(urth) The Sorcerer's House

James Wynn crushtv at gmail.com
Tue Mar 23 15:16:17 PDT 2010

>Fernando said:
>Does anyone on the list really find these late volumes—
>I’m thinking of Evil Guest and Pirate Freedom, and even Memorare
>—enjoyable as anything other than puzzleboxes?

>Russell Wodell said:
>As in Castleview and parts of Free Live Free, there is such a plethora of
>weird incidents, conveyed at really breakneck speed by a typically laconic
>and unemotional Wolfe narrator, that I find the necessary suspension of
>disbelief very difficult.

>Gwern said:
> I'm not sure. I just set it down, and while it's more readable than
> _Fifth Head of Cerberus_ or _Peace_ or _An Evil Guest_, I don't know
> whether I enjoyed it or not.

Amazon messed up my shipping. The Sorcerer's House is supposedly
sitting at my door right now.

I'm almost done with Pirate Freedom. Haven't found a puzzle yet that
isn't carefully explained. Just an historical novel from the POV of a
modern narrator. Same for Memorare.

When I first finished Peace, I was suprised with the questions left
open. Then I thought about it for a couple days an realized the
answers were sitting there in plain view. I have open questions in
Fifth Head, but it was certainly readable. It was the novel that
caused me to start telling people he was the greatest SF writer ever
(after coming away with a positive but not overwhelming opinion after
The New Sun).

AEG on the other hand was quite readable. It is only as a puzzle that
it failed. If I just sit back and enjoy the world Wolfe created, it's
great. If I try to figure stuff out...no so much.

Castleview, I think everyone agrees, is just a Fail. But there's a
lesson in that, that I think touches on some of the complaints about
Pirate Freedom and others. It is this:

No one asks to see Harry Seldon's math equations. They just accept it.
No asks how Galadriel's bowl works. No one frets over Helen's mother
being seduced by a swan. No one asks why Iago hated Othello. The
reason why Llwyd ap Cil Coed cursed Pwyll is pretty lame, but who

But when it's Wolfe they've got to have an explanation for a Time
Travelling monastary. And who are those bat people? And why did they
abduct Able and how is it that there seems to be a twin in Mythgarthr
and one on this side? And why did Vivianne want to kill Seth and
what's with the talking cat? Meanwhile, Wolfe is saying "This is
Faerie! You want explanations?"

In Castle of the Otter/Days Wolfe pointed out that people complained
about the hard words. He said, people don't mind gibberish words in SF
if they know it's gibberish. "But if you work hard to find just the
right word...I should stopped before my typewriter gets rusty."

A lot of the so-called puzzles are not puzzles at all. They are just
the setting.

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