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

Antonin Scriabin kierkegaurdian at gmail.com
Wed Aug 1 05:55:28 PDT 2012

I think that part of the reason ASOIAF gives off the impression of having
such "fully-realized" characters is that the books are so darn long, and
you spend a lot of time with them, in terms of pages.  That said, though,
the characters aren't always well-written, and in the latest book some of
them do things and think things that don't really mesh with previous books.
 Martin definitely is a cut above a lot of the genre fantasy that has come
out in the last 20 years, but he is no Wolfe.

Anyways, Wolfe seems to be getting more and more exposure, it seems.  If
you ever head to Reddit or Goodreads, for example, you will notice.  Two
years ago his name came up once in a blue moon, but now if someone asks for
science fiction recommendations, or brings up a discussion of unreliable
narrators, it isn't uncommon for a number of people to bring Wolfe and *New
Sun* into the conversation.  He is generally well-known and liked in a
number of forums now, so these sorts of comparisons aren't uncommon.

On Wed, Aug 1, 2012 at 8:48 AM, Daniel Petersen <
danielottojackpetersen at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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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