My Epic Summer Reading: Gene Wolfe’s “The Book of the New Sun”

The cover art does not match these superb literary SF novels.

This summer I set out to reread Gene Wolfe’s critically-acclaimed science fantasy quartet, The Book of the New Sun (1,125-pages).  It was a rewarding experience, though near the end it became a bit of a struggle. In June and July I was mesmerized by The Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, and The Sword of the Lictor, but only recently finished the fourth, The Citadel of the Autarch:  I got bogged down in a never-ending tale-telling contest – never my favorite literary device.
Critics often compare The Book of the New Sun to James Joyce’s Ulysses.  Wolfe, like Joyce, was a polymath and had a colossal vocabulary, but the literary comparison seems superficial. Wolfe’s psychedelic prose owes more to New Wave SF writers like Samuel R. Delany (I thought of Dhalgren). And in terms of the fantasy genre,  I see the influence of George MacDonald’s surreal Phantastes and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

You can read the rest at Thornfield Hall Redux:

New Post at Thornfield Hall Redux: “Book Jackets on or off? Kingsley Amis’s Librarian and Other Snobs”

Book jackets on or off? In one of the many party scenes in Kingsley Amis’s second novel, That Certain Feeling (1955),  John, a snobbish working-class librarian, satirically inspects the decor of his hostess’s living room. He sees, “right under my nose, the latest Graham Greene and Angela Thirkell lying, still in their jackets, on a copy of Vogue.”  Keeping the book jackets on is apparently Edie’s way of showing off. What I want to know is, Which Angela Thirkell is it?

Here is the link:

A Retelling of “Ethan Frome”: Ali Benjamin’s “The Smash-Up”

I came upon Ali Benjamin’s light novel, The Smash-Up, in a tiny bookstore in a small town – it was the only day trip we managed this summer.  The cover was bright, but it was not the cover that hooked me:  it was the jacket copy. Who can resist a modern retelling of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome?  Not I. 

Here is the link to the rest of the post at Thornfield Hall Redux.

A Post-9/11 Dystopian Classic: Carolyn See’s “There Will Never Be Another You”

If you are familiar with Carolyn See’s novels, you probably know her dystopian cult classic, Golden Days. But her 2006 novel, There Will Never Be Another You, is more relevant as the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches:  it begins on 9/11, with a raging widow in L.A. whose husband has just died in her arms.  She cannot care about a public tragedy, which soon will be exploited by the government as an excuse for two wars. As the years go by, her son, Phil, a dermatologist, is “drafted’ by a Homeland Security-like agency to identify and treat  lethal viruses like SARS that are spreading through the U.S.  Was Carolyn See prescient?

You can read the post at Thornfield Hall Redux.

Here is the link: