Fragile Bird

The Book of the New Sun First Read and Re-read project [spoilers]

413 posts in this topic

I'm calling this a re-read project, but I haven't actually finished Gene Wolfe's masterpiece yet. I started the Book of the New Sun but had so many other books around me I always seemed to find something else to read. The copy I have is actually "Shadow and Claw", which contains the first two books of the series.

 

A description of the book, from Wikipedia:

 

 

Quote

The Book of the New Sun (1980 1983) is a series of four science fantasy novels or one four-volume novel by the American author Gene Wolfe. Alternatively, it is a series comprising the original tetralogy, a 1983 collection of essays, and a 1987 sequel. Either way, it inaugurated the so-called "Solar Cycle" (below) that Wolfe continued after 1987 by setting other multi-volume works in the same universe.

 

Gene Wolfe had originally intended the story to be a 40,000-word novella called "The Feast of Saint Catherine", meant to be published in one of the Orbit anthologies, but during the writing it continued to grow in size. Despite being published with a year between each book, all four books were written and completed during his free time without anyone's knowledge when he was still an editor of Plant Engineering, allowing him to write at his own pace and take his time.

 

The tetralogy chronicles the journey of Severian, a disgraced journeyman torturer who is exiled and forced to travel to Thrax and beyond. It is a first-person narrative, ostensibly translated by Wolfe into contemporary English, set in the distant future when the Sun has dimmed and Earth is cooler (a "Dying Earth" story).

 

In 1998, Locus magazine ranked the tetralogy number three among 36 all-time best fantasy novels before 1990, based on a poll of subscribers.

And, from the Wolfe Wiki, which I just discovered at http://www.wolfewiki.com/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=WolfeWiki.TheBookOfTheNewSun

 

 

Quote

Note: this Overview is written for those who have not yet read The Book of the New Sun, and as such, deliberately avoids "spoilers." This is not true of the more specific articles linked to below. Caveat lector!

 

The Book of the New Sun is considered by many to be Wolfe's masterwork. Without debating whether it's his "greatest" achievement, it is clearly the master-work, the work that gained him recognition from his peers, critics, and general readers as a master of his craft.

 

The world of New Sun is heavily influenced by, and in part a tribute to, Jack Vance's "Dying Earth," but it is quite different from that world. It represents (in Wolfe's terms) the "do-nothing" future, the future in which the human race neither destroys the world through some great catastrophe, nor learns to manage it wisely. As a result, the world, a mere million or so years from now, has grown old, the natural resources used up. Miners dig in the ruins of ancient cities (still far in our future) for artifacts and materials.

 

The Moon (now called Lune) is green -- it has been terraformed and forested. Humanity once flew among the stars, but no more. Something (this is one of the Book's many puzzles and mysteries) happened to drive human civilization, and the core of the human population, back to the homeworld (now called Urth), and wounded the Sun. A prophecy tells of a messiah-figure, the New Sun, who will bring a new sun to Urth and restore the vitality of Urth and of the human race. This figure was prophesied by another mysterious messiah, the Conciliator, who lived a thousand years in the story's past. The two figures are said to be the same being.

 

Aliens visit Urth regularly, and are loathed and feared by the common folk of the Commonwealth, the country where the action of New Sun takes place. Alien beasts, as well as animals reconstructed from Urth's past, roam the mountains and forests of the Commonwealth. To the north, the Ascians, "people without shadows," live in a state of perpetual war with the Commonwealth.

 

Into this world steps Severian, our protagonist and narrator, an apprentice of the Guild of Seekers for Truth and Penitence -- better known as the Torturers' Guild. In the first volume, he becomes a journeyman of his guild, and then sets out on the journey which the Book as a whole narrates.

 

Severian claims to have a "perfect" memory, to be incapable of forgetting anything; this makes him a kind of ideal character for an unreliable narrator, since, if he contradicts himself, the reader can be certain it isn't simply forgetfulness on his part.

 

The Book of the New Sun is many things: a bildungsroman, an anatomy, an apologia pro vita sua, a war story, a travelogue, a romance, and much more.

 

If anyone is interested in reading along, please sign on! We'll then pick a start date. :)

Edited by Fragile Bird

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm into it, FB. Sounds fun!


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm tempted. I dropped off last time in the third book because the surface story was too dull. And I was reading without one of the companion books that explain all the references to obscure mythology.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm tempted. I dropped off last time in the third book because the surface story was too dull. And I was reading without one of the companion books that explain all the references to obscure mythology.

I'm going to keep soliciting readers for at least a week, maybe two, to see if we can get a good group together for discussion purposes. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Especially re: Iskaral's post, (haha) , might be good if there was a rotating 'host' to go through each chapter first and explain the vocabulary (pretty much has to be done every chapter) and any allusions they pick up on, even if they only mention the references after wards. Obviously would help if there were some people on board that had read it a few times or are just nasty, well-read, readers that picked up on all sorts of stuff I missed.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd be in if I wasn't already in the middle of a reread! It's about my 4th or 5th time through. I'm still amazed at the number of things jumping out at me that I never noticed before.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Then feel free to contribute whenever you can, matt b. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the object should be to read to prove that baldanders is severian's father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the object should be to read to prove that baldanders is severian's father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate.

Thank-you, that was very helpful. We'll keep it in mind. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always learn a lot from the other participants in a re-read forum, so when you start this project please count me in as well.



Plus it is Wolfe, so there ought to be no lack of "new-to-me" insights in his stuff.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the object should be to read to prove that baldanders is severian's father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate.

Oh FFS you just spoiled the whole book for me. Again.

Count me out.

Of reading.

Forever.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Basically, the participants of this thread will be like Bakker's erratic Nonmen. They will be in need of an elju, or companion book.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have it on my kindle, and read a rave review about it in The Guardian....though I do wish I had a physical copy. After I finish with Jude The Obscure, count me in!


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Basically, the participants of this thread will be like Bakker's erratic Nonmen. They will be in need of an elju, or companion book.

You.... you are very.... memorable, Triskan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm almost finished with my first reading of Claw (from the aforementioned Shadow and Claw compilation) so this should be interesting. I probably won't have anything useful to add as I'm sure most of the allusions and symbolism and smarty-pants stuff went over my head.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Are we doing a reread?
I think a group discussion as I read would enhance the experience all right.

There are obviously a few posters who could contribute even without rereading, if we just manage the spoilers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would very much like for this to happen. I can't currently commit to a re-read, and am doubtful of any illuminating insight I might offer, but following along the thoughts of my betters would be pretty awesome.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would very much like for this to happen. I can't currently commit to a re-read, and am doubtful of any illuminating insight I might offer, but following along the thoughts of my betters would be pretty awesome.


Same here. I'd love to hear Tomas', Ricardo and Enrique's opinions and insight on these books.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Apparently this came to nothing. Or did I miss an actual thread? Anyone still interested?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.