The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

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Francis Buck

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« on: October 02, 2013, 02:20:10 am »
So, after having been meaning to get around to this series for years, I finally started it (and to think, I wanted a "light read" after Dune...what in God's name was I thinking?"). As of now I've just got into the first little bit of Sword & Citadel, right after Severian meets Cyracia (sp?), and I'm really craving some good discussion on it. I did a search and didn't see any previous threads.

I've never read any Wolfe before, but goddamn is this series fucking amazing. From what I've read, the prose is easily some of the best in the genre, hands down, and possibly the best I personally have ever read. The style of storytelling, the first person narration (which seems relatively uncommon for this sort of story), the utterly unique setting, Severian's amazing characterization, just everything.

And, of course, the vocabulary. Reading this on Kindle, I think, was a pretty good move on my part, since I can instantly look up any word I don't know -- and there's a shitload -- although in many cases the words don't even show up in the dictionary, in which case I can just quickly google it. But then there are cases where a word doesn't even show up anywhere on google, or if it does, I can't find its actual meaning (zoanthrope was the last one, but all I've seen it associated with is Warhammer 40K). So yeah, while it's sometimes a bit of effort trying to figure out some of the terms, I also fucking love it. It's such a cool thing to do in a SFF series like this, as in not making up any words for fantastical stuff. The names for different officials, the use of mythology, the way he uses scientific names and extinct species for the various creatures, it's just straight up brilliant. I also love stuff that's a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy, so in many ways this was right up my alley. I'll have to reserve any final judgment until I complete the book, but I feel like this will become one of my all time favorites (which is ironic, considering I just finished all six Dune books, and the same exact thing happened).

So yeah, I'd really like to hear some people's thoughts on the series as whole (please feel free to discuss spoilers amongst yourselves, just hide them for my sake, I should be finishing it up by Friday or Saturday). But I'm just really craving some discussion, and I definitely have a lot questions about stuff, but I'll wait until I finish to do that.

I would like to ask if anyone knows some good resources for information on the world, terminology, backstory, characters, etc. (I'd even be interested in hearing about Wolfe's process of writing the series, and what his thoughts were when creating it, especially in regards to Severian)? I found one sort of pseudo-wiki, but it was pretty crappy. Much appreciated!

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« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2013, 01:15:31 pm »
Good things have come of my reading recommendations from this forum but I've tried Gene Wolf a few times in the past.

It's unfortunate because Bakker counts him as influence, as well...

Maybe for you I'll dabble again, Francis.
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Francis Buck

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« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2013, 06:55:09 pm »
Honestly I'm not sure I'd like his other stuff, having read some random things on it. TBOTNS seems like it was just kind of a perfect storm of setting, characters, and style for me.

Royce

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« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2013, 01:20:56 pm »
I did not find the "Shadow and Claw" on kindle awhile ago,and it is almost hopeless for me to read it on paper :( It is a shame though,because I really think I would enjoy this one.

Francis Buck

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« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2013, 07:23:35 pm »
Hm, that's odd. It's on Kindle now at least (I believe for $9.00). Perhaps it was only recently added?

Royce

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« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2013, 10:06:49 am »
Shadow and claw is not available on kindle,but after some searching I found them separately :).Maybe it got something to do with the european version of amazon or something.I will give this a go soon,hopefully me english skills will be good enough to see this through :)

Royce

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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2013, 02:14:24 pm »
I finished Shadow the other day,and this is some seriously weird stuff.Have lots of stuff on my mind,but I think I will read some more first

Francis Buck

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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2013, 08:12:21 pm »
Yeah they're definitely quite strange. I ended up taking a break in the midst of Sword & Citadel, somewhere around a quarter of the way through, just because I was getting kinda fatigued. Started it up again last night though and it seems to be picking up the pace again. I'm very interested to read all the different interpretations and such, but I want to finish S&C (at this point I'm not sure if I'll continue with the other books for a while, since even though I am enjoying the series overall, it's definitely a bit of a slog at times).

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« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2013, 08:55:19 am »
I do not know if you have read "the castle" by Franz kafka? Somehow I thought about that book while reading this.Must be the strange characterization,and the nonsensical behaviour and dialogue between people.Might be I am wrong about this comparison,since it is a very long time since I read Kafka,but that book still popped up in my mind.

Francis Buck

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« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2013, 07:06:54 pm »
I haven't unfortunately, and in fact I'm criminally under-read on all things Kafka, aside from The Metamorphosis, which I enjoyed the hell out of it. Definitely an author I need to catch up on. I'll check out The Castle.

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« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2013, 07:45:19 am »
Grendel by John Gardner is a bit like Metamorphosis,since the protagonist is a beast struggling to be a part of the world of men

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« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2013, 11:50:25 am »
Did you get through this Buck?

I am considering the next lap very soon.

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« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2013, 01:33:28 am »
Just started reading book 1. Seems pretty interesting so far. Didn't read all the comments as I didn't want the spoil it.
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Francis Buck

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« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2013, 02:03:24 am »
I got about half-way through the third book and took a break, but I've yet to go back (I read Wolf Hall in the interim). I don't have much desire to return to it at this particular moment, but I definitely intend to finish the series. I love the first one and a lot of the second, but it really started to drag for me in the third. It's definitely going to be one of those series I read a second time. I also consciously avoided any real spoilers, so I know that there's a metric ton of subtext I'm not getting.

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« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2013, 09:16:42 am »
I also consciously avoided any real spoilers, so I know that there's a metric ton of subtext I'm not getting.
Yes. Yes, there is.

I wasn't too impressed with it after my first read, but will read it again, at some point. I have chosen to read some analysis and spoilers, and the amount of stuff I have missed is completely staggering. But that seems to be the way it is, nobody seems to really get it all (or even a majority of it) at the first read.