(urth) The Distant Suns of Gene Wolfe

Daniel D Jones ddjones at riddlemaster.org
Tue May 29 15:16:47 PDT 2007

On Tuesday 29 May 2007 12:00, Matthew King wrote:
> On May 29, 2007, at 6:26 AM, Daniel D Jones wrote:
> > Worthy?  Really?  While the only factual error I can point to is
> > the one you
> > pointed out - the conflation of the Concilliator with Christ - I can't
> > imagine a much more misleading summary of TBOTNS.  His descriptions
> > of other
> > works seem to completely miss the mark as well.  For a quick
> > example, he
> > says "Peace" is "...[Wolfe's] only mainstream novel (also one of
> > his personal
> > favorites), about a wealthy old man who builds museum-style rooms
> > in his
> > mansion to match the rooms from houses of his past life."  Again,
> > factually
> > accurate but that hardly describes the novel I read.  YMMV, of course.
> Is the article illuminating for long-time readers of Wolfe?
> Decidedly not.  I do think it has worth, merit, or value, and is
> useful.  At a minimum, the article introduces Wolfe to an audience
> that I think would not normally stumble across his work.  Shall we
> brace ourselves for an onslaught of High Church conservatives? (First
> Things has always tried to be more ecumenical, and mostly succeeded,
> until the original editor stepped down last year.  The Wolfe article
> was published just after I let my subscription lapsed.  I try not to
> take this as a reprimand)

I didn't expect any sort of illumination.  However, if I read that article and 
picked up the BOTNS expecting to read an uplifting story of redemption about 
a man who was raised as a torturer, found artifacts of Jesus Christ and 
worked miracles with them, and became king and abolished the evil torturers 
guild which spawned him, I'd be thoroughly confused and wondering if I'd 
picked up the wrong book.  Yes, all of these things happen (other than the 
JC/Concilliator confusion) but that doesn't change the fact that the summary 
is wildly misleading.  Assuming that the goal is to enlarge Wolfe's 
readership and appreciation, is it really helpful to spread such inaccuracies 
and set up expectations that will almost certainly be disappointed?

> Some of my perception of the article may come from lowered
> expectations.  Outside of this list, I rarely come across any
> insightful discussions of Wolfe, as Michael Straight just wrote.

Other than remote corners of cyberspace such as this one, I rarely come across 
any insightful discussion of any authors other than a handful of mainstream 
names.  There are authors who receive a great deal more press than Wolfe, but 
rarely is it insightful or illuminating.

> I do like the article's emphasis on the Soldier books.  _Mist_ is the
> book that hooked me for Wolfe, after _New Sun_ nearly chased me away.

BOTNS was the first Wolfe series I read.  (It was almost the first Wolfe 
period.  I'd actually read "The Death of Doctor Island" in an anthology long 
before, but didn't recall the name of the author.)  That series led me to 
read everything by him I could get my hands on.  The Soldier series are good, 
but they wouldn't have inspired me to stock my bookshelves with his stuff.  
The Long and Short Sun series are also good, but I don't find the story near 
as compelling as the New Sun stuff.  

More information about the Urth mailing list