- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Orb Books; 5th ed. edition (October 15, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312890176
- ISBN-13: 978-0312890179
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews:
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' Paperback – October 15, 1994
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed these digital items
Customers who bought this item also bought these digital items
This is the first-person narrative of Severian, a lowly apprentice torturer blessed and cursed with a photographic memory, whose travels lead him through the marvels of far-future Urth, and who--as revealed near the beginning--eventually becomes his land's sole ruler or Autarch. On the surface it's a colorful story with all the classic ingredients: growing up, adventure, sex, betrayal, murder, exile, battle, monsters, and mysteries to be solved. (Only well into book 2 do we realize what saved Severian's life in chapter 1.) For lovers of literary allusions, they are plenty here: a Dickensian cemetery scene, a torture-engine from Kafka, a wonderful library out of Borges, and familiar fables changed by eons of retelling. Wolfe evokes a chilly sense of time's vastness, with an age-old, much-restored painting of a golden-visored "knight," really an astronaut standing on the moon, and an ancient citadel of metal towers, actually grounded spacecraft. Even the sun is senile and dying, and so Urth needs a new sun.
The Book of the New Sun is almost heartbreakingly good, full of riches and subtleties that improve with each rereading. It is Gene Wolfe's masterpiece. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk
“The Book of the New Sun establishes [Wolfe's] pre-eminence, pure and simple....The Book of the New Sun contains elements of Spenserian allegory, Swiftian satire, Dickensian social consciousness and Wagnerian mythology. Wolfe creates a truly alien social order that the reader comes to experience from within...once into it, there is no stopping.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Magic stuff...a masterpiece...the best science fiction I've read in years!” ―Ursula K. Le Guin
“Arguably the best piece of literature American science fiction has yet produced.” ―Chicago Sun-Times
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This is an extremely challenging read. It rivals "Moby Dick" in linguistic complexity. Frankly, my Kindle worked overtime using fast Wikipedia and Dictionary look-ups features for the vocabulary used. Often, multiple times on a single page! The challenge is two fold: 1) the archaic terms used: 40% are in the dictionary, 40% are in Wikipedia, and 20% are in neither (the author simply creates). I really do not know how the book could have been accurately read at the time it was written because the Internet (and its associated speed) did not yet exist & 2) many sentences are constructed in an archaic way as well. I am telling you, the vocabulary used would have driven William F. Buckley Jr. (well known for his expansive vocabulary, FYI) running to the dictionary routinely.
I read a lot and have a Master's...this is a challenging read up with the most complex I have every read or heard about. I am 59 and have a gracious amount of books under my proverbial "belt".
It is written in the first person in the very distant future as a memoir of sorts. The original writer from the future has a sort of photographic memory which is used to add credibility to the detail of the story. The actual author (I.e., Wolfe) has an appendix stating that it was translate into our current English (Circa 1983). So, the actual author is merely a translator. He states that there are numerous word substitutions for various reasons as it is set in the future.
The terminology used spans from the Classic Greek era of time (~500 BC or so) of time to ~1983. It spans European and Arab cultural references and terminology references.
The work is impressive and very much worth the read. It is in the top handful of Scyfy reads every written IMHO. I caution anyone who attempts to read this to use a reader. The fast look-up capability is essential to appreciating the work. Reading a hard copy would be an effort in frustration unless you have a Masters or PhD in literature along with advanced degrees in ancient history.
I love this book. I suppose I love for the piece as a work of literature, but I think I love even more because it made me work so hard to read the work in a way needed to appreciate it.
Postscript: I have read several other reviews that give a poor rating. This novel is set on Earth with the sun dying. Far into the future. Society has de-evolved into many roles and practices more common a Medeival/Roman/Greek blend. High tech and interstelller space travel are ancient memories. It is male dominated but with several strong females. I feel many of the poor reviews were by readers who gave up and did not finish this challenging read. The Appendix mentioned above covers terminology used; the accuracy of the story is covered multiple times discussing the author's photographic memory.
Bottom line: the reader has to work while reading this book. It is not a "sit on the beach and read a page an hour" type book. You are working with the author with every sentence. Most people are not use to or prepared for this level of effort. When you finish this book you are rewarded handsomely with a sense of true accomplishment. This book is the equivalent to a large portion (40% or so) of a single college class in literature. 1.5 credits or so. IMHO.
The Shadow of the Torturer follows the last year of Severian’s life in The Citadel of Nessus and his few days after leaving into exile after breaking the greatest rule of the guild of torturers. Severian finds himself challenged to a duel and explores greater Nessus in preparation while coming into contacting with numerous interesting characters. The Claw of the Conciliator picks up a bit after the previous book with Severian performing his duties in a small mining town before going on a series of journeys going to the seat of government the House Absolute and leaving, all the while trying to figure out everything he’s involved in while trying not to dishonor his guild once again.
The first volume of the book, Shadow, was very intriguing and while somethings were clear—as might have been the plan—there was enough there to make me look forward to continuing on Severian’s journey. However the second volume, Claw, was all over the place with quality, interest, and frustration as one the main problems from the first volume, namely the first-person narration by Severian was all over the place. Add in an entire chapter that described a line-by-line recreation of a nonsensical play just to setup an attack by one of the characters on the audience in the next, much short chapter just added to my dislike of this particular volume.
I had high hopes for Shadow & Claw given that it was the first half of what is considered a classic tetralogy by Gene Wolfe. While I did like the first volume of the omnibus, the second one has made me wonder why this is considered a fantasy-science fiction classic by many.
The Shadow of the Torturer (3.5/5)
The Claw of the Conciliator (2/5)
Top international reviews
That was why revisiting this series of books, books I read in my youth but probably didn’t fully appreciate at the time was enlightening for the fact that for everything I have said is often lacking in the genre, Gene Wolf, proves that there is a better way.
The story is simple but as I will explain later, it isn’t the story that is the real selling point. Severian is a young man brought up in the bosom of a very ancient guild, a guild of torturers, an organisation who via strict codes operate as the impassive face of justice as decreed from above. After allowing an act of what he sees as mercy towards a prisoner in his charge he is banished from the guild and so begins a journey through a world he has barely experienced. The first few chapters set off down a very traditional fantasy path but when Severian finally encounters the city around him to head into exile the scope of Wolfe’s writing is revealed.
We learn of the world at the same pace as Severian himself, much of it as mysterious and strange to him as it is to the reader and this is where perspectives change. Initially the descriptions of this city give it a medieval or ancient feel but hints are given that this is not just another arbitrary setting with the typical swords and sorcery settings plundered for the sake of familiarity. This is actually Earth in the far future, one where the technology of this distant time seems like magic to his (and thus our) uneducated eyes. Small pieces of detail make reference to our own times, a time now ancient history in the timeline of the books.
But like all good literature it is also the quality of the writing that stands it apart from the pack. The story is being told by Severian in later life, so we are reading a memoir of his life and so the narrative is surrounded with insights, reflections and hindsight’s from a position where the narrator is already aware of the full scope of the story, his final destiny and the effects of the choices that he made along the way. It is this quality, along with the strength of the writing that add some wonderful philosophical dimensions to the story, a chance to rethink the twists and turns of his life and their role in his journey.
To add to the mystery the back-story of society is coloured in very slowly and Wolfe’s use of archaic and often invented words add to the exotic feel. There is a complex class structure which we learn about as our protagonist does, the guilds and history of the world around him often hang half finished allowing the reader to mentally complete the picture and even Severian’s own childhood is only hinted at as the narrative requires.
It is a series, which is slow and subtle, rich in detail rather than action and all the better for it. It is also Severian’s story own we are allowed into only via his recollections and thoughts. Many fantasy’s can be summed up easily, A fellowship must destroy a ring to save a world, Thomas Covenant must defeat Lord Foul to preserve the Land, this series of books is much more difficult to predict and is much more about the journey, a slow unravelling of information which follows the ethic of “it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.”
Slow to develope but very compelling once you become familier with the style of writing. The Characters are very well described and you soon care what happens to them all.
One of the best stories I have read for a while.
If you like Sci-Fi then go ahead and read them.
It starts off leading in one direction, and then goes all over the place. I realize that the author compiled it originally as separate works, but they really don't flow well together. He tries to bring in too many themes and too many sub plots and too many characters.
There are a lot of fantastically vivid, wild and imaginative concepts presented. My favourite part was just reading about strange characters and beings. It's certainly high fantasy (high high fantasy) and the writing style is absolutely incredible! I wish I could write as well as Wolfe, he has such a unique talent for words I haven't seen elsewhere.
Reading this book is a challenge. And, in my opinion, a totally rewarding one, since its plots and storytelling structure does not follow the same rules and formulae applied in almost every fantasy story currently available.
Por si sola es una gran historia, siendo accesible pero a la vez contiene muchas capas de simbolismo dentro de si lo que hace que reelerlo siempre sea un placer, buscando lo que Gene Wolfe dejo escondido para nosotros los lectores.
Conclusion: Waist of time - read better books, of which there are a lot