Chris Hawks's Reviews > The Book of the New Sun

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
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Feb 13, 12

bookshelves: owned, favorites, reviewed
Read from December 01, 2010 to January 19, 2011, read count: 4

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 rereads. A couple months later, I was still thinking about TBotNS, so I revised my rating to 4 stars.

Then some random impulse possessed me (I, who give little time to rereads, and had already done one this year) to do a reread in December, a year removed from my first reading. As anticipated, it was even better; but I was surprised by just how much better it was. As expected, much of the book made more sense, puzzle-pieces fit together more readily, and "good" parts from my first read felt like old friends. But many of the "slow" parts now raced by, and the handful of short stories retold by the narrator Severian—which before had mostly bored me—I now savored. I found myself moved (and rendered misty-eyed) by unexpected passages. It was, in a word, MAGICAL.

My new rating was to be 4.5 stars, but it wouldn't stop there. For throughout much of the book, I felt almost like I was studying a religious text—which indeed, it is, at least in-story. There's a depth to Wolfe's book that invites scrutiny and searches for meaning. Not being much of a critical reader myself, I'm fine with the realization that I'll never grasp 90% of the true substance of TBotNS; but just as someone like myself can be absolutely terrible at Go, yet appreciate the profound brilliance of the game, so too can I recognize the genius of Wolfe's masterpiece. 5 stars it is.

This review tells nothing about the actual story of the book, and I will not apologize for that. Rather, I think that that is the way TBotNS is best approached; know that it ostensibly takes place millions of years in the future, and go from there. Be warned that though the first time through may confuse, it will also reward, and subsequent visits bring yet greater rewards. As for me, I'm looking forward to many years of rewards.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Terence Nickolette Yes, you've explained this masterpiece well. I've read it 4 times over 20 years and and it just gets better. An old friend truly.


message 2: by Will (new) - added it

Will Humphreys Good review, thanks. I've been taking my time with this series, having re-read the first two twice and now at last reaching the third. I am slowly headed towards the Long & Short Sun cycles. The thing is, in the case of Wolfe, I don't mind taking my time. The books interweave with my own life & thoughts & have given me a lot. they are books that stay with you and they are worth the time.


Terence Nickolette Your review captures the essence of reading Wolfe's masterpiece. I too have had the same experience reading and rereading it over the years. Four times now? You might wish to try the Audible version of Book of the New Sun. The narration is superb. I recommend it highly.


message 4: by Chris (last edited Nov 08, 2013 09:31AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chris Hawks Yeah, I've been meaning to try out Audible for a while now, and have been leaning toward SHADOW OF THE TORTURER as my free book.

I skipped my BotNS reread last December, and I've been missing it ever since. I'll be doing my fifth this year for sure (including URTH OF THE NEW SUN for the third time.)

The only book I've read more is my all-time favorite, Richard Adams' SHARDIK, which I've done 11 times now.


message 5: by Jason (new)

Jason Li I chose to ultimately begin the journey to read this book thanks reviews such as yours. Now, just recently finishing the book for the first time i feel as you had felt but knowing there is something truly incredible here.

I am really looking forward to my next read of this, hopefully before the next Christmas break and i'd just like to take the time to thank you for your great review!


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