And Then I Read: THE URTH OF THE NEW SUN by Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe’s books that I’ve read so far have been a mixed bag for me. I liked “The Book of the New Sun,” a four-novel series which I reviewed in PART ONE and PART TWO, but did not at all like his novel “Peace.” This book is called a coda to Book of the New Sun, so I thought I’d try it. It follows Severian, the ruler or Autarch of Urth, which is our own world far in the future when our sun is dying. Severian has been granted a chance to travel through space to the distant world of Yesod to be judged. If he is worthy, he will be granted the power to bring a new sun to Urth, restoring vitality to the world, but at the cost of great cataclysms and calamities for the inhabitants.

Wolfe has an annoying tendency to bury or skip over the most important events of a story, leaving the reader puzzled and unsure what exactly happened, or at least this reader. It was so in Book of the New Sun a few times, but there was enough continuous narrative around those events to make filling in the blanks not too difficult. Peace was just the opposite, I never could figure out exactly what was happening, and the story skipped around continuously in time to add to the confusion. This novel is somewhere between those two poles, with more annoying guesswork and skipping around in time than Book. I enjoyed parts of it, but overall I can’t recommend it, and I found it frustrating and disappointing as a sequel. The book was nominated for several top awards, so I might be in a minority here, and if you’re interested, I suggest you try it for yourself.

The Urth of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

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