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Shadow & claw by Gene Wolfe
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2,557362,355 (4.14)157
Member:Longshanks
Title:Shadow & claw
Authors:Gene Wolfe
Info:New York : ORB, [1994]
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:science fiction, fantasy

Work details

Shadow & Claw: The First Half of The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

  1. 20
    Lexicon Urthus by Michael Andre-Driussi (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Companion piece serving as guide to interpreting Gene Wolfe's multi-layered work.
  2. 10
    Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: "The composition of a novel in the first person, whose narrator would omit or disfigure the facts and indulge in various contradictions which would permit a few readers - very few readers - to perceive an atrocious or banal reality."
  3. 00
    The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge (LamontCranston)
  4. 00
    The Hyperion Omnibus [2-in-1] by Dan Simmons (LamontCranston)
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English (34)  German (1)  Romanian (1)  All (36)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Set in the far future of Earth (or Urth as it is known in these books), this is the tale of Severian, of the Guild of Torturers and his travels across a world changed out of all recognition from the one we know.

This is no ordinary fantasy tale. Episodic in nature, with a large cast of characters (many of whom disappear only to reappear much later on in the tale) the story unfolds at a stately pace and is told as if written by Severian himself.

Cast out from the Guild that has been his home since he was a small boy for falling in love with one of the prisoners, Severian is told to travel to the distant city of Thrax, there to take up the post of Carnifex, dispatching 'justice' to those poor unfortunate souls who come before him and his sword, Terminus Est. But the journey is no easy one. Indeed, he has only just reached the gates of the vast city of Nessus, home of the Guild, as book one draws to a close.

Book two takes up the tale some time later and we follow Severian to the House Absolute, home of the Autarch, and beyond to the very edge of the Northern Mountains.

Wolfe's imagination is wondrous to behold and his descriptions of the city of Nessus and the House Absolute are strange and unsettling, conjuring up a world both in decay and stasis. It is known that Mankind has fallen from the peaks of the past, when he traversed the stars, and now lives beneath the baleful glare of the red sun of this dying earth.

Severian seems bound to a destiny over which he has no control. Each adventure brings him a step closer to that destiny, the outcome of which is stated quite early on, so we know the conclusion of the tale in advnace. The pleasure comes in how the story unfolds and the course of events that will bring him to that destiny.

If you prefer swashbuckling, elves and broad strokes of the pen, then maybe this isn't the book for you. If however you enjoy a tale well told of memory and truth and the nature of power, then give this a go. I'll certainly be reading the next volume. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
This was my second read of this book. It is good and it is difficult. It sometimes has a dream like quality to it. And like a dream is hard to interpret.
  newnoz | Aug 6, 2016 |
Wolfe didn't lost me till the end(except for some few passage.
I decided to go on with some of his other books.
He is original, try him and like his writings! ( )
  Gerardlionel | Apr 2, 2016 |
Gene Wolfe's [b:The Book of the New Sun|968868|The Book of the New Sun|Gene Wolfe|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1220729153s/968868.jpg|6965668] is one of the most revered severed series of all time. Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin, GRRM and goodness knows what other celebs swear by them, not to mention armies of fans among sf readers everywhere. With this kind of adulation writing a review for the books is a risky undertaking. I mean you are fine if you love the books unconditionally and happy to declare yourself a convert, but what if you don't?

Fortunately for me I like the book (part 1 & 2) well enough to be able to show some appreciation of its merit, less fortunate is the fact that I don't actually love it.

"Shadow & Claw" is an omnibus volume comprised of the first two books of the 'The Book of the New Sun': Volume 1: [b:The Shadow of the Torturer|60211|The Shadow of the Torturer|Gene Wolfe|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1329650008s/60211.jpg|762497] and Volume 2: [b:The Claw of the Conciliator|463376|The Claw of the Conciliator|Gene Wolfe|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1332036282s/463376.jpg|2902933]. The series is often described as “a novel in four parts” so having read just parts 1 & 2 so far I can not claim to have read the entire book. In fact my attempt to review The Shadow of the Torturer after I finished it was a miserable failure because 25% of a book is too little to write about. Worse still, I first read “The Shadow of the Torturer” on audiobook and in that format most of it was incomprehensible for me, these books need to be read attentively and I can not do that while jogging. I always find printed books to be more intimate and easier to follow any way.

The first thing I noticed about Wolfe’s writing is the prose, it is florid, literate and complex, I often had to read sentences or whole passages twice to decipher their meaning. His writing is also often highly evocative, for example this particular sentence is till rattling around in my head:

“The hope in her voice now made me think of a flower growing in shadow.”

I have never seen a flower growing in shadow but the sentence conjured up a feeling of hopelessness very clearly for me.

Many reviews of this book mention that it demands multiple reading for full comprehension. Personally there is at least 15% of the book that I do not quite understand, perhaps after a few days of digesting it more details will fall into place. The author has a habit of suddenly going off on tangents that leave me floundering. There is a whole chapter describing a play put on by the characters that at the time of writing makes no sense to me.

The protagonist and narrator of the story Severian is not exactly likable as he seldom shows any emotion, even though his actions are often driven by his feelings. The female characters are all very well developed and I really feel for their plights, including the more villainous ones.

OK, that is the best I can do at this point (pathetic, I know), once I finish the remaining volumes I will try to add more substance to this review. This brings me to this passage from the end of the first and second volumes:

“Here I pause. If you wish to walk no farther with me, reader, I cannot blame you. It is no easy road.”


Definitely no easy road, but I’m game! ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
So this book is entirely problematic for me. Do I 'get it?'

No. It confuses the curl right out of my hair. I keep losing the plot thread. I can't figure out what all the invented words mean. I feel like I'm wandering through this quartet of books.

And yet... I made a trip to Powell's to pick up the second half of the series.

What magic is it that forces me to read on? I cannot say.

The world in the Book of the New Sun series is dark, scary, violent. Life is cheap. And yet, there is love and mystery here, too...

A lot of mystery. ( )
  ThePortPorts | Oct 13, 2014 |
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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312890176, Paperback)

One of the most acclaimed "science fantasies" ever, Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is a long, magical novel in four volumes. Shadow & Claw contains the first two: The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator, which respectively won the World Fantasy and Nebula Awards.

This is the first-person narrative of Severian, a lowly apprentice torturer blessed and cursed with a photographic memory, whose travels lead him through the marvels of far-future Urth, and who--as revealed near the beginning--eventually becomes his land's sole ruler or Autarch. On the surface it's a colorful story with all the classic ingredients: growing up, adventure, sex, betrayal, murder, exile, battle, monsters, and mysteries to be solved. (Only well into book 2 do we realize what saved Severian's life in chapter 1.) For lovers of literary allusions, they are plenty here: a Dickensian cemetery scene, a torture-engine from Kafka, a wonderful library out of Borges, and familiar fables changed by eons of retelling. Wolfe evokes a chilly sense of time's vastness, with an age-old, much-restored painting of a golden-visored "knight," really an astronaut standing on the moon, and an ancient citadel of metal towers, actually grounded spacecraft. Even the sun is senile and dying, and so Urth needs a new sun.

The Book of the New Sun is almost heartbreakingly good, full of riches and subtleties that improve with each rereading. It is Gene Wolfe's masterpiece. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:45 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Received as a science fiction masterpiece. This volume contains the first 2 books in a 4 book series. The Shadow of the torturer and The claw of the Conciliator (Both NIS)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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