Do you like pirates? Do you like time travelers? Do you like time-traveling pirates? Gene Wolfe does. Pirate Freedom
is his most recent book. He also apparently likes Lovecraftian noir
. (Horror noir?) Did you miss Soldier of Sidon
? That one picked up the 2007 World Fantasy Award, adding to a long list
of awards and nominations.
Most Wolfe fans would agree, however, that his most accessible work tends to be his short fiction. There's a lot of it, but the most interesting collections are probably The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories
, Castle of Days
, and Storeys from the Old Hotel
, in order of publication.
There are others, of course, including two relatively recent collections called Innocents Aboard
and Starwater Strains
, but The Island...
are probably the most definitively Wolfeish collections.
What makes Wolfe different from most science fiction authors? He's distinctly divisive, for one thing, with a large number of people who begin with The Shadow of the Torturer
promptly bouncing off. His prose is dense and allusive. Elusive, too, particularly in the "Solar Cycle." He can be a ponderous, meditative writer whose books and stories require multiple readings. If you're looking for a light read, or if you're expecting a book called The Shadow of the Torturer
to be lightweight gore porn, you're probably not going to be happy with Wolfe.
Take, for example, the recent anthology Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
. It's headlined by a (execrable) short story written by Stephen King, and includes contributions from Cory Doctorow, George R.R. Martin, Octavia E. Butler, Jonathan Lethem, Orson Scott Card, and others. Wolfe doesn't even get second, third, fourth, or fifth billing... but only two stories in the collection stand up to multiple readings, those being Wolfe's "Mute" and "The People of Sand and Slag" by Paolo Bacigalupi. Despite that, many reviewers have said "Mute" was a weak point of the anthology, presumably because they didn't understand the premise of the story.
Of course, maybe that's a bit opinionated. If you don't like the tone of my post, there have been others
. I just suggest that you give Mr. Wolfe a chance—or, if you're a fan who just hasn't been keeping up, that you take a look at his newer material. You will be richly rewarded.