The Book of the New Sun – Gene Wolf

Includes Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of Conciliator, The Sword of the Lictor, The Citadel of the Auturch

The Book of the New Sun reminds of me when my ability to read books was outstripped by my ability to understand them. Mainly of that time I read Soul Music in primary school – sure, I understood the novel’s basic plot, but I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing something pretty important.

Apparently living in the Earth’s future, post several apocalypses, Severian is a young apprentice exiled from the Torturer’s Guild after an inappropriate relationship with one of their clients. Given a nifty sword and somehow acquiring a supernatural jewel associate with the local Christ analogue, Severian explores a world that is simultaneously antique and futuristic. Along the way he falls in with political subversives and a travelling drama troupe, somehow bumping into every important person in his country.

You know how there’s a point in every Philip K Dick novel where you completely lose the plot? These books had something similar happen every second chapter. Maybe it’s because Wolfe uses obscure words for unfamiliar concepts, maybe it’s because every now and then a chapter is a story being told by a side character, maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. Dick gets away with ambiguity because his characters are so well-written they almost feel real, but Wolfe doesn’t manage to do that for me.

I dunno. I’ll have to give this series another try in the next decade, see if I get it then.