The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

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Wilshire

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« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2014, 03:23:36 am »
I read the first book and stopped. Is it supposed to be scifi-y? Because I kept waiting for it but was dissapointed when nothing really came through. There were hints, but not any answers, and the second book seemed to start off terribly similar, so I stopped pretty quickly. Can't decide if it was entertaining enough to go back to or not.

I liked the characters well enough, and I feel like this was a big set-up novel, but for me there just wasn't a ton of 'wow' moments. I read it very quickly and ended up feeling more confused than anything else, so that could have something to do with it.

I started out really wanting to like this book, and ended up slightly disappointed.

I'd be interested in hearing more of your thoughts as to why I'm wrong :). For whatever reason I want to like it, but I feel like I'd need to read another book or two in order to find out if its worth it or not. You could say I'm very much still on the fence about this.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2014, 03:30:05 am by Wilshire »
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Triskele

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« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2014, 03:59:55 am »
Wilshire - I will say that I found book 2, Claw of the Conciliator, to be by far the most difficult of the four pieces.  That is not to say that you must read on.  Only that if someone found book 2 to be difficult after being intrigued by book 1, I would suggest soldiering on to book 3. 

My thoughts on this are similar to what Francis shared.  It's an amazing and fascinating piece of work.  I've read it twice, and it was lightyears better on the 2nd read (which is allegedly a major goal of Wolfe's writing style). 

The only other thing of Wolfe's I've read was Book of the Long Sun.  I didn't compare.  It was significantly more difficult and with much less payoff.  I suspect that it would be more tolerable upon a 2nd read as Book of the New Sun was, but it was not comparable on the first read. 

Severian is an amazing POV narrator.  There are a few paragraphs where he simply describes stuff like the night sky and how he feels when he looks at it that felt so profound to this atheist that I had to put the book down and reflect for a moment.  I don't get that too easily. 

Benjamin Cain

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« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2014, 06:44:23 pm »
I've read the entire series. It's well worth it, but the hidden meanings in the story are unbelievably complex. Gene Wolfe simply doesn't like to come out and hold your hand and tell you the importance of what's just happened. He wants you to figure out some of the connections yourself. For that reason, readers have produced an enormous quantity of interpretive material. See, in particular, the thorough and searchable www.urth.net. This is the most detailed resource, but it's not well-organized. I got hold of the very helpful Lexicon Urthus book, but that was only after I finished the series. That book is great for vocabulary and it also has a summary of all the major events in the New Sun series. The author has recently come out with a similar book for the third part of the series (the Short Sun), which is good, because that might be the most mysterious part--in good and perhaps also in some frustrating ways. Urth of the New Sun is pretty tricky as well.

This series is well-known for making the extraordinary seem commonplace. The writing is indeed exceptional, but I think the series isn't as well-read as it deserves to be, because it's full of intricate puzzles. Reading the New Sun books made me want to write my fiction in the first person. Mind you, Wolfe is also well-known for using untrustworthy narrators to add yet another layer of mystery. Is Severian lying at some points? There's lots of discussion of that as well.

If you like this genre, I'd recommend Jack Vance's Tales of the Dying Earth. That's a more amusing series. Some of the stories in Songs of the Dying Earth are also great.

Alia

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« Reply #18 on: March 05, 2014, 07:23:31 pm »
On a side note, if you're looking for a book with an unreliable and untrustworthy narrator, you should really try Wolfe's "Peace". It's his 1975 novel, rather New Wave, but yeah, never trust Dennis Weer.
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Raizen

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« Reply #19 on: March 13, 2014, 05:48:48 pm »
Triskele, (good reference btw) I just finished the first two books between reading and listening to the audio books.

I'm not sure if you've tried them or not but the narrator makes Severian seems extremely depressed about everything even when he's 'happy' or as happy as a torturer can be lol.  That might have been what made book 2 seem like such a burden to plod through. 

If book 3 really does pick up like you said I might give it a shot.  :)
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TheCulminatingApe

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« Reply #20 on: July 29, 2017, 09:12:50 pm »
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).

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!

Every word used is an actual real word, although some are extremely obscure.
There's a few websites dedicated to Gene Wolfe, which have some information, and also a dictionary about the series called Lexicon Urthis (i haven't read it, so I don't know if its any good or not).

I read the first book and stopped. Is it supposed to be scifi-y?

It's set in the far future of Earth - allegedly in South America - when the Sun is dying.

For more accessible stuff from Gene Wolfe, people should check out the Latro series (Soldier in the Mist, Soldier of Arete, and Soldier of Sidon).  It's about a soldier in Ancient Greece who has been cursed by the Gods and loses his memory every night.  Very good.
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Woden

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« Reply #21 on: August 09, 2017, 04:23:13 pm »
I just bought in Bookdepository the first four books. Wish me luck.
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Wilshire

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« Reply #22 on: August 09, 2017, 04:36:01 pm »
Let us know how it goes!
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« Reply #23 on: August 09, 2017, 05:52:00 pm »
I just bought in Bookdepository the first four books. Wish me luck.

No such thing as luck, just skill.

It's really good, just have a dictionary handy.  Also, realize that some stuff will only make sense after you read the whole series, so stick with it and you'll be rewarded in the end.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

Woden

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« Reply #24 on: August 09, 2017, 06:53:17 pm »
Thanks, I will post my impressions as soon I start.
 ;)
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Woden

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« Reply #25 on: August 29, 2017, 01:55:41 pm »
I have just received the books, I'm eager to start.
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Woden

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« Reply #26 on: August 29, 2017, 05:54:23 pm »
I've read fifty pages or so and I'm captivated. Amazing style, amazing story.
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Woden

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« Reply #27 on: August 31, 2017, 05:17:18 pm »
Last night I ended The Shadow of the Torturer. Terrific story, amazing setting and a glorious style.
In some way it reminds me the tales of Cugel in the Dying Earth stories by Jack Vance.

I've just started the second book The Claw of the Conciliator.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2017, 08:48:10 pm by Woden »
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« Reply #28 on: August 31, 2017, 07:05:49 pm »
You know Woden, I have heard so much good about this series. Yet, I think I got half way through 1st book and some other book caught my attention, or was waiting on it and never went back. I hear that you won't understand alot of it til the end. Huge payoff is how I've heard it put. Currently reading Forge of Darkness, by Erikson. And then, Fall of Light just because I'm really digging FoD. But, I think I'll give this a go afterwards
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Woden

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« Reply #29 on: August 31, 2017, 08:57:14 pm »
It's true that Wolfe uses some weird words and invents some more. But when you have read some chapters the book has you, and with a decent dictionary (I just use some on internet, even google) it's not a problem, but a pleasure.
I specially love the greek, roman and medieval military terms in the text, and the use of names of extinct species for the flora and fauna of Urth.
I enjoy a lot the books of Lyonesse and Dying Earth of Vance, Wolfe has a certain reminiscence of them, a peculiar taste that has made me read with any pause.
Know what your slaves believe, and you will always be their master.