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Shadow & Claw (The Book of the New Sun #1-2)
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2011 Reads > S&C: The Transition between Shadow and Claw (spoilers, shadow, ch 35, claw, ch 1)

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message 1: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 19, 2011 04:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Shadow ends on a cliffhanger of panic and violence at the Gate of Nessus.

When Claw starts, not only does it not pick up where Shadow ended, it starts with a dream Severian's having to make things even more disorienting. True, some aspects of the dream seem to reference what else happened at the Gate -- soldiers on horseback blocking the crowd, Dorcas being separated from Severian -- but then the deceased Master Malrubius appears -- so are the other elements in the dream any more substantial?

When Severian wakes we learn he is outside of Nessus, in the village of Saltus, and with Jonas, but Severian is not forthcoming with any of the events that occurred between Shadow's ending and the present.

I think this is likely the most jarring turn in any of the books. In fact, a friend of mine who really got into Shadow was so turned off by this narrative gap that he decided not to read the rest of Claw.

I suspect it's no coincidence that Severian, in the third-to-last chapter of Shadow, holds forth on the art of writing, its conventions, and how pleasing different members of a reading audience has similarities with pleasing different members of the audience of an execution -- and then this first chapter of Claw begins in a very unconventional, audience-expectation-defying way. Other than that, I have no theory about it (yet).

The literary critic Robert Borski has a very convoluted theory about this narrative gap, but it brims with so many spoilers that I've decided to not read it until I've finished re-reading all four New Sun books.

In Lexicon Urthus, Andre-Driussi has an entry on 'Mysteries' where he lists a number of questions he considers useful to think about as you read or re-read New Sun (some of these questions are spoilery in themselves). One of these questions is, "What was the commotion at the gates of Nessus all about?" -- suggesting he does think the answer lies in the books. We've seen in the Unreliable Narrator thread that Severian has omitted things before.

I think there's two related questions:

- What was the commotion at the gates of Nessus all about?

- Why does Severian omit or obscure what happened between the end of Shadow and the start of Claw?


Colin | 278 comments I have a sneaking suspicion that those questions won't find answers until sometime in the third and fourth books. I'd like to know them too.

When Severian finally reunites with Dorcas and the actors, he made special note of the scar on her cheek. Yet that was it. If i am recalling correctly, even Baldy and the Doc don't mention what happened. Only they got separated and moved on without him. In all likelihood, they had a big pow-wow around the fire the first night back together, chatting about the craziness of the Gates. Severian doesn't want to talk about it, so we are left in the lurch. Again.

I wish Jonas was here. He'd be able to help us.


Jeffrey J | 38 comments I am sooo thankful for this thread, I thought I had screwed up the audio book or something. I was about to start back and re-listen to the last part of the first book and the first part of the second.


message 4: by Ed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments Colin wrote: "I wish Jonas was here. He'd be able to help us."

I love Jonas! He's one of my favorite secondary SF characters ever.

Wolfe repeatedly explores the question "What is your definition of human?" throughout his oeuvre. He delves right into the gray areas and does so in such innovative and thought-provoking ways.


terpkristin | 4142 comments Jeffrey wrote: "I am sooo thankful for this thread, I thought I had screwed up the audio book or something. I was about to start back and re-listen to the last part of the first book and the first part of the second."

Same here, except I was reading in print and was just convinced I was being dense!

Chalk this up as instance 2 of something taking me completely off guard (the first being the Botanical Gardens scenes) and making me question my sanity in reading this. ;)

Colin, when you say "Severian finally reunites with Dorcas and the actors..." I take it to mean that this happens in the future from Claw Chapter 1? I don't recall anything about a scar when he first "reunited" with the doc and the actors, at the end of Shadow.


Jeffrey J | 38 comments terpkristin wrote: ...I take it to mean that this happens in the future from Claw Chapter 1? ..."

Your are correct it is later.


Colin | 278 comments Yeah, sorry about that. It happens a fair ways into Claw, near the end almost. The focus on her scar was brief, but it felt poignant.


message 8: by Jared (new)

Jared (jared_king) | 51 comments Someone caught a whip to the cheek if i remember, which caused Severian to drag the whip wielder from his horse. But i dont think it was Dorcus who was whipped?


message 9: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Yeah, the end of Shadow describes that happening to Dorcas.


message 10: by Jared (new)

Jared (jared_king) | 51 comments well that makes sense :) thanks Josh.


terpkristin | 4142 comments (spoilerish through Claw chapter 6)


Is there meant to be any symmetry between the cut the Dorcas gets with the cuts/marks that Severian puts on Morwenna as part of the execution?

Granted, I left off at chapter 7 last night so I'm still left a wondering what's to come.


message 12: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Hmm, I don't think so - but maybe there's something further on I'm forgetting.


message 13: by Patrick (new)

Patrick (halfadd3r) Like others, I just need to say I'm VERY glad for this thread! I was going to write to Audbile about problems with the Android software.


message 14: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Cameron | 25 comments I am glad that someone else found this transition jarring as well. I felt like I was missing something.


message 15: by Ed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments Yep. What really happens at the gate is one of the biggest mysteries in the series, I think.


message 16: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
I now have a theory about what happened at the Gate of Nessus!


*** SPOILERS, Sword, ch. 15 ***



When Agia reveals to Severian that Hethor is the "old man" who wants to marry her & that she persuaded him to send his various smuggled-in extraterrestrial pets after Severian, I decided the commotion at Nessus could have been the first time Hethor loosed some of his beasties after Severian. It being his first attempt, he did it sloppily and in too public a place and it caused a panic and the soliders got involved, etc. His following attempts are somewhat more strategically planned (though his Salamander still gains a lot of attention for burning many the wrong target in Thrax!).

That still wouldn't explain why Severian omits the tale of what happened at the Gate, however.


message 17: by Ed (last edited Mar 21, 2011 11:09AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments It's a viable theory, but I don't think I can buy into it. I agree with Adrienne. I think Borski has a theory on this that I need to revisit/reconsider. Borski can get overly complicated in his theories sometimes, so you have to evaluate and disregard some of his more outlandish stuff that you may disagree with, but he nails some interpretations. His work on The Fifth Head of Cerberus (google "Cave Canum") is trailblazing work and spot-on in my estimation, for example.


message 18: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Mar 21, 2011 12:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Yes, Borski's "Swimming with Undines" essay. From what little I read (before fleeing in the face of so many spoilers) I was finding some of it outlandish, but yes, I'll take a full look at it when I finish the series.

Adrienne wrote: "He certainly tells us about Hethor's other attacks - why not here? Maybe Severian had a bigger role here than he wants to mention. Did he accidentally kill some people, who weren't supposed to be executed and therefore shouldn't have been killed?"

Hmm, yeah, that could be a possibility. I'll be on the lookout for any hints as I finish this re-read.


message 19: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan I finished reading the whole series last year, and I LOVED it, but the end of Shadow seemed like a surprise and a disappointment. In one sense it cuts off in the middle of something. And in another sense it also doesn't feel like it ended on much of a climax. It was like a low-key cliffhanger without a second half.

A while after I finished all of New Sun I also read Wolfe's "The Knight" and "The Wizard," and I wonder if Wolfe just likes using scene-skipping as part of his style, forcing us to piece things together from what he gives us. I wouldn't be surprised if one chapter ended with something like "I rode down and joined the battle" and the next chapter skips to some later time and we really only have clues about how it went.

I think when he does that it keeps me reading longer. Instead of saying "Okay, that part is finished and I can put my book down" I end up saying "I need to keep going to find out what happened there."


message 20: by Ed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments Dan wrote: "A while after I finished all of New Sun I also read Wolfe's "The Knight" and "The Wizard," and I wonder if Wolfe just likes using scene-skipping as part of his style, forcing us to piece things together from what he gives us. I wouldn't be surprised if one chapter ended with something like "I rode down and joined the battle" and the next chapter skips to some later time and we really only have clues about how it went."

Yeah, that is a recurring motif in his writing. I've always figured that Wolfe feels he just doesn't write action sequences very well, so he avoids doing so, but it does work with his writing style, as you pointed out, so you might be onto something there.


message 21: by Chris (new)

Chris Hawks (saltmanz) Adrienne wrote: "Jlawrence wrote: "That still wouldn't explain why Severian omits the tale of what happened at the Gate, however."

That's the bigger mystery. It seems like he leaves out things he doesn't want us t..."


Josh's theory is also the one I subscribe to. Yes, Severian details other attacks later, but a couple books go by before he comes to understand who was behind them and why. At the Piteous Gate then, I'd guess that he wasn't even witness to the attack, just the commotion that it caused, and therefore had nothing to report, so to speak.


message 22: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
I could buy that possibility (that he has no idea what was causing the chaos), but even so, there's still the unexplained narrative gap between the chaos erupting and him suddenly being in Saltus with Jonas, split off from the rest of the group. I just finished Citadel, and still don't have a good theory about that.


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