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The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe
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The Claw of the Conciliator (1981)

by Gene Wolfe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Book of the New Sun (2), Solar Cycle (6)

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1,244259,701 (4.04)1 / 37

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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
This is the second book in the series The Book of the New Sun. I liked it at about the same level as I liked the first. I was particularly wrapped up in the story for the first half or so, but my interest started to fade a little toward the end.

One of the sections near the end that I really had trouble getting through was the play. There’s a fairly large chapter in which we’re given the script for a play that is performed. I’ve never been crazy about reading things in that format to begin with, and it didn’t help that I wasn’t prepared for it and that I reached that point in the book last night when I was exhausted after my 19th straight day of work. I ended up putting the book down, going to sleep, and then backtracking a few pages to read the play from the beginning this morning. I was able to follow it better after some sleep, but I still didn’t particularly enjoy it.

One other thing that got on my nerves was Severian, the narrator, continually reminding the reader that he doesn’t forget anything. I wish he could just remember how many times he’s told us that and stop telling us! If the reader doesn’t understand the implications of this by now, they’re never going to, so please stop torturing the rest of us.

Really though, I did enjoy this book, despite a few annoyances. I particularly enjoyed one of the characters who was introduced near the end of the previous book and played a large role throughout much of this book. I’m hopeful we’ll learn more about him as the series progresses. There were some interesting hints and revelations about him throughout this book.

Things got really strange at the very end, so hopefully the next book will pick up with that and clear things up. However, the second book left a gap after the end of the first book and that gap is only vaguely filled in as the reader progresses through the second book, so I’m not particularly optimistic that I’ll get any quick answers. It’s an interesting series, though, with a pretty unique style. ( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Aug 26, 2017 |
Totally goes to pieces about halfway through ~ ( )
  Baku-X | Jan 10, 2017 |
no part of this book makes any fucking sense ( )
  jrrrheard | Apr 21, 2015 |
Here, we follow the journey of Severian through this strange world. The book begins on a confusing note, as some time has passed, and the reader has no idea what happened to his former companions (I actually had to go back and check to make sure this was in fact the second book). While Severian is a first-person narrator, his motivations are oddly unguessable. He seems somewhat loyal to the Guild, but at one point says that his vows don't mean anything and seems in no hurry to get to Thrax. He is recruited by his childhood hero, Vodalus, but immediately claims he has no intention of carrying out Vodalus's mission (and only does so by accident). He states that finding the Pelerines is a goal, but doesn't display any urgency there, either. Rather, I kind of get the impression that I'm watching someone play an adventure-style computer game, with lots of "what happens if I do this?" moments, and more poking around than advancing the plot. It's kind of a strange experience. ( )
  Phrim | Feb 24, 2015 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Claw of the Conciliator is the second book in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun quartet. If you read The Shadow of the Torturer and felt like you were lost (or drunk), and weren’t sure whether things would get clearer in the second book, I have to tell you that no, they don’t. But if you, like me, enjoy that dreamy I’m-not-sure-where-I-am-or-how-I-got-here-or-where-I’m-going-but-everything-sure-feels-fine literary experience, then read on, because Severian’s head is a strange and fascinating place to be.

The Book of the New Sun is one of those works that some people think is ingenious and others suspect is just drivel. This is not the series for a reader who wants a quick-paced action-filled story with a concrete beginning, middle and end. This is for someone who’s in the mood to be open-minded and has the time and patience for some experimentation with character, setting, and theme. (And, perhaps, some mind-altering drugs might help.)

You don’t need to worry about all of the religious imagery to enjoy these novels, but it’s there if you want to look for it. Most obvious are the themes of healing and resurrection and the allusions to the Second Coming, and it’s clear that Severian has some sort of role in that (though he may be completely oblivious). There is also the fascinating issue of Severian being an unreliable narrator. I’m not prepared to call him a “liar” (as some readers have done) because I can’t find much evidence that he purposely lies to us. I think, rather, that his perceptions and memory are faulty. His claim that his memory is perfect may not be a lie, but rather his own misperception.

Gene Wolfe doesn’t much care for a traditional fantasy setting and he also doesn’t respect the traditional mechanics of storytelling. Tight plot? Why bother? This story wanders — seemingly aimlessly — all across the country (or maybe not, because we may have ended up where we started, but who knows?). Characters, conversations, and events that appear to be significant may mean nothing. There are hints of lost races, species, technologies, knowledge, and allegorical meaning that may never be explained and connected for us at the end. There is plenty of bizarreness (even an Ames Room!), which is what I enjoy most.

Wolfe’s world is rich, most of what happens is unexpected, and the reader feels completely helpless to predict anything or even to be assured that things that will work out as they’re “supposed to” in a fantasy novel. Imagine that you’re reading one of those epics where you’ve cleverly figured out that the orphan boy hero is really the long-lost son of the king, but… the author won’t acknowledge this. That would be weird and somewhat disconcerting. That’s how it feels to read The Book of the New Sun. How strange and refreshing!

At the end of The Claw of the Conciliator, Severian says (just as he did at the end of The Shadow of the Torturer) that he doesn’t blame us if we don’t want to continue walking with him (“it is no easy road”). But we’re in Gene Wolfe’s creative hands, so it’s not the destination; it’s the journey that’s paramount. If you’re ready to embark on this strange trip, I recommend Audible Frontiers’ audio version. Jonathan Davis is a favorite of mine and he does an amazing job with this difficult piece. ( )
2 vote Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gene Wolfeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gordon, JoanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindgren, NilleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maitz, DonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennington, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, ToniIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
But strength still goes out from your thorns,
and from your abysses the sound of music.
Your shadows lie on my heart like roses
and your nights are like strong wine.
Dedication
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Morwenna's face floated in the single beam of light, lovely and framed in hair dark as my cloak; blood from her neck pattered to the stones.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Severian, a young torturer banished for the sin of mercy is now imbued with the powers of an ancient relic as he continues his mythic journey to the city of his exile in a world a million years in the future.

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