Layer upon layer, layer upon layer. Rather than building a story, Wolfe peels it away, page by page, revealing a glimpse here, a fragment there. I couldn't put it down! This books includes the first two volumes of the Book of the New Sun.
Eric S. (Shooter) reviewed Shadow & Claw : The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' on
Helpful Score: 2
Started out wonderfully dark and mysterious, but by the end of the 1st half I was hoping the plot might move more quickly or offer some larger insights. The 2nd half (the 2nd book, actually) I found to be quite plodding and I ended up skipping through much of it. It's true that the writing is excellent and the story unique. However, I for one thought that some of the plot devices (the traveling troupe of actors, for example) were a bit cliched, and I was wishing that the last 2/3 of the volume were as good as the first 1/3 seemed to be. I also had a hard time seeing the supporting characters as more than 2-dimensional. Severian seems to be the only character with true depth. I do recommend this... but just know that sometimes even classic novels can be hard to finish.
The prose is beautiful - lots of imagery and vocab words I didn't know.
The setting is interesting - an ancient earth (the sun is about to expire) with layers and layers of history, but all that knowledge is lost in a rotting culture that has reverted to a medieval society. And it's from the point-of-view of a torturer.
BUT, the plot moves VERY slowly (almost nothing happens in the first book), and the main character is hard to feel connected to because he is disconnected from his own emotions and the people around him. So I didn't really like the book.
I simply loved the first quarter of this book. The characters, the language, the beautiful, evocative writing, all lent a further sense of mystery to the complex and shadowy world that the author was creating. The whole concept of of the torturers' guild was just creepy and macabre enough to be fascinating. I gladly overlooked the faux-philosophical digressions and musings for writing like that. And then. Then the main character started off on his journey, and all the cliches descended. Brigands, traveling actors, disguises, you name it. After a chapter or two of that, I was too disappointed to continue, and am not inclined to continue with Wolfe.