(urth) The Book of the New Sun vs. A Song of Ice and Fire

Daniel Petersen danielottojackpetersen at gmail.com
Wed Aug 1 05:48:34 PDT 2012

Quick clarification for those dropping in:  I, Daniel Otto Jack Petersen,
DID NOT WRITE THAT REVIEW.  I merely copied in its closing sentences.

Basically, I'm pleased as punch that Wolfe's New Sun is being thought of
and engaged during and related to the Game of Thrones hype.  I, of course,
tend to think it sounds kind of hilariously absurd to say the Ice and Fire
stuff excels New Sun in just about any way.  Then again, I just started
reading Stephen King for the first time in my life recently (I tend to
avoid mega-bestseller stuff) and whilst he does not have the literary merit
of folks like Wolfe, I was utterly shocked to discover that his
storytelling skill can be pretty freaking unbelievable and some of the
characterisations are indeed pretty powerful - and he's really overall got
a unique voice by which he kind of manages to hold his own in the literary
scheme of things.  I mention this because it made me wonder if Martin might
have some of these qualities (I've never read any).  I tend to doubt it for
some reason.  I'm open to it, but I suspect David's intuition that Martin's
stuff is all surface with no depth is more likely.


On Wed, Aug 1, 2012 at 1:36 PM, David Stockhoff <dstockhoff at verizon.net>wrote:

> On 8/1/2012 5:56 AM, Daniel Petersen wrote:
>> And where Martin’s books are driven by action and intrigue, Wolfe’s are
>> driven by unraveling a complex narrative arc with incredibly tricksy
>> literary elements.
> That's a fine observation in 25 words or fewer, although my initial
> impulse was to object to it as an oversimplification.
> BNS has plenty of action and intrigue, but it is in a way a set piece. If
> there is a "game" in BNS it is between characters barely, if at all, on the
> stage. Severian appears to make decisions but even on the surface is
> overtly constrained in his choices in the same way any fairy tale hero is.
> This is one of the broad authorial winks Wolfe throws our way, and on
> catching it the reader begins to sense the many literary strata that hold
> Severian as fast as any fossil. From there, the reader eventually proceeds
> to full-blown detective mode.
> But there is a another way Wolfe handles action differently. Not only does
> Severian always surprise us, but he downplays his actions as though they
> come naturally to him---which of course they do, by definition. Raised in
> the Citadel as he was, action and intrigue are /literally /nothing to him.
> Where other narrators might directly remind us or boast of this background,
> Severian reminds us indirectly (e.g., how others perceive him) and by
> sudden, expert displays of violence. His utterly blase, matter-of-fact view
> of such things almost makes him Methuselan.
> As for Martin's books---does anyone more familiar with them than I think
> there is anything /but /a surface level to them?
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