We’re just under a week away from having a new Gene Wolfe book on the shelves! It’s been a long (three year) wait. I’m excited.
A friend of mine asked me to recommend to him a book that would be a great introduction to Gene Wolfe. This particular friend I wouldn’t say is a regular reader of science fiction and fantasy books, but he isn’t completely alien to them either. In my own opinion, the “Books of The New Sun” are by far Wolfe’s best. They’re good for many rereads and chock full of everything that makes a story worth loving. However, it didn’t seem wise to suggest such a large omnibus, whose pages number around 1500, to a person who didn’t regularly immerse himself into the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. I wanted to suggest something that would show him just how intelligent and imaginative of a writer Wolfe is without scaring him into thinking he’d have to invest a countless number of hours in an Elf-crazed-Tolkienesque sized universe filled with maps and imaginary dead languages. I wanted to suggest something slightly simpler. So I decided on the following three books as good, but not overwhelming, introductions to Gene Wolfe:
“The Fifth Head of Cerberus” Three beautiful novellas set in the future on a colonized (or conquered?) planet. It’s been on my re-read list for a while, and I felt it would be the least intimidating to start with because it breaks Wolfe’s work up into three pieces that are easier to digest than his more robust novels. It’s also filled with beautiful characters and interesting discoveries. It would probably be my first recommendation.
“The Sorcerer’s House” One of Wolfe’s more current novels and also one of my all time favorites. When I met Gene at MadCon in 2010 I actually had him sign my copy, because I had enjoyed it so much. This book is a series of letters from a man who was recently released from prison, to his brother, concerning a house he inherits and the events that transpire within it. It’s definitely a fantasy filled with some fantastical creatures and characters, but for me personally, it seemed to take the normal and mundane pieces of life and polish them up into something remarkable as well. I’d recommend this novel to anyone, and it’s an easy read for first time Wolfe readers.
“Free Live Free” This particular book holds a strength in character development that as an amateur writer I could only dream of achieving. It’s a mystery with a dash of the fantastic sprinkled throughout it. I will admit it has it’s rougher parts, but nothing about it seemed meaningless or poorly executed. If you judge the books you read by the quality of their characters than this is certainly worth your time.
Now these are just my personal recommendations. I’ve read over 30 of Gene Wolfe’s books and there wasn’t one that disagreed with me. They were all immensely enjoyable. These three just seemed like the ones I’d recommend the most to people wanting to experience Gene Wolfe for the first time. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions!
My brother wrote a fun post on his blog, Faith vs Physics, exploring the idea that Gene Wolfe may have indirectly influenced Doctor Who. Perhaps a highly improbably conclusion, but not impossible. All writers and artists definitely influence each other, and the correlations Tim draws between Gene’s short story and Gaiman’s Who episode are lots of fun. On a side note I’d like to take all the credit for making my brother the Wolfe fan he is today.
Gene Wolfe is a Locus Awards Finalist for best Fantasy Novel (Pirate Freedom) and for best Novella (Memorare). Also Shadows of the New Sun (which is about Wolfe not by him) is up for best Non-Fiction.
According to it’s Amazon.com page, “An Evil Guest” is due out this year on the 16th of September. The cover looks fantastic and Wolfe gave a bit of info about the story to SCI FI Wire back in February of 2007.
An Evil Guest, a novel-in-progress set in the same milieu as “Memorare,” also deals with freedom, Wolfe said. “Cassie Casey becomes a queen and discovers that she can no longer buy anything,” he said. “Each dress, each pair of shoes she wants, is given to her. William Reis can make gold and become invisible; one of his employees is a werewolf who will gladly kill (and eat) anyone Reis wants killed (and eaten). Gideon Chase is, well, Gideon Chase. A wizard, almost human, and so slick he can slide up a flagpole. Laws and societal restraints mean little to him. He loses a leg, but in a way he is freest of all.”
It sounds fantastic and I’m looking forward to reading it.
One of the largest complications I face with running a fan site like this is how to organize it. My goal here was to create and maintain a list of links to online resources about Gene Wolfe. Ultimately I wanted to created a kind of “Gateway” website that other fans can use to easily find the information they seek. Originally I set out to create a series of different pages (articles, interviews, etc.) with links that aligned with the page topic. I found this to be difficult to maintain and decided it would be best to seek out an alternative way to organize links. Luckily Social Bookmarking exists. I chose Ma.gnolia.com for it’s ability to create specific groups of links that multiple people could contribute to. So far I like the results and hope to get other Gene Wolfe fans involved with the growth of this site. So with that, I’d like to introduce you to the all new Resources page which contains key tags that will begin your search through a repository of Gene Wolfe articles, essays, interviews and more. Please feel free to create a Ma.gnolia.com account and contribute new links to the Hoof & Hide Group.