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413 pages, Paperback
First published October 15, 1994
"On a first, superficial reading, there is little to distinguish Wolfe’s tetralogy from many other sf and fantasy novels . . . The plot itself is apparently unremarkable."
Flashes of brilliance between swaths of tedium.
Reading these books is like trying to watch a foreign movie without subtitles - from two miles away with a crappy set of binoculars, and the audio coming over a fuzzy radio frequency, mixed with three other simultaneous broadcasts. [...] most of the time you're just watching incomprehensible things happening, thinking if you could only see things a little more clearly and understand what the hell people were saying, this might be a really interesting story.
“The hope in her voice now made me think of a flower growing in shadow.”
“Here I pause. If you wish to walk no farther with me, reader, I cannot blame you. It is no easy road.”
That we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin.
We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges.
At one instant we walked mutely together in what surely must have been the paradise the New Sun is said to open to all who, in their final moments, call upon him; and though the wise teach that it is closed to those who are their own executioners, yet I cannot but think that he who forgives so much must sometimes forgive that as well.
Somewhere among the swirling worlds I am so soon to explore, there lives a race like and yet unlike the human. They are no taller than we. Their bodies are like ours save they are perfect, and that the standard to which they adhere is wholly alien to us. Like us, they have eyes, a nose, a mouth; but they use these features (which are, as I have said, perfect) to express emotions we have never felt , so that for us to see their faces is to look upon some ancient and terrible alphabet of feeling, at once supremely important and utterly unintelligible.