The Book of the New Sun Vol 2 - The Claw of the Conciliator
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I'm almost finished with the Claw, and liking it quite a bit more than the first one. My favourite bits and motifs: necrophagia, the character of Jonas, and the mirrors in the House Absolute. No idea what any of this means, but it's interesting.
I finished Claw last night, and still don't know what all it means, although the text is starting to give more clues. The play, I imagine, presages lots that is not yet (if ever) explicit. I hope that when we have finished all four, the people with the commentaries will share on the meanings that have emerged!
ronincats, I'll be glad to share whatever you like from Lexicon Urthus, but it's really like a dictionary rather than a commentary. One of the things I most admire about Wolfe is that he invites/requires the reader to participate in creating what the story means. Wolfe gives us little puzzles to solve because he wants us to collaborate with him in solving the Big Puzzle. By the time we're done, I hope lots of folks will have ideas about what it all means.
Lola, I too found the necrophagia fascinating an a creepy way. I don't really understand why Vodalus and his gang engage in it; I see no evidence that anyone else experiences the same sort of resulting communion (pun intended) that Severian does.
#4 I read these four books some weeks ago now, but to help my understanding I did google a few articles. Vodalus indulges for the purpose of gaining information but it becomes a perverted entertainment and also a way of controlling the other members in his party. Severian is different, firstly he loves Thecla and secondly he is unique and has the power to .... read on. I can hardly comment as everything leads to spoilers.... grr.
Is it just me or does the episode in the mine with the man-apes feel like it belongs in a pulp sf story? I couldn't decide if Wolfe was channelling The Time Machine or "Beneath the Planet of the Apes", but either way it didn't seem to fit.
The leap from the end of The Shadow of the Torturer to the beginning of The Claw of the Conciliator is a lso a little disconcerting... The first book ends with the characters travelling through the Wall about Nessus - which actually sounds quite interesting. But Wolfe makes nothing of it. And Lexicon Urthus doesn't help much either.
Well I have discovered a bit of interest from reading some of Peter Wright's Attending Daedalus. The following is all condensed and paraphrased.
One critic likened The Time-Traveller's exploration of the Morlock's underworld to Christ's harrowing of Hell. So Wolfe may have been using this scene in a similar way but with some distinct differences. The Time-Traveller strikes a match and is confronted with horror and feels that the Morlocks are no more than beasts. When Severian produces his 'light' (the Claw) he sees the humanity in the man-apes, sees them for what they are (devolved humans or potential devolved humans). It simultaneously gives a feeling to Severian which indicates that this is a potential future for mankind (stated in the text) and also a feeling of contentment to the man-apes (the contentment of the happy apes that Severian muses over).
Severian wielding the Claw and pacifying the man-apes also brings to mind a cross being used to repel vampires.
Something about the mine doesn't seem to fit. Like, for example, the fact that it's caleld a "mine", yet its entrance is a cave halfway up a cliff above a pool...
Which reminds me... Severian remarks that Agia made several mistakes in the note she wrote pretending to be Thecla... Obviously, the reference to Severian and Thecla having sex is one, and perhaps Thecla's repeated visits to, and by, Master Gurloes is another... Were there more?
it seems the storc arc, like many if fiction and drama, is about redemption. But instead of a fall and realization, Severian starts and the bottom and moves up. More like Plato's cave than Job or Jesus.
I've been trying to work out if there's more to the story Severian reads to Jonas from the Brown Book. The ending of the story is straight out of Theseus, and the ogre resembles an ironclad more than anything else. The Princess Night also seems a bit 1001 Nights...
It's getting difficult to work out what you're supposed to decode, and what you're not...
how funny, Ian, I just commented on the passage from #1 to #2 in another thread.
I like the fairy-taleish interjections, it's nice to have some respite from Severian's lacklustre mentality.
The most mysterious part so far has been Dr. Talos's play (I think it's in #2?)
Now, for that I KNOW I'm too lazy to mull it over (or reread, frankly). Someone just tell me what's it about...
Well there is loads more religious and mythological references in the play. It (like some of the other non-primary material) establishes the popular mythology of Urth. It is a distorted miniature of tBoNS itself - a meta-fiction. In a way you could say that it is preparing Severian for what is yet to come.
Aha! That's exactly what I thought was going on with the play. Good to know I got something right. Now I have to overcome my reluctance to delve into The Sword of the Lictor--I've been reading fun stuff instead.
#12 - not sure what you mean by "lacklustre", Lola. Given that sf is over-populated with paragons and Competent Men, it's refreshing to find a protagonist who admits to ignorance and lack of greatness. Admittedly, he does seem a little passive, reacting to events rather than driving the plot forwards. But I've seen worse - like in John C. Wright's The Golden Age. Hated that book.
The plays and stories interspersed within the Book of the New Sun really annoyed me. They often felt like padding, and bad padding at that.
I thought it was interesting that the story and play were placed in the narrative. I liked how the audience members of the play understood the underlying meaning of the play but Severian did not. I am still curious about Baldanders (who I keep trying to refer to as Badlanders since I recently visited the Badlands on the way to the Grand Canyon) and Dr. Talos. And I am wondering if Jonas will return. Did Agia send the notules? I find that even though I know that the end of the book it coming, I am always surprised when I get there. I liked this book better than the first as well. I am looking forward to the next one.
Have been getting through the second book, and it is okay, but the stories feel like Wolfe seriously stalled the novel. The first one, about the Corn Maidens, seemed to have no relevance except to show that Jonas once lived in a completely different era to Severian. It wasn't a bad read, but seemed like Wolfe had to increase the amount of pages in his book, and decided a twenty page fairy tale would help do that. The play, though... ohh... Firstly, I hate reading plays in written form, even if they are in English, because all of the information that we receive from actions and props and gestures are lost. That's not enough for me to whine about it, though, but the language and phrasing used in the play is a horror to read, and we get no context regarding the play's story. And it makes no sense.
For those who thought the play seemed like padding, did you find the play in the middle of Hamlet padding? Seems like it serves the same plot purpose in some ways.
Finished the second volume of the Book of the New Sun.
I found quite a few parts to be quite interesting, such as the ideas behind the green man, Jolenta, and a few other ideas that I won't spoil if someone else decides to go through the book, but didn't think that it was as good as the first book - the sudden change of location and characters with Severian was not easy to overcome, there were fewer SF elements disguised as fantasy, and I've complained about the play and the story already, and said all that I wanted to, there.
Will be onto the third volume soon.
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