Chris's Reviews > Shadow & Claw

Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe
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's review
Nov 20, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction
Read from December 23, 2011 to February 21, 2012

This is a review of the entire Book of the New Sun, which includes this volume and the second volume called Sword and Citadel.

I found this book very unusual in a number of ways. The first was the genre. The first several chapters appear to be purely fantasy set in a magical-medieval world, but it gradually becomes clear that it's actually a far-future world in which technological knowledge has decayed. I'm about 99% sure that this is supposed to be Earth (Urth, as it's called here). This is one example of the second weird thing: it wasn't clear to me how much I was supposed to be putting together between the lines of the story. Wolfe's narrator almost never explains things, which is not necessarily a problem, but in other books that work like that I've found it a lot easier to pick up on what the author expects you to know. At the end of the book, the narrator says that if you think he has failed to explain something, you should go back and read it again. This statement made me like Gene Wolfe a lot less.

I suppose the fairest statement of my attitude is that I admired the book but did not get deeply engaged in it. I think this is at least in part due to the pacing. Sometimes it takes hundreds of pages for the main character to accomplish what seems like a straightforward task but at other times Wolfe leaps ahead weeks or months with no explanation. You're suddenly in a new place with new characters you've never met before. I found this a little frustrating in its own right and I also think it's part of the reason it was hard to get attached to anyone but the main character.

There's a quote from Neil Gaiman on the front cover that says this is "the best SF novel of the last century." I understand that tastes vary, but that is certainly false. Nevertheless, it's a unique book that's not without some attractions.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Amelia (new)

Amelia Let me know what you think of this one. In high school I read Wolfe's *Book of the Long Sun* and remember liking it but feeling lost.

Chris Amelia wrote: "Let me know what you think of this one. In high school I read Wolfe's *Book of the Long Sun* and remember liking it but feeling lost."

I just finished the series the day before you posted this. Weird.

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