Top positive review
Gothic Post-Communist Romp
Reviewed in the United States on February 15, 2016
Gene Wolfe is up to his old tricks in an almost entirely new setting for him. Mixing travelogue, mystery, horror, and Wolfe's particularly love for the impatient, unreliable narrator, Wolfe's narrator Grafton introduces us to "The Land Across," a probable proxy for post-Communist Transylvania. Wolfe's language is deceptively simple, so simple that the syntax often seems translated from Romanian or German, indicating that everything is not as they seem. The train journey immediately brings up images from "Dracula," the border guards feel like a cold war thriller. Grafton tense to travel writing seems to contradicted by Wolfe's simple language and the narrator's dislike of descriptive language.
This creates a book that is a very easy and yet very difficult read. Easy in the sense that there is nothing particularly difficult or even figurative about the language immediately, but the simplicity itself is veil. Readers familiar with Wolfe's more dense linguistic prestidigitation may be surprised by this but a reader of Wolfe often knows that little is immediately what it seems.
Wolfe's explorations of both evil and autocracy are pitted against each other with some extreme ambiguity, and while some of the references are obvious, some deeper interpretations rely on very subtle ideas about characters and the seemingly impossible motivations behind some of the twists and turns.
Utterly enjoyable and rewards re-reading.