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The Book of the New Sun (The Book of the New Sun #1-4)

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  2,767 Ratings  ·  113 Reviews
Recently voted the greatest fantasy of all time, after The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is an extraordinary epic, set a million years in the future, on an Earth transformed in mysterious and wondrous ways, in a time when our present culture is no longer even a memory. Severian, the central character, is a torturer, exiled from his ...more
Hardcover, 1st Science Fiction Book Club Edition, 950 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by SFBC (first published 1983)
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Rui I've read these books almost by chance. Once I started, just couldn't stop. It's not an easy reading and does not have the grandeur of a Lord of the…moreI've read these books almost by chance. Once I started, just couldn't stop. It's not an easy reading and does not have the grandeur of a Lord of the Rings, the greatest epic fantasy story ever wrote. The Book of the new Sun is not an epic story and Severian is by far a friendly character yet his lifespan journey can be as gripping as Frodo's quest was. That said, if you are an impatient reader, I doubt you'll be able to appreciate it properly.(less)

Community Reviews

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Stuart
The Book of the New Sun: SFF’s greatest and most challenging epic
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN is considered by many SFF readers as the greatest, most challenging, and most rewarding SF-fantasy epic ever written in the genre. At the same time, its baroque language, ambiguous plot, unreliable narrator, and depth of symbolism are likely to discourage most casual readers. Therefore, new readers need to dedicate themselves to unraveling the many layers of plot, reli
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Chris Hawks
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, favorites, reviewed
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 r
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Vit Babenco
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
After the final analysis, I believe The Book of the New Sun tetralogy is a dystopia… But it’s not all, the book is also a picaresque novel… Severian – a gloomy and outlawed picaro – embarks on the quest of his life, to find his future and his destination in the dying bleak world. But there is more to it – his exotic adventures in the luxuriantly decadent world can’t be nothing but thoroughly decadent as well – so the book follows in the footsteps of the darkest myths of the past…
“I was no sooner
...more
Joe Frisino
Jul 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I just raised my rating from 4 stars to 5 after my second read-through. The Book of the New Sun ranks among the best books I've read in my 55 years on the planet. I can see why the NYT called it "a major work of twentieth-century American literature" and the Washington Post called Gene Wolfe "the finest writer the science fiction world has yet produced."

The story is set so far in the future that the Sun is dying. That is all I'll say about the plot...no spoilers here! Very well written. Deeply
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First Second Books
Reading this book is the closest I've come to replicating the sensation of dreaming.
Nicholas Kotar
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In the fantasy genre, coming of age tales abound. Commoner becomes emperor stories abound. Nobody becomes great wielder of magic stories also abound. The Book of the New Sun is all of these. But it's also a story told in the first person by a possibly insane former torturer who claims to have perfect recall, but who may have multiple personalities. Oh, and did I mention he is a Christ figure?

I won't even begin to try to summarize the series, though. The back cover jackets do a decent job, but th
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Kerrin Shaw
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My favourite book of all. Bar none. This is so far removed from what people think of as fantasy or science fiction that it is almost impossible to describe to someone who is yet to read it. Some of the most finely crafted writing there is. In any genre. Gene Wolfe is one of those authors who some people just don't get, his style can be disjointed temporally and ambiguous descriptively but if it clicks you will be a fan for life.
This is undoubtedly his masterpiece. The Book of the Long Sun and Th
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Christy Ford
Nov 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
I read this at the recommendation of a friend, otherwise I probably would not have finished it.

It's a very odd book. The premise is interesting enough, and the writing is actually pretty good as well, if from a bit of an odd perspective.

However, somewhere between those two it falls apart. There is no thrust to it. It feels aimless. Individual scenes are good, but have little to do with the scene before them or after them. There is great detail spent on things that are not relevant to the plot,
...more
Newton Nitro
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Finalmente encarei os cinco livros que formam a elogiada e clássica SAGA DO NOVO SOL, escrita por Gene Wolfe, um escritor americano de fantasia e ficção científica lendário, aclamado por autores como Neil Gaiman, Abercrombie, Michael Moorcock, George R.R. Martin, entre tantos outros. Os cinco livros e suas 1200 páginas estavam na minha lista de leitura à muito tempo, e finalmente eis que chegou a hora! E que saga! Que viagem espetacular!

TODA A SAGA DO NOVO SOL:
The Shadow of the Torturer (New Sun
...more
Ian Mathers
Aug 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I actually have a slightly different edition (hardcover, from the Science Fiction Book Club), but this is the only omnibus of all four volumes I could find on here. I ordered this as one of my six free books or whatever when I joined, because the description sounded neat and it was good value for money; I stumbled upon one of the finest writers, in any genre, North America has produced. Still mysterious, beautiful, profound and terrifying in turn, this series is very much a must-read for you. Ye ...more
Michael
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was recommended this by a fellow fantasy fan and wow, I was not disappointed. Definitely one I will re-read and I'm sure enjoy somethign new everytime, a wonderful book.
Michael
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's difficult for me to "review" this book because of the profound affect it had on me when I first read it. I will admit to being biased.

I read these books within a year or so after their individual release(s). My personal prelude to this series was LOTR/Sim, Zelanzy, Moorcock, Asimov, Heinlein, Vance, (as a kid I cut my teeth on Lewis, Hobbit, Lieber, Feist, Anthony, etc.) I had read through what many consider as classics of the genre, most of them multiple times. I tell you this because I t
...more
Darionanagi
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Where do I start with this?

This is probably the most intellectually stimulating work of fantasy (or science fantasy, whatever you call it) I've read. Wolfe doesn't pull his punches, he expects his readers to catch all the little hints and references he drops, and then he starts playing around with it to amuse both himself and the reader. This book has its (often humoristic) meta. It has intertextuality. It has an unreliable narrator, approaches science fiction under so many angles, and a puts up
...more
Adam Vine
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I've read "The Book of the New Sun" cover-to-cover four times, and each time it becomes richer, deeper, and more enjoyable. Neil Gaiman wrote an entire article on why you should read Gene Wolfe, who the New York Times called "Science Fiction's Difficult Genius" and who Ursula K. LeGuin called "Our Melville." Wolfe is a writer's writer. His stories are shadowy, labyrinthine puzzles, impossible to fully grasp on the first read-through. Oh, you will think you know what's going on, and who's-who, an ...more
Joe
Mar 16, 2014 rated it liked it
It is a mildly interesting retelling of the experiences of an unusual and likable man, but it is also a meandering, directionless story appearing (along the way) to follow no plan and make no point. I suppose this is the issue with fantasy epics: made up stories about made up situations. But surely if you are making everything up, you can try to make a point, eh? I don't know. I'll bet that was the knock on LOTR until people started to get into it. Then they found an interesting world filled wit ...more
Claudia Cristina
Sep 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
Gosh , Am I the only one to see the emperor naked ?!?! The book makes me queasy and not only mentally but physically, it goes against the grain .One of the few if not the only book I will not finish . I have looked at the 2nd part and it seems to go the same way so I will not open it .
Alejandro Gamen
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is, as someone else said, at the same time brilliant and infuriating. It seems aimless, especially the latter half of the first book, and the third book in almost its entirety. It is as if the author substitutes character arcs (the motivation to move a story forward) for scenes that are difficult to know if they're nonsensical or allegorical, or both at the same time. Severian does change, but his changes are more evident in his actions than in any speech he makes, and in allegory (the ...more
Cove
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
Although The Book of the New Sun is composed of four volumes, it is in reality the continuation of a single story and I have chosen to evaluate it as such.

More precisely, my rating for this book is 4.5 stars. However, it readily gets bumped to 5 stars on the full-point scale because the story is so epic and original. It really only loses a half star because the pace dragged slightly in a few parts, which is easily forgiven in light of its obvious strengths.

Science fiction being my favorite gen
...more
Miles Johnson
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
The ambitions of this book's concepts are by turns mystifying and stupefying. After finishing it for the first time, I'm not sure I'm even qualified to comment. It recalls that modernist chestnut: should art be difficult, after all? For all its savvy manipulations of genre and remarkable turns of phrase, is it an efficient story? BotNS is not difficult to read, but it is severely demanding. It must be reread -- everything about it from its major themes to its dissolute plot demands rereading if ...more
Earl Biringer
I don't get it. It's sloppily constructed, intentionally vague, and peopled with ridiculous characters. There is distinction between wit and mere cleverness, and this one clearly belongs in the latter category. I'm not sure exactly what happens (and upon perusing the other reviews I find I am not alone in that), but I also don't care what happened. Getting through the fourth book was a laborious chore that I only embarked upon in the faint hope that it would make sense of the first three books ( ...more
Jay Bhattacharya
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My high school English teacher once told me that James Joyce took a decade to write Ulysses, and that he expected his readers to spend no less time on it. The Book of the New Sun probably won't take a decade of your life, but it great repays close attention to details, an appreciation of well-crafted sentences, and at least one complete rereading. Most of all, it repays patience with the author, who knows what he is doing, even while the reader has absolutely no idea.
Paul McCann
Nov 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Picaresque pseudo-allegorical post-apocalyptic Bildungsroman and a few other things besides. Vance if he took himself seriously; some of the markers of the SF of its time, but owes much (thankfully) to the "humanist fantasy" (the best of Leiber and Saberhagen) of decades earlier.
Ethan
Jul 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
I just couldn't get through this book. I read 400 pages and just had enough. I know it is heralded as wonderful sciencfiction/fantasy and has won all kinds of awards, but for me it was just too rambling and difficult to follow in any enjoyable way.
Dan Smith
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Sweet mother of god I don't even know where to start.
Mike Zinn
Nov 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Just great. One of the true classics of any genre. This book still haunts me more than 10 years after I finished it.
Bryan Thurston
Jun 29, 2017 rated it did not like it
It took me several months just to read the first seventy pages of this book, and then I put it down, resigned to being the one science fiction/fantasy nerd that seems to think this is exactly what I don't want from my science fiction or fantasy. Reading Neil Gaiman's praise of the book on the cover certainly made my heart sink, but I cannot help but think this is the sort of story that drives science fiction and fantasy into a very niche market where only those that are willing to like it are th ...more
Edward A. Taylor
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a book series that I tackled once when I was younger and was enthralled with the premise of the main character Severian and his journey as an apprentice torturer, through his time and downfall during his journeyman years, to his rise to power over time.

The characters are well thought and fleshed out but as I reread it I found so many plot holes, dead ends, and gaps in understanding that I found myself less and less in love with it. Don't get me wrong, still a solid four stars for the 4
...more
Pinkyivan
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was my third read and during the first two volumes I wondered why I loved it as much as I did, but by the time the third volume began, Wolfe was ready to out-write himself and by miles. His writing is always good, but this has been a superb experience. Without delving into the symbolism as much as I may should have, this has still been an incredible ride, having left it knowing that the next time I should read about it to penetrate the depth fully. This was originally the novel which lit my ...more
Lucas Chance
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I finally finished this epic.

The first three books took me about a month or two for me to read while the last book only took a couple of hours.

This book is a grounded epic fantasy that is also filled with imagination and abstract imagery. It's strange yet familiar.

I will eventually reread it to understand it fully. And like with the other expansive books I have read (Foucault's Pendelum by Eco and Dhalgren by Delany), I look forward to that revisit in a couple of years. And like those novels,
...more
Abraham
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
A great example of worldbuilding, but there is no plot! Things just happen randomly! People kept telling me that it would get going soon, so I stuck it out, but it felt like the author was just finding his way through the world he was making. There was a lot of weighty sounding rhetoric that never really meant anything, and the women in it were pretty thinly drawn. Why does the protagonist immediately fall in love with them? What happened to the promise of working with the revolutionary? What do ...more
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Gene Wolfe is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He is noted for his dense, allusive prose as well as the strong influence of his Catholic faith, to which he converted after marrying a Catholic. He is a prolific short story writer and a novelist, and has won many awards in the field.

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award is given by SFWA for ‘lifetime achievement in science fict
...more
More about Gene Wolfe...

Other Books in the Series

The Book of the New Sun (5 books)
  • The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1)
  • The Claw of the Conciliator (The Book of the New Sun #2)
  • The Sword of the Lictor
  • The Citadel of the Autarch (The Book of the New Sun #4)
  • The Urth of the New Sun (The Book of the New Sun, #5)

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“And it came to me that these trees had been hardly smaller when I was yet unborn, and had stood as they stood now when I was a child playing among the cypresses and peaceful tombs of our necropolis, and that they would stand yet, drinking in the last light of the dying sun, even as now, when I had been dead as long as those who rested there.” 6 likes
“. . .Consciousness came and went.

Consciousness went and came like the errant winds of spring, and I, who so often have had difficulty in falling asleep among the besieging shades of memory, now fought to stay awake as a child struggles to lift a faltering kite by the string.”
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