(urth) Early _Sorcerer's House_ review

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Mon Mar 1 15:44:40 PST 2010

"The Sorceror's House is a beautifully subtle new novel by master
fantasy and SF author Gene Wolfe. The novel's protagonist is a
recently released convict who, seemingly by complete coincidence,
comes into possession of an abandoned house. As he moves in, he
discovers that the house already has a few odd inhabitants...

A large part of the enjoyment of this novel is the process of
discovery, as the protagonist slowly finds out more and more about the
odd nature of the house and its inhabitants, as well as the relations
between the other people living in his new town. Because I don't want
to spoil this process of discovery, I won't say much more about the
plot of the novel, aside from the fact that it will slowly suck you
into its own twisted reality, and that it's perfectly suited to be
read and re-read, because everything, from the very first page on,
will have acquired a new meaning by the time you're done reading The
Sorceror's House for the first time.

Fans of Gene Wolfe know that this author likes to play games with
unreliable narrators, such as the protagonist of the SOLDIER books,
whose memory is wiped out at the end of every day, or Severian from
The Book of the New Sun, who claims to have a perfect memory. In the
case of The Sorceror's House, the novel actually consists of a series
of letters. The vast majority are written by the erudite and
intriguing main character, and addressed to his twin brother, his
former cell mate, or his brother's wife. It's the epistolary format of
The Sorceror's House that sets up lots of opportunities to twist the
reader's perspective, because it allows the writer of the letters to
tailor the content (not to mention tone) to the addressees. The very
last letter of the novel is a perfect example — and I guarantee you’ll
have a smile on your face when you read it.

I wouldn't call The Sorceror's House a major novel in Gene Wolfe's
impressive oeuvre, at least when compared to masterpieces like The
Book of the New Sun or THE WIZARD KNIGHT, but that doesn't mean that
it isn't a supremely elegant fantasy novel, with a memorable narrator
and a Twin Peaks-like atmosphere of "everyone in this small town has a
secret". If you're already a fan of the Wolfe, definitely pick up a
copy of The Sorceror's House... and if you're not, maybe this quote
from Neil Gaiman (about THE WIZARD KNIGHT) will convince you: "Gene
Wolfe is the smartest, subtlest, most dangerous writer alive today, in
genre or out of it. If you don't read this book, you'll have missed
out on something important and wonderful and all the cool people will
laugh at you."
—Stefan   Comments "


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