Robert Beech's Reviews > Home Fires

Home Fires by Gene Wolfe
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Feb 12, 2011

it was amazing
Read in January, 2011

In reading Gene Wolfe, the ground you stand on is as solid as an ocean swell, and when you find yourself sinking it will pick you up and throw you against the rocks if you're not careful. The book is a love story, a tragedy, a mystery, a pirate yarn, and a philosophical discourse at the same time. The plot centers around a couple Skip and Chelle. Chelle goes off to join the army while Skip stays home to mind the home fires (hence the title). The complication is that the enemy she is fighting is light years away, so while she travels there and back, he ages 20 years, while for her it has been just 2. As a present for his returning bride, Skip (who has become wealthy in the intervening 20 years) decides to re-animate her dead mother. After that things start to get weird.

In reading this, I was struck by the similarity in themes between this and the other book I am currently reading, "Self comes to mind" by Antonio Damasio.
From Damasio we hear, "We all have free access to consciousness, bubbling so easily and abundantly in our minds that without hesitation or apprehension we let it be turned off every night when we go to sleep ..."
and from Wolfe, "We sleep, and we believe we wake with the minds we carried into bed with us, bearing them as a bride borne in her grooms arms, the lifted, the treasured, the threshold flier, so we believe. But we do not. That weary mind has been dispersed in sleep, its myriad parts left behind on the tracks, lying upon the infinite concrete ties between endless gleaming steel rails. We wake and compose for ourselves a new mind (if some other does not compose it for us)......."
What does it mean to be human, to live, to love, to die? These are the themes of both books. One is a work of fiction, the other a scientific treatise. Which one tells more truth, I leave it for you to decide.
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