A fractured tale, beautifully rendered, February 9, 2006
Reviewer: Raymond Nance (Tucson, AZ)
Anybody who has seen the recent movie "Memento" knows the premise: the protagonist (in this case a wounded mercenary) has lost his longterm memory, and so can only remember what happens to him for one day. In both the movie and this book, he tries to compensate by writing down what he needs to know. Gene Wolfe's fine novel, however, far predates "Memento", and the world it describes, Greece in the 5th century BC, is a far more exotic and alien place.
As a piece of craft, this is a wonderful book--full of apt and elegant descriptions, sparely but deftly rendered characters, and eruptions of violence that pack surprising power. Wolfe is a writer who transcends the genre he happens to be working in, which is something of a miracle in today's pigeon-holed, dumbed-down publishing climate. My only complaint is that he perhaps takes his conceit too far, throwing in one or two too many shifts in time and place (and, in the case of one character, even gender) so that the plot remains less involving that it might have been.
All in all, this is a remarkable achievement.
Great reading. This book is especially interesting if you are a Greek mythology fan.