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The Sword of the Lictor by Gene Wolfe

The Sword of the Lictor (1982)

by Gene Wolfe

Other authors: Gary K. Wolfe (Introduction)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Book of the New Sun (3), Solar Cycle (7)

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1,1091511,249 (4.16)1 / 38



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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
This is the third book in the series The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. I don’t have too much to say about it, but I enjoyed it at the same level as the previous two.

The previous book had a couple things that drove me nuts, and this book did not. Even Severian’s constant harping about his perfect memory is toned down to a more tolerable level. The story also held my interest pretty consistently all the way through. On the other hand, there really weren’t any secondary characters in this book that I felt attached to like I had in the previous book.

I have one very spoiler-ish thing to talk about in spoiler tags:
I did really like Little Severian and the brief period in which our Severian takes on the role of his father. The boy’s death really caught me by surprise. I guess it was supposed to be ironic that at one point Severian muses that he isn’t sure which he was more worried about losing, the boy or his sword, when he’s climbing up mountains with both on his back. By the end of the book, he’s lost both.

This book continues to create more questions, but it also answered or hinted at answers to quite a few things. On to the fourth book! ( )
  YouKneeK | Aug 27, 2017 |
In The Sword of the Lictor, Wolfe finally reveals the backgrounds of many of Severian's off-again on-again companions, as well as some of the nature of the mysterious artifact, the Claw of the Conciliator. While I'm all for some good exposition, the explanations given don't really justify why the story is taking place or how everything fits into the larger world, but instead mainly serves to reinforce just how weird the world is. We continue to follow Severian as he travels north, and we learn that the outlying provinces and the wilderness are just as strange as the big city or the seat of power. Despite the fact that the books are written as a memoir, we still have very little insight into Severian's motivations (where is he going?), though he does seem to be a little more focused in this book as his life and liberty is more often in jeopardy. ( )
  Phrim | Mar 24, 2015 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

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. He doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to his exalted position (if anything, I’d say farther) and we’re no closer to understanding how he’s going to get there. But that’s totally fine. Unburdened by a need to be anywhere or to achieve any goals or deadlines, Severian wanders the earth almost aimlessly, and it’s this wandering that’s so fascinating.

For a reader who’s only anxious for action and story progression, The Sword of the Lictor is not likely to work and, indeed, I usually get annoyed with authors who take too long to tell their stories. However, when I’m reading Gene Wolfe, it not only works — it is pure delight. For Wolfe’s old earth, set in a far future when the sun is dying (similar to Jack Vance’s Dying Earth), is full of wonder and amazement and he tells us all about it in his simple but elegant style:

“… authors are so anxious to move their stories forward (however wooden they may be, advancing like market carts with squeaking wheels that are never still, though they go only to dusty villages where the charm of the country is lost and the pleasures of the city will never be found)… The assassin who holds a dagger to his victim’s neck is eager to discuss the whole matter, and at any length the victim or the author may wish. The passionate pair in love’s embrace are at least equally willing to postpone the stabbing, if not more so… In life it is not the same…”

I wish I could be there with Severian as he climbs down the steep cliff overhung with a waterfall and embedded with the fossils of earth’s lost architecture, and explores the round metal building that we recognize (but he doesn’t) as a spaceship… I’d love to tell you more and to discuss what it all means (there’s so much symbolism here), but then you’d miss the jaw-dropping, eye-widening, brain-expanding experience for yourself. I’ll just say that what Severian experiences on his journey perfectly captures the essence of excellent speculative fiction — it’s the reason I love SFF.

Nobody creates such a sense of wonder and amazement, such truly unique and bizarre ideas, and relates them in such a beautiful way as Gene Wolfe does. I want to spend a lot more time exploring his world. ( )
1 vote Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Severian escapes some close calls... Reads a lot quicker then the first book as I had a much better idea of where things were going. ( )
  robfreeze | Aug 20, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wolfe, GeneAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wolfe, Gary K.Introductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Frick, JohanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maitz, DonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennington, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Series (with order)
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Into the distance disappear the mounds of human heads.
I dwindle—go unnoticed now.
But in affectionate books, in childrens games,
I will rise from the dead to say: the sun!
First words
"It was in my hair, Severian, " Dorcas said.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Devenu licteur de Thrace, Sévérian semble avoir trouvé l'équilibre qui lui manquait depuis son départ de Nessus. Pourtant, de mystérieuses créatures sont toujours à ses trousses et nombre de ses questions restent posées. Le bourreau en trouvera-t-il les réponses dans le lointain passé de Teur? Et quel rôle joue réellement la Griffe du Conciliateur? La quête de Sévérian va prendre un tournant décisif, pour son propre avenir et celui de la planète entière.
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Severian flees his exile in search of his destiny, guided by the glowing power of a hidden, awesome weapon.

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