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SFF Author: Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe(1931- )
Gene Wolfe is best known for his award-winning science fiction epic The Solar Cycle, which includes The Book of the New Sun, and sequels. Mr. Wolfe has won numerous awards, including the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007. He lives in Illinois.



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Author Marc Aramini talks to Stuart about the complicated works of Gene Wolfe

Last year I tried twice (unsuccessfully) to finish The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Retrospective of His Finest Fiction, giving up in defeat. Many SFF readers are baffled and frustrated by his stories, because they are packed with metaphors, literary references, hidden themes, and require extremely close reading to understand and appreciate. I did get a lot of supportive feedback from various readers who encountered the same difficulties, including a very knowledgeable person named “Aramini”.

When the 2016 Hugo Awards were announced, Marc Aramini’s Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe,


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The Fifth Head of Cerberus: Three novellas about identity, memory, and colonization

The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

I don’t think I’m the only reader drawn to Gene Wolfe’s books — hoping to understand all the symbolism, subtleties, oblique details, unreliable narrators, and offstage events — and finding myself frustrated and confused, feeling like it’s my lack of sophistication and careful reading ability to blame. Wolfe is most famous for his amazing 4-volume THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN dying earth masterpiece, which has a 1-volume coda called The Urth of the New Sun,


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Peace: Mysterious, atmospheric and tinged with nostalgia

Peace by Gene Wolfe

Although virtually unclassifiable, Gene Wolfe’s 1975 novel, Peace, was chosen for inclusion in both David Pringle’s Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels AND Jones & Newman’s Horror: Another 100 Best Books. While the novel certainly does have shadings of both the horrific and the fantastic, it will most likely strike the casual reader — on the surface, at least — as more of an autobiography, telling, as it does, the story of Alden Dennis Weer,


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The Devil in a Forest: “Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”

The Devil in a Forest by Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe is different from most of us — at least, he’s certainly not like me. When I hear the song “Good King Wenceslas” I may wonder idly when the Feast of Stephen is (it’s December 26th, as I finally learned two years ago), if he was a real person (he was, although he was actually a duke) and, perhaps, if he was as good as all that (I have no idea). Gene Wolfe heard “Good King Wenceslas” and decided to write this book.


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The Shadow of the Torturer: SFF’s greatest and most challenging epic

The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

For those of you enjoy audiobooks, this is the perfect time to finally read (or to re-read) Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer. Audible Frontiers recently put it on audio and the excellent Jonathan Davis is the reader.

The Shadow of the Torturer introduces Severian, an orphan who grew up in the torturer’s guild. Severian is now sitting on a throne, but in this first installment of The Book of the New Sun,


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The Claw of the Conciliator: Enjoy the journey on audio

The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe

The Claw of the Conciliator is the second book in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun quartet. If you read The Shadow of the Torturer and felt like you were lost (or drunk), and weren’t sure whether things would get clearer in the second book, I have to tell you that no, they don’t. But if you, like me, enjoy that dreamy I’m-not-sure-where-I-am-or-how-I-got-here-or-where-I’m-going-but-everything-sure-feels-fine literary experience, then read on,


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The Sword of the Lictor: Captures the essence of excellent speculative fiction

The Sword of the Lictor by Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe’s The Sword of the Lictor essentially contains no plot, but it’s the best plotless book I’ve ever read. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, period. I loved every moment of it! (I read this on audio; Audible Frontiers‘ audio version, read by Jonathan Davis, is exceptional.)

This third installment of The Book of the New Sun continues Severian’s journey from apprentice in the torturers’ guild to Autarch.


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The Citadel of the Autarch: A measuring rod for excellent fantasy literature

The Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe

The Citadel of the Autarch is a satisfying conclusion to Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun. (A fifth book, The Urth of the New Sun, is a coda to the original four books.) We’ve known all along that Severian the torturer would be the autarch by the end of his story, but his fascinating journey to the throne is what this saga is all about… on the surface,


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The Urth of the New Sun: An imaginative continuation of The Book of the New Sun

The Urth of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

Many are the reviews declaring Gene Wolfe’s THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN to be incomprehensible rubbish. Certainly not a series (or a book, depending how you look at it) for everybody, it does often require a puzzling out of the scenes and thoughts that the main character, Severian, experiences and expresses — and knowledge of mythology, paganism, anthropology, and other historical and cultural elements doesn’t hurt. Far from entertainment-lite, it’s definitely for readers who prefer the more thought-provoking side of the SFF genre.


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Litany of the Long Sun: A mature fantasy

Litany of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

Though not essential, it wouldn’t hurt to do some homework before reading Litany of the Long Sun, Gene Wolfe’s omnibus edition of two novels: Nightside the Long Sun and Lake of the Long Sun. Litany and its companion omnibus Epiphany of the Long Sun make up the Book of the Long Sun series, which is itself an independent part of Gene Wolfe’s Solar Cycle.


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Epiphany of the Long Sun: Wolfe has so carefully executed his vision

Epiphany of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

EPIPHANY OF THE LONG SUN is an omnibus that combines Caldé of the Long Sun and Exodus from the Long Sun.

A smooth speaker, naturally athletic, and an intuitive and inventive tactician, Silk may well prove to be the greatest Caldé that Viron has ever had. He even has impeccable manners. Even authors of fantasy, a genre that has created many near-perfect savior figures, run a risk when they make their heroes too good.


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The Book of the Short Sun: A fine finish to a distinguished cycle of stories

THE BOOK OF THE SHORT SUN by Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe has earned a reputation for writing novels that benefit from being read twice. His works are often complex and they do tend to reward careful reading, so much so that it’s not uncommon to hear prospective readers asking which of his Solar Cycle works is the easiest to read. Wolfe’s Book of the Short Sun trilogy is certainly not the place to start, but it is an otherwise fine finish to this distinguished cycle of stories that bridge the gap between fantasy and science fiction,


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Free Live Free: No rent, but you’ll have to pay in brain cells

Free Live Free by Gene Wolfe

First of all, let me lay a few cards on the table: Gene Wolfe is my favorite science-fiction author and might be my favorite author, period. I’d give something like fifteen of his books five-star reviews; the only other author who comes close to that is Jack Vance.

Free Live Free (1984) is one of his two books that I just. Don’t. Get. (Castleview is the other.) I’ve read it at least three times,


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Latro in the Mist: Two fantastic novels

LATRO IN THE MIST by Gene Wolfe

LATRO IN THE MIST is the omnibus edition containing two of Gene Wolfe’s historical fantasies set in ancient Greece: Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete. They tell the story of Latro, a Roman mercenary wounded while fighting on the side of the Persians at the battle of Plataea. The wound to the head robs him of most of his long term memory as well as his short,


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Soldier of Sidon: Wolfe and Latro have aged very well

Soldier of Sidon by Gene Wolfe

Soldier of Sidon is the third book in Gene Wolfe’s Soldier series. Latro is a Roman mercenary who fought against the Greeks at Thermopylae. In spite of his battle prowess, he now wakes every morning with no memory of his past ever since receiving a blow to the head. Will Latro ever recover?

Gene Wolfe originally told Latro’s story in Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete,


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The Wizard Knight: A wonderful, deep, rewarding read

The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe

The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe is one of the best fantasy novels to appear in the last decade or so. The novel is split into two separate books, The Knight and The Wizard, but like Gene Wolfe’s classic BOOK OF THE NEW SUN, it’s really one big story split into separate volumes and best read back-to-back.

The Wizard Knight tells the story of Sir Able of the High Heart,


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Pirate Freedom: Unique, thought-provoking, elegant

Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe

It’s hard not to approach a Gene Wolfe novel with high expectations. After all, the man is responsible for some of the most brilliantly mind-bending science fiction and fantasy written in the last few decades. Such high expectations can make it hard to write an objective review (if such a thing is even possible) when the new book in question is quite good but just doesn’t blow you away like, say, his Book of the New Sun or The Wizard Knight.


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The Best of Gene Wolfe: Challenging, allusive, and tricky stories

Editor’s note: Stuart originally posted a review of this book in December 2015. This is a new version of the review.

The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Retrospective of His Finest Fiction by Gene Wolfe

I decided to tackle this collection for a third time, this time armed with Marc Aramini’s Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986, an 826-page analysis covering Wolfe’s output through 1986, including most of his short stories (no matter how obscure) along with The Fifth Head of Cerberus,


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The Sorcerer’s House: Beautifully otherworldly

The Sorcerer’s House by Gene Wolfe

The Sorcerer’s House is a beautifully subtle new novel by master fantasy and SF author Gene Wolfe. The novel’s protagonist is a recently released convict who, seemingly by complete coincidence, comes into possession of an abandoned house. As he moves in, he discovers that the house already has a few odd inhabitants…

A large part of the enjoyment of this novel is the process of discovery, as the protagonist slowly finds out more and more about the odd nature of the house and its inhabitants,


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Home Fires: Even a minor Gene Wolfe is still a major event

Home Fires by Gene Wolfe

Before Chelle left Earth to fight in the war against the alien Os, she contracted (entered into a civil marriage) with Skip. If she returned, more than twenty years would have passed for Skip but only a few years for her: Skip would be a successful, rich lawyer, and she’d be his beautiful, young contracta. Fast forward to the start of Home Fires, the latest novel by all-round genius Gene Wolfe: Skip is indeed a rich, successful partner in his law firm,


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The Land Across: Not sure if we get it….

The Land Across by Gene Wolfe 

Kat and I both read Gene Wolfe’s The Land Across last week. I read the print version produced by Tor and Kat read the audio version produced by Audible and narrated by Jeff Woodman. I wrote most of the following review, but Kat insisted on sticking in her comments so she didn’t have to write her own review. That’s how this review became a conversation.

Bill: Let’s be honest. In an ideal world,


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Between Light and Shadow: A prodigious study of SFF’s most elusive writer

Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini

Last year I tried twice (unsuccessfully) to finish The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Retrospective of His Finest Fiction, giving up in defeat. Gene Wolfe is frequently described as one of the most brilliant SFF writers in the genre by critics, authors, and readers alike. Some fans prize his books above all others, and there is a WolfeWiki page dedicated to discussing his work. But there are also many SFF readers that are baffled and frustrated by his stories because they are packed with metaphors,


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The Best of Analog: A high-quality collection

The Best of Analog edited by Ben Bova

The Best of Analog is filled with high-caliber stories by all-star writers: Alfred BesterRoger ZelaznyGeorge R.R. MartinVonda McIntyreGene Wolfe, and more. Published in 1978, this anthology contains three novellas, ten shorts, and one poem — pieces that have by and large stood the test of time on both feet. It is a collection of bright, interesting sci-fi shorts, some of which won awards.


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Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror: Another wonderful collection from “The Unique Magazine”

Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror edited by John Betancourt & Robert Weinberg

This is the seventh anthology that I have reviewed that has been drawn from the pages of Weird Tales, one of the most famous pulp magazines in publishing history. Each of the previous collections had employed its own modus operandi in presenting its gathered stories. Weird Tales (1964) and Worlds of Weird (1965) had been slim paperbacks featuring previously uncollected stories. The Best of Weird Tales: 1923 (1997) had spotlighted tales solely from WT’s very first year.


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The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories: Humane science fiction

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories edited by Tom Shippey

I read Tom Shippey‘s other excellent collection, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories some time ago, so it was only a matter of time before I sought out this one. Like its stablemate, The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories consists of a chronological collection of stories from a variety of authors with an introduction by the editor. I was struck by the idea of “fabril” literature, which is discussed in the introduction: a form of literature in which the “smith”


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Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams

John Joseph Adams assembles a wide variety of apocalypse-related fiction in Wastelands. some of which are older than I am, while others are more recent. What you end up with is a diverse anthology covering topics such as religion, war, and exploration while containing horror, comedy, and a sense of wonder.

The majority of the stories are easy to get into. Some stories are more subtle than others. Overall, Wastelands is an enjoyable read and the selection seems balanced.


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Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating ever since it was first announced in 2009. I was particularly excited about the anthology’s impressive list of contributors which includes several authors I enjoy reading like Glen Cook, Greg Keyes, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Garth Nix, Tim Lebbon, Caitlin R.


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Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror edited by Ellen Datlow

This anthology comes after a similarly titled anthology, also edited by Ellen Datlow, called Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror which came out in March 2010. Datlow also edits an annual anthology of horror fiction (collaborating with other editors on those). It seems then that Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror (which came out in October 2016) is informed by a great deal of knowledge in the field of speculative horror literature.


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Marion and Terry report on the 2013 Nebula Awards Weekend

The 48th Annual Nebula Awards weekend was held by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at the San Jose Convention Center in northern California from May 17 through 19, 2013. Terry Weyna and I, who both live in Northern California and both are aspiring writers, decided to see what a bunch of published writers get up to when they party together.

Marion Deeds: I think what surprised me most is how light on programming the weekend was. I thought there would be sessions about the nuts and bolts of a writing career,


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Next SFF Author: Tracy Wolff
Previous SFF Author: John Wiswell

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