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Wolfe, Gene 1931–

Even the chems are really rather shockingly well rendered as incredibly credible and indeed engrossing characters, physical mannerisms on unmoving faces and all. There is a pretty brutish and physically rigid sort of chem called a 'talus' that has a very particular, believable 'personality' that you even feel sympathy for at a few points! To top all perhaps, a pet raven called a 'night chough' who can utter succinctly meaningful two-word sentences becomes one of the crucial and most attractive characters!


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People say Wolfe is a fine hand at characterisation and it's true. There is some pleasing awe and wonder in terms of the mystery of just how this 'Whorl' works with its gods and Mainframe and 'windows' and 'glasses' computer terminals where 'theophanies' occur , its occasional travel over ground by 'floaters' or in the sky by massive 'airship', the presence of 'skylands' seen only at night and enigmatic winged figures called 'fliers' sighted high in the sky, and the assortment of weaponry such as needle guns and slug guns and an 'azoth' intensely destructive anti-matter sword blade.

In a world that runs in an essentially premodern manner, the occasional glimpses of technology often come as something of a revelation. For example, after a few hundred pages of travel on foot and once by mule!


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When it latched, there was a muffled roar from the engine. A dip and a wiggle and the floater was through, blown down the highway like a sere leaf, sailing through an eerie nightscape turned to liquid, leaving behind it a proud plume of swirling yellow-gray dust… The floater leaned to the left as it rounded a bend in the road.

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Here were farms and fields and houses, all liquid, all swirling past as they breasted the phantom current. A hill rose in a great, brown-green wave, already breaking into a skylit froth of fence rails and fruit trees. The floater plunged down the other side and shot across a ford. I think the chems take the place of some of these, not least the giant, tank-like, gargoyle-faced taluses.

The combat-armoured chem soldiers too are particularly prominent and effective as 'creatures'. There are brief and elusively described appearances of horned lynxes prowling the grounds of a mansion and devil-dogs lurking in a secret network of underground tunnels. There is one awful moment of a woman being swallowed up entire by a giant grotesque fish.

Helpless as a doll in a maelstrom, he spun in a dizzy whorl of blue light, slowed his lungs ready to burst , and caught sight of another figure suspended like himself with splayed limbs and drifting hair. It passed below him as a floater rushing down some reeling mountain meadow might pass a floating thistle seed, and the turbulence of its wake sent him spinning. And of course eventually we have the revelation at the beginning of the final book of the eminently creepy Patera Quetzal with his vampire fangs that he is able to fold up hidden in his mouth and his apparently boneless body mass that he has to remember to keep shaping into the form of a fat old man even though he is apparently swift in both climbing and winged flight when no one is looking so that he may take the proper shape.

Gene Wolfe: On Blue's Waters - an infinity plus review

This is never stated baldly as I have just done, but is implied so clearly that the statement is true — it's a weird and wonderful gift that Wolfe has; this is how he writes most of the time: indirect and yet extremely effective! Quetzal is actually an alien called an 'inhumu'. But it is not until the very last pages of the last volume that this is made known. Horn has traveled from his home on the planet Blue, reached the mysterious planet Green, and visited the great starship, the Whorl and even, somehow, the distant planet Urth. But Horn's identity has become ambiguous, a complex question embedded in the story, whose telling is itself complex, shifting from place to place, present to past.

Perhaps Horn and Silk are now one being.

Publisher Description

Gene Rodman Wolfe was an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He was noted for his dense, allusive prose as well as the strong influence of his Catholic faith. He was a prolific short-story writer and novelist and won many science fiction and fantasy literary awards.

Return to the Whorl (Book of the Short Sun Series #3)

Physical description p. Local notes free. The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories by Gene Wolfe. Peace by Gene Wolfe. The citadel of the autarch by Gene Wolfe. Storeys from the Old Hotel by Gene Wolfe. Free Live Free by Gene Wolfe.

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Castleview by Gene Wolfe. The Devil in a Forest by Gene Wolfe. Soldier of the Mist by Gene Wolfe. Starwater Strains by Gene Wolfe. Home Fires by Gene Wolfe. Stations of the Tide by Michael Swanwick. Declare : A Novel by Tim Powers.

Shadow of the Torturer - Gene Wolfe

Light by M. John Harrison. Shriek : an afterword by Jeff VanderMeer.