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The Shadow of the Torturer (Book of the New…
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The Shadow of the Torturer (Book of the New Sun, Vol. 1) (original 1980; edition 1984)

by Gene Wolfe

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1,835535,543 (3.88)3 / 86
Member:chiabob
Title:The Shadow of the Torturer (Book of the New Sun, Vol. 1)
Authors:Gene Wolfe
Info:Pocket (1984), Paperback, 262 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe (Author) (1980)

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English (51)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (53)
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Seriously, this world treats women like another, lesser species. It's another example of the common male belief (male, because I've never yet read a work by a woman that depicts the future thus) that any breakdown of society will of course include the reduction of women to mere accessories.
As I finish the book, I realize it might be best if I mulled it over a bit before reviewing it. I've no training in criticism, and I don't pretend to be innately skilled at it, but I feel this book might've been just complex enough that I'm left wondering. I don't want to mistake verbosity with cleverness, and I'm just not sure where this lies on the spectrum.
I haven't decided yet if I'm gonna read the next book or not, despite the sudden interruption of an ending, and the multitude of unanswered questions. ( )
  Ubiquitine | Nov 24, 2018 |
Tried to read this twice now. I just can’t get through that magic garden where all the plants have the mysterious property of ripping the female characters’ clothing in convenient places. I give up ( )
  enantiomorph | Oct 6, 2018 |
Really not sure what to think. Odd pacing, odd descriptions, odd … everything? I just didn't find my way into this world and this rhythm. I guess the storytelling is a stylistic choice that makes sense within that world, but requires a dedication I don't feel motivated for (think Tolkien). ( )
  _rixx_ | Aug 30, 2018 |
It took me a long time to read such a short book due to my work schedule. I often only managed to read for a few minutes at a time because I kept having to drop what I was doing at a moment’s notice. Today was supposed to be a day off (my first after 14 days), and I ended up working for most of it. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s called “September”. :)

So the above paragraph probably explains why this book felt a little disjointed to me. I’m pretty sure it was me who was disjointed, rather than the book. Usually though, once I picked the book back up, I had no trouble with remembering what had happened before or with getting back into the story again. It grew more entertaining as it progressed, but it held my attention well from the beginning. I do think the narrator had a tendency to stop at some odd spots and skip over things I was interested in reading about, though.

This reads very much like epic fantasy, but there are some hints from the very beginning that this might actually be more of a science fiction setting. In any case, as is common with epic fantasy, we start with off with a character whose life is soon dramatically altered from what he had anticipated. The main character is Severian, and the book is told from his first-person perspective. It's told in the form of a written history and he occasionally speaks, or rather writes, directly to his readers. He is a young man when we meet him, and an apprentice to the Guild of Torturers. He’s grown up with the guild from his earliest memories. Beyond that, I can’t say much about the story without spoiling it because it takes a little while to move from that point.

This book is not at all as gruesome as one might expect based on the title, although it does have a few moments. I also think that, in my experience, this book is pretty unique both in terms of both style and story. If the word “torturer” makes you immediately think of Glokta from Abercrombie’s First Law world, there is little if any similarity between the characters. I never formed a definite opinion about Severian. He was a bit of a contradiction. He’s compassionate in some ways, harsh in others. Sometimes he made decisions that I agreed with, and yet his motivations for those decisions were often questionable. He also had a tendency to “fall in love” with every pretty face he saw. Obviously he’s had a weird upbringing, so much of his behavior can be explained by that, but it did make him a little difficult to enthusiastically root for.

As I was warned, this book does not remotely tell a complete story. It just tells one phase of the story, with no real resolution to events begun much earlier on. I was planning to read the entire series anyway, at least for as long as I continue to enjoy it, so I’m moving on to the second book right away. ( )
3 vote YouKneeK | Aug 21, 2017 |
This is at least my fourth read of The Shadow of the Torturer and I am, once again, convinced that it forms part of one of the greatest works of fiction - I would say "of literature", but that is a decision for posterity - of the 20th Century. Wolfe's prose is both beautiful and precise, flowing like a river that you can be carried along by, or pause to peer at the levels of meaning beneath the glittering surface. Much of this, or course, would not be apparent on a first reading, as part of the beauty of this story is the construction of plot, an intricate Escher-like loop that twists back upon itself more than once, and yet never seems forced.

The magnificent exoticism of the setting, the grandeur of the writing and the use of mythic archetypes gives the whole the feeling and solidity of ancient legend - although it is undoubtedly science fiction, the appendix making clear that the use of archaic or 20th Century words for the technologies and creatures are conveniences for translation from "a tongue which has not yet achieved existence", it very much feels to be the case of a world that has long forgotten how its machines work and that they are to most people, in Clarke's famous phrase, indistinguishable from magic. Although perhaps that in itself is not so far from the present day. ( )
1 vote Pezski | Jun 8, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wolfe, GeneAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Desmond, William OlivierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Domènech, LuisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ewyck, Annemarie vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heinz, ReinhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindgren, NilleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maitz, DonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Masera, RubénTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennington, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tamás, GáborTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vainikainen-Uusitalo… JohannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun
Dedication
First words
It is possible I already had some presentiment of my future.
To those who have preceded me in the study of the posthistoric world, and particularly to those collectors - too numerous to name here - who have permitted me to examine artifacts surviving so many centuries of futurity, and most especially to those who have allowed me to visit and photograph the era's few extant buildings, I am truly grateful. G.W. (Appendix)
Quotations
That we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin.
All of which is only to say that there exists between them [beast handlers] and the animals they bring to the pits a bond much like that between our clients and ourselves. Now I have traveled much farther from our tower, but I have found always that the pattern of our guild is repeated mindlessly [...] in the societies of every trade, so that they are all of them torturers, just as we. His quarry stands to the hunter as our clients to us; those who buy to the tradesman; the enemies of the Commonwealth to the soldier; the governed to the governors; men to women. All love that which they destroy. [32]
"But now, dear friends," he rose and dusted his trousers, "now we are come to the place, as some poet aptly puts it, where men are pulled apart by their destinations." [Dr Talos, 377]
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Cloîtré depuis l'enfance entre les murs austères de la tour Matachine, l'apprenti bourreau Sévérian ignore tout des ruelles bruissantes de Nessus et, au-delà, des merveilles et dangers de la planète Teur... jusqu'au jour où il est témoin d'une scène mystérieuse dans la nécropole. Sa rencontre avec la châtelaine Thècle, qui attend sa mise à la question, finit de sceller son destin. Sa vie prend alors un tournant inattendu et la brillante carrière qui lui était promise débouche finalement sur un voyage plein de surprises.
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