a century in deep freeze, the original Jefferson Nighthawk is unthawed and cured of his disease. Unforunately, he's 60 years old and slowing down and has lots of old enemies on his trail, along with up and comers wanting to make a name at his expense. Eventually, he concocts a plan to get them off his trail for good...
Widowmaker Unleashed is both the story of a man out of time and about an aging gunfighter wanting to escape his old life. It reminds me of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven with elements of Gran Turino. Old Man Nighthawk, despite being older and slower, seems like the deadliest of the three so far. The ending both makes the universe think he's dead and ensures the Nighthawk name and reputation will live on. It dovetails nicely into Gathering of Widowmakers.(less)
Jefferson Nighthaw, now cured of his disease, teams up with one of his surviving clones from the Widowmaker Trilogy to mentor Jeff Nighthawk, the youn...moreJefferson Nighthaw, now cured of his disease, teams up with one of his surviving clones from the Widowmaker Trilogy to mentor Jeff Nighthawk, the young Widowmaker clone created at the end of Widowmaker Unleashed.
This was a Resnick fan's dream and fortunately for Mike, it turned out pretty damn good. Even though it was about the Widowmaker and his clones, it was really a story about generations and learning from your elders. But with rayguns and a decent body count. (less)