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The Shadow of the Torturer (1980)

by Gene Wolfe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Book of the New Sun (1), Solar Cycle (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,235715,304 (3.83)3 / 95
This is the first volume of the series The Book of the New Sun, which tells about the varying fortunes of Severian the Torturer. One other is: The Claw of the Conciliator (1983).

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English (68)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (70)
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
On the book itself, I doubt I will be able to say more than others have (certainly I won't say it any better). There are reams of deconstructive groups, books, essays, etc.

What I will say is this - Gene Wolfe is everything that modern readers are being taught to hate - subtle, thoughtful, introspective, unusual. He breaks all the rules because most of the rules probably don't matter; you really can do what you like as long as you do it well, in writing.

Increasingly the writing advice I see being given to authors and editors alike is to basically write/edit everything in super active phrasing at the expense of actual prose, and to create a series of hooks with an incoherent plot (ie Frozen, Tomb Raider in films; Name of the Wind in Patrick Rothfuss) because this sells better despite a total lack of payoff. But hey, who cares, because you sold a million copies and you're the next Dan fucking Brown or 50 Shades of Shite.

I respect Gene Wolfe for not treating his readers like they're incurably stupid, and being self-assured enough to not worry that at times he provokes a bit of a marmite reaction. To the book itself - I loved it, even if I'm not clever enough to get every reference, or to follow every argument. ( )
1 vote Sunyidean | Sep 7, 2021 |
I love these books so much. They are far-future fantasy, ruins on ruins on ruins, everything crumbling but the winking light of hope suspended between ancient trees and crumbling towers. They give off Dark Souls vibes. Also, the audiobooks are incredibly peaceful. ( )
1 vote jtth | Aug 17, 2021 |
I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of Shadow, only to be confused by the direction later on. The story itself and the characters were interesting -- meandering without a focus as Severian wanders. ( )
  adamfortuna | May 28, 2021 |
This is a 5500 word essay on a reread of the full TBotNS, focusing on the narrative trap Wolfe has set, and my theory that his literary sleight of hand serves a religious/mystical goal, much more than it is the supposed puzzle for the reader to unravel. There’s also a short section on free will, and it ends with my overall appraisal of the book’s enduring appeal.


Even though Wright might be right in spirit, Aramini’s law still holds: “One of the most fascinating aspects of the critical discourse surrounding Wolfe involves how infrequently any two people will agree with each other.” That is because Wolfe has indeed set a trap – but his trap isn’t there to catch readers unwilling to question their assumptions in a post-structuralist way… The trap is there to catch post-structuralists and puzzle-solvers altogether. To understand that, I’ll have to turn to the Spiritual.


Full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It ( )
  bormgans | May 17, 2021 |
The start of a wonderful, dark, meandering, and ultimately transcendent tetralogy by the recently deceased Gene Wolfe. I've been holding off on reviewing these books, but I'll make an effort to marshal my thoughts in the coming weeks. In the meantime a quick piece I drew in tribute to this great author, and this series which has been rattling around in my brain for the last few years.

( )
  francoisvigneault | May 17, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (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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A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun
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)
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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Wikipedia in English (1)

This is the first volume of the series The Book of the New Sun, which tells about the varying fortunes of Severian the Torturer. One other is: The Claw of the Conciliator (1983).

No library descriptions found.

Book description
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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Average: (3.83)
0.5 1
1 24
1.5 5
2 51
2.5 6
3 107
3.5 33
4 173
4.5 22
5 206

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