Well, I had just finished reading (and being disappointed in) Black House when I finally got around to re-reading this series. Sort of. See, I read these back in middle school as part of my whole sci-fi/fantasy fixation back then. While I slogged my way through most of the series back then, I literally had no idea what was going on. Wolfe’s series is quite different than the Piers Anthony/Weis & Hickman schlock I was reading then. Of course, back then I just got frustrated and blamed the books.
So I finally decided to be brave enough to give this (admittedly difficult) series another try. WOW. I am so glad I did. This stuff is just so impressive. On the surface it is a story of Earth (Urth) in the far future where they have forgotten their history. A torturer is tossed out from his guild for showing mercy to a prisoner and begins to explore his strange world. He then goes on many adventures and eventually becomes ruler of his world. None of the above is spoilerish by the way and is all aluded to by the protaganist as he is telling this tale while he is leader.
There is just so much depth and subtlety to the story it is unbelievable. There are so many things I had to read twice or three times to get the true meaning of and there are so many subtle hints as to what is really going on, its crazy. There are many times you will want to grab a dictionary, but try to just go with the narrative. Most of what he is trying to say will become clear. I just love all the hints of what really happened in their past and all the characters.
Imagine figuring out that a character is a cyborg (from the viewpoint of a character who has no idea about technology) or transporters in hidden chambers of collapsed skyscrapers. Or how about an antechamber that people waited generations in, while being served coffee and pastries every day? Crazy, brilliant stuff. Because the narrator often has no idea what is really going on or the meaning of speech he hears, you have to figure out much of the puzzle yourself, but the whole thing is so well written and intricately plotted, that it is a lot of fun. God, if more sci-fi/fantasy was like this, I wouldn’t have written off the genre years ago.
Now I’m afraid of being spoiled, but I’ve heard good things about Le Guin. The Dispossessed and * The Left Hand of Darkness* are next after I finish the last two books of the New Sun series.
New Sun fans- are the other series (e.g. Long Sun) as good? What about Wolfe’s other works? Please, I’d love to hear what some other people think of these books and related works.