Paul Twyman Twyman itibaren Mathur, Tamil Nadu, India
Have you ever loved a book entirely, but were reluctant to recommend it to anyone because you were sure they wouldn’t “get it?” That’s how I feel about Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. It looks, smells, and tastes like an epic SFF adventure, it has all the right parts, the right characters, the right kinds of incidents making up the story, and yet when you put it all together it’s something so utterly other from what decades of genre and storytelling conventions have taught us to expect that when my SF book group read the first volume a few months ago, most of the reactions were along the lines of “Uh, what the hell is this?” In my review of Shadow & Claw, I called the New Sun cycle a “coming of age” story, but I no longer think that’s true, at least in the traditional sense of a young man setting out to discover himself. If anything, Severian the Torturer spends the entirety of the second half of the story losing himself, shedding his old identity piece by piece until he has no choice but to replace it with an entirely new(old) one. I commented on the fabulous sense of antiquity that Wolfe gives his dying Urth, but in Part 2 the focus flips so that Severian is drawn time and again to images, relics, and beings from the future(s). A central theme (though not the only one) in the New Sun is how the future influences us just as much as the past. It’s not giving anything away to reveal that Severian becomes the Autarch, ruler of Urth, by the end of the story, since it was heavily implied right from the beginning of vol.1. How he gets there, and what it actually means, are the true revelations. Definitely going to read this one again. Many times.