Shannon Bowman-Sarkisian's Reviews > Home Fires

Home Fires by Gene Wolfe
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Sep 14, 2011

did not like it
Read in August, 2011

I don't really know how else to put this: I didn't like Home Fires. I wanted to - it had a fascinating premise (a couple falls in love, the woman goes into space for 20 years and returns home without aging, her partner is now middle aged), a threatening space war, and a Dollhouse-like premise of putting the personalities of dead people into the bodies of "employees." There's a lot going on here...and yet nothing happens, not really. We rarely see any action - usually a character just mentions what happened. And Wolfe expects his readers to just take his protagonist's word that this is what happened. Skip, our hero, is kind of like a detective. He pulls together all sorts of information, seemingly from out of thin air, and is able to magically know what's going on. It's not believable and it doesn't make for good reading. Chell, his newly-returned love interest, is incredibly beautiful, witty, and fun to be around. We know this because Skip and every other secondary male character in the book keeps saying it. Over and over again. But none of her actions (aside from being a bad-ass soldier, which she is) show us any of these qualities. I found myself wondering why everyone thought she was so amazing - to me she felt flat. Indeed, most of the characters were two-dimensional. I got tired of hearing about what was happening or had happened from Skip. Why didn't Wolfe just write it in real time and flashbacks? Why didn't we ever see these dangerous aliens that were the reason Chell went into space in the first place?

In defense of Home Fries and Wolfe, I will say that it had a great ending. Maybe not worth the slogging it took to get there, but a good ending nonetheless.
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Lefty Wolfe doesn't write in real time or in flashbacks because he uses the unreliable narrator. What's being told is equally as important as who is telling it and why. I suspect there are deeper things at work in the subtext.


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