Okay, so his prose is difficult.
March 24, 2008 4:36 PM   Subscribe

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... and Storeys 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.
posted by sonic meat machine (3 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: I hate to pull the rug on you like this, because you clearly put some time into the post, but you've got basically some personal discussion of Wolfe padded out with links to Amazon, and links to Amazon make for pretty crappy post material. -- cortex

I've liked the stories of Wolfe's that I've read, but I've never known what was going on. I read a review once that said he was a writer's writer, which if true tells me I'm no writer.
posted by DU at 4:58 PM on March 24, 2008

I didn't know he'd written another Soldier book. Thanks! The first two are among my favorites. Most of what Wolfe puts out is. Only one I can remember not liking much was The Devil In A Forest, which some people like a lot.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:21 PM on March 24, 2008

As much as I like Gene Wolfe, this isn't really an appropriate MetaFilter post as it's just Amazon links, and one link to a Locus link.
posted by OmieWise at 5:23 PM on March 24, 2008

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