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Bold Robot
Jan 6, 2009

Be brave.


Outrageous Lumpwad

I started with Fifth Head of Cerberus a few years back and felt like it was a solid place to begin. You get a good sense of Wolfes style and complexity but its much more approachable than Book of the New Sun. Definitely do that one next, but Im glad I read Fifth Head before New Sun.

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HamsterPolice
Apr 17, 2016



I would recommend you check out his best stuff first, which would be Book of the New Sun. And if the first book doesn't grab you, then you know his stuff isn't for you.

The Vosgian Beast
Aug 13, 2011

Business is slow

Facehammer posted:

Book of the New Sun.

Then take a break, then read it again.

Don't do this.


anilEhilated posted:

I'd suggest either Fifth Head of Cerberus (the collection - it's actually three connected novellas with Fifth Head being the first)

Do this

BOTNS is good, but it's way less intimidating to start with a relatively slim volume instead of a quadrilogy bigger than your head.

Chichevache
Feb 16, 2010

One of the funniest posters in GIP.

Just not intentionally.


What do you normally read? If you've never read something as multifaceted as BotNS I would recommend starting with The Sorcerer's House instead. It's a good starting point with a lot less to commit too.

CoolHandMat
Oct 5, 2017


Azram Legion posted:

Book of the New Sun is incredible, and is part of what is without a doubt my favorite series of books. However, Book of the New Sun in itself is four books, with a fifth follow-up book, and it is part of a series that totals 13 books (I believe?) and some short stories, so it is quite a commitment - even if all Wolfe fans agree it is more than worth your time. If you want something shorter or more self-contained, I can recommend The Fifth Head of Cerberus, and if you like short stories, collections like The Best of Gene Wolfe or Castle of Days are full of gems that will stay with you.

Also, the advice to re-read Wolfe stories after a break is worth following!

as a Malazan, WoT, SoIF, etc. reader this only excites me more.

papa horny michael
Aug 18, 2009



actually you should read Peace (1975) and Pandora, By Holly Hollander (1990).

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

CoolHandMat posted:

as a Malazan, WoT, SoIF, etc. reader this only excites me more.

Good news!

The Book of the Long Sun and Book of the Short Sun are all interconnected, so you've got a solid 12 (?) volumes to read again and again and again.

And probably a few hundred hours of podcasts about 'em at this point. Which is to say the podcasters have just barely gotten started.

talktapes
Apr 14, 2007

You ever hear of the neutron bomb?



Read the short story Seven American Nights. If you don't like it there's a good chance you won't like his other stuff, but it's really Wolfe™ condensed into a digestable format, so if it clicks move on to the longer stuff. I would probably start with Cerberus over New Sun.

Atlas Hugged
Mar 12, 2007


Put your arms around me,
fiddly digits, itchy britches
I love you all


I tried reading BOTNS and bounced off but it was probably the wrong time in my life to be reading something like that. Years later I picked up Fifth Head and loving loved it. Then I did the whole Solar Cycle. That's what I would recommend. Book of the Short is just so loving good.

Neurosis
Jun 10, 2003


Fallen Rib

DACK FAYDEN posted:

Just read Fifth Head of Cerberus for the first time. Is there any clue in the actual first part that the first narrator is correct about the anthropologist being a native or is that something that's supposed to not make sense at the time but then get revealed as true in the third part? I didn't notice any hints to it, but I could easily have missed something.

There's a really cool theory Marc Aramini has about that which I didn't pick up at all but iirc has a fair bit of supporting evidence. Marsch was infected by the cat bite. He's a Shadow Child. The specifics elude me but I'll try to find the essay when I'm home.

Edit I think this is it https://ultan.org.uk/variance-reduction-techniques/

Long but engaging. Aramini's green/blue theory is really cool as well. Unlike Robert Borski he's not just stringing together a bunch of stuff that works only if you ignore everything else; his ideas are very cogent and usually evidence against them can be logically explained as not invalidating his hypotheses. The fact he was very close friends with Wolfe does add a bit of credence to his theories even if not by dint of internal logic.

Also strong recommend to anyone who has a collection with the story to check out Wolfe's 'Silhouette'. Manages to be both a good story in itself and have good characters while presenting some interpretive challenges without being overly cryptic. Left me with mixed feelings - in a good way. Horars of War is also seldom mentioned but very - Blade Runner from before the film, thematically.

Neurosis fucked around with this message at 05:19 on Mar 13, 2020

redreader
Nov 2, 2009

I am the coolest person ever with my pirate chalice. Seriously.



Dinosaur Gum

Looking forward to his final book, interlibrary loan, which comes out in June!

Chichevache
Feb 16, 2010

One of the funniest posters in GIP.

Just not intentionally.


redreader posted:

Looking forward to his final book, interlibrary loan, which comes out in June!

I finally got around to A Borrowed Man and found it supremely enjoyable. I can't wait.

Nakar
Sep 2, 2002

Ultima Ratio Regum


Finished a reread of Peace and I'm curious: Does anyone else find the "orthodox" interpretation of the novel to be kinda horseshit? I'm referring of course to the idea that Weer is dead and the story is somehow his ghost reliving things, which is the conclusion of most Wolfe "scholars," who seem to be wrong about nearly everything else Wolfe writes (The Gene Wolfe Literary Podcast guys made more sense of Fifth Head a year or two ago than any of those blowhards have made of it in decades, with a much simpler explanation). The main things that make this dubious to me are the following:
  • There appear to be no meaningful memories of Weer's life from the interaction with Dan French and the journalist to the point where he's in his house. Did nothing interesting happen there?
  • Weer openly speculates twice that he could be dead; once at the very beginning of the story and again when he imagines that he might have died as a kid playing with his chemistry set. It seems a little too pat for Wolfe to just outright say it if that's what he was going for.
  • In a conversation with Lois, Weer mentions the feeling of his skull being turned up by an archaeologist's spade, which people use to point to the idea that he's dead, but immediately thereafter he points out that you can't think about being dead when you're dead. This seems to otherwise be a work grounded in realism, so why should we not take Weer at his word and immediately eliminate the notion that he's dead already?
  • Weer cites his dragging leg as a symptom of his stroke, but Dan French mentions "Do you know what your secretary told me once? She said you could always tell when you were tired, because you started to drag one leg." Short of trying to explain this away with time travel or ghost projection, why would Weer be displaying this symptom long before he believes he's had a stroke?
  • When Weer is in his replicated office, he sees a workman out on one of the towers, which are supposed to basically be pictures or dioramas in fake windows; this suggests he's unable to keep straight whether he's at the plant or at the replica of the plant, and at one point he's even afraid to page his secretary for fear that she'll answer.
  • Weer can't get rid of his intrusive "memory" of Dr. Van Ness, whom he keeps thinking he's gotten rid of yet never does; he also has fairly non-specific memories of people like Van Ness and Sherry Gold dying, yet he can remember much more specifically where people like Dr. Black are buried.
  • While the book is full of ghost stories, most of the stories seem to really be about other things, so how literally we should take the idea of Weer's own story being a ghost story is dubious.
  • The orthodox reading is very poor at explaining certain recurring elements in the text, like the deaths of firstborn, especially firstborn sons (Uncle Joe, Bobby Black, Samuel Lorn, Mrs. Turner's older brother, possibly Ron Gold); practically the only surviving firstborn sons we hear about are Weer himself and Charles Turner the dog man, and it doesn't make much sense of the story of the Chinese ceramic pillow, which ends with the soldier back in the past (and comes up in the last paragraph of the novel); or why Den's father John is barely ever mentioned yet apparently sent him a reel of some kind of recorded memories as a gift which Weer never gets around to examining; or why the story of the lich in Gold's Necronomicon forgery thinks that the narrator is a ghost of an unborn future and that he is alive in the present.
  • American Elms aren't endangered; Dutch Elm Disease is a thing, but it has never made elm trees endangered.
I saw one theory proposed in I think the LA Times that the story is actually set in Weer's middle age, right around the time he's probably gotten Sherry Gold pregnant, which was an interesting take and possibly persuasive, but a bit under-developed; I could see the argument of him having a breakdown -- a loss of peace -- at the prospect of becoming a father when considering the weight of all the deaths he's caused and/or profited from and viewing Olivia's Crime and Punishment reference in his youth as truthful about how his life has gone. Since the book ends with Olivia calling to him as if he's a child after experiencing the ceramic pillow, there's also the prospect that Weer is still only around 9 years old; "Julius Smart" seems like a fake loving name and turning potatoes into Tang is rather absurd, though I don't think this notion holds together as well as the middle age one does.. I'm curious if anyone's had similar thoughts about whether the thing everybody claims is actually what's going on or not.

Also, just a random thought about something else in Peace: Weer mentions "certain financial transactions" resulting in him acquiring Mcaffee's department store which I believe ended up owned by Stewart Blaine, and it's kind of implausible to believe that he inherited Julius Smart's company -- a man who would no longer speak to him after Olivia's death and for the next 25-30 years -- as well as whatever additional wealth he appears to have acquired. Given the running theme of forgery that begins with the women at his fifth birthday party forging the treaty between the Native Americans and the Blaines, and Weer's awareness that Blaine has a fireproof document storage room, I've begun to wonder if maybe Weer and Louis Gold forged Blaine and Smart's wills so that Alden would acquire their wealth, possibly even resulting in Weer murdering Blaine by arson (there's that suspicious bit about Blaine's old house's fireplace and Aunt Olivia mentioning that Den is good at starting fires in the Lorns' house); people would already be inclined to believe that Smart would leave the company to his nephew, as when Weer tells Ron Gold about it he asks whether he expects to receive an inheritance from "Uncle Julius." It just seems very unlikely that Smart actually would leave it to him, absent some kind of fraud, which is heavily textually supported.

EDIT: Another thought that's kind of just thematic rambling: The book is sort of about alchemy, with Smart as the titular Alchemist of the third chapter, but it's interesting that alchemy tries to create gold from nothing and yet it's Gold who creates from nothing. Alchemy also being a fraud, one could say the "alchemy" of the book is Weer learning from all the deception and duplicity in his life to make something of himself by nefarious means.

Nakar fucked around with this message at 23:16 on May 3, 2020

Spite
Jul 27, 2001

Small chance of that...



Definitely a lot of alchemy in the book. Chemistry, gold, etc. It's all over the place.
One thing that always stuck out to me: there's a passage that's near the end iirc where he talks about murderers and their victims fusing into one devil.

It's pretty clear a few people get murdered (imo) so maybe he's actually multiple people? Or he's reliving multiple people's memories and doesn't realize it?


I still don't quite understand all of fifth head of cerberus tbh.

Neurosis
Jun 10, 2003


Fallen Rib

Spite posted:


Definitely a lot of alchemy in the book. Chemistry, gold, etc. It's all over the place.
One thing that always stuck out to me: there's a passage that's near the end iirc where he talks about murderers and their victims fusing into one devil.

It's pretty clear a few people get murdered (imo) so maybe he's actually multiple people? Or he's reliving multiple people's memories and doesn't realize it?


I still don't quite understand all of fifth head of cerberus tbh.

Iirc alchemy symbolism is rife throughout a lot of Wolfe's works. I saw some very long analysis on Reddit going through the alchemy in BotNS and it looked way too extensive to be mere confirmation bias.

Safety Biscuits
Oct 21, 2010



How many people get killed in Peace, anyway? I recently re-read it and made it three - the boy when he's young, the lad in the juice factory fridge or whatever it was, and the girlfriend he was hunting for treasure with - did I miss any? I should have taken more notes...

Nakar posted:

[*]In a conversation with Lois, Weer mentions the feeling of his skull being turned up by an archaeologist's spade, which people use to point to the idea that he's dead, but immediately thereafter he points out that you can't think about being dead when you're dead. This seems to otherwise be a work grounded in realism, so why should we not take Weer at his word and immediately eliminate the notion that he's dead already?

I suppose the smart reply here is "how would he know?" Or am I forgetting context?

Nakar
Sep 2, 2002

Ultima Ratio Regum


Safety Biscuits posted:

How many people get killed in Peace, anyway? I recently re-read it and made it three - the boy when he's young, the lad in the juice factory fridge or whatever it was, and the girlfriend he was hunting for treasure with - did I miss any? I should have taken more notes...
We can be absolutely sure that Weer killed Bobby Black, because he more or less says so. That was an accident (though Weer was overly aggressive; he attacks Bobby for what he imagines he's going to do), at least as far as we can tell. It's also extremely likely that he killed Lois, but again that was arguably justifiable as she pulled a gun on him. The coldhouse "prank" doesn't specifically have a named culprit, but the framing at least sort of implies Weer is responsible as he knows a tremendous amount about the incident, though it can be hard to make the timeline work out due to Weer's unreliable memory.

In terms of others, Aunt Vi is run over by a car and killed; most people think Peacock was the one who hit her but if the timeline works out correctly it's possible Weer did so instead, which would explain Julius Smart not talking to him anymore. There's also Doris, the carnie Cinderella that the dog man talks about in his letter, who kills herself by electrocution. Other murders are perhaps implied but not stated; there is some reason to suspect Weer might have killed Stewart Blaine, Sherry Gold's death is never given an adequate explanation or cause, Ron Gold may have been the victim of the coldhouse prank or something else may have happened to him as he disappears around the time Weer sleeps with Sherry and isn't mentioned again except that Weer namedrops the man who replaced him at work, and Julius Smart may have actually murdered Mr. Tilly or perhaps was Mr. Tilly, his story a veiled confession of some sort.

Chichevache
Feb 16, 2010

One of the funniest posters in GIP.

Just not intentionally.


Neurosis posted:

Iirc alchemy symbolism is rife throughout a lot of Wolfe's works. I saw some very long analysis on Reddit going through the alchemy in BotNS and it looked way too extensive to be mere confirmation bias.

Do you have a link to that? I'd love to see it.

my bony fealty
Oct 1, 2008










there's this series of posts which are definitely some combination of the writer seeing what they want to and *something* textual being there

https://paintedblindpublishing.com/2018/03/09/botns-1/

I read the first two before my eyes completely glazed over.

I'm reading my Folio society edition of New Sun for the first time currently (at the part in Sword where Severian gets to the lake castle now) and its a very nice experience. the illustrations are nothing at all like I imagined any of it but they're a cool interpretation.

really need to re-read Peace, maybe I'll do that next.

BananaNutkins
Aug 26, 2004

I'll split you open and I don't even like coconuts.


I read the Soldier/Latro series this month and loved it, so I moved on to the only other unread Wolfe in my collection, which happened to be An Evil Guest.

I feel like someone in this thread must understand my pain.

my bony fealty
Oct 1, 2008










I've read An Evil Guest once and have a certain love for it, but that's because I read the whole thing on a red eye flight where sleep eluded me and that book was the only thing I had for entertainment.

if you asked me what it is about I would say, no clue at all, the only thing I picked up was that Cassie was glamored by Gideon Chase to her benefit and then downfall, much like Jolenta and Dr Talos. Aramini says Gideon Chase is actually Great Cthulhu and yeah sure why not

Chichevache
Feb 16, 2010

One of the funniest posters in GIP.

Just not intentionally.


BananaNutkins posted:

I read the Soldier/Latro series this month and loved it, so I moved on to the only other unread Wolfe in my collection, which happened to be An Evil Guest.

I feel like someone in this thread must understand my pain.

I loving love that book.

BananaNutkins
Aug 26, 2004

I'll split you open and I don't even like coconuts.


Chichevache posted:

I loving love that book.

I would be curious to see your top ten...every scene irked me. The starlet character's dialog and interactions with everyone was like 30s Hollywood but then there's also ftl and cars that run on nuclear fuel rods and werewolves, but let's talk about anchovy toast and my waistline for seven pages. Then the bizarre island setting change at the end, and the Cthulu connection. Sounds interesting when I write it here, but remember, every scene is virtually just dialog.

Chichevache
Feb 16, 2010

One of the funniest posters in GIP.

Just not intentionally.


BananaNutkins posted:

I would be curious to see your top ten...every scene irked me. The starlet character's dialog and interactions with everyone was like 30s Hollywood but then there's also ftl and cars that run on nuclear fuel rods and werewolves, but let's talk about anchovy toast and my waistline for seven pages. Then the bizarre island setting change at the end, and the Cthulu connection. Sounds interesting when I write it here, but remember, every scene is virtually just dialog.

Top ten Wolfe books?

BananaNutkins
Aug 26, 2004

I'll split you open and I don't even like coconuts.


Chichevache posted:

Top ten Wolfe books?

Just books in general. It was snark. Like, if number 1 Gravity's Rainbow and #2 Infinite Jest, I can put you in a box with a bunch of other people who like bad books this is also snark.

BananaNutkins
Aug 26, 2004

I'll split you open and I don't even like coconuts.


my bony fealty posted:

I've read An Evil Guest once and have a certain love for it, but that's because I read the whole thing on a red eye flight where sleep eluded me and that book was the only thing I had for entertainment.


There are points where the book becomes very dreamlike and you don't know what's real and what's the PoV imagining it, and those were the best parts, but mostly they were the best because finally no one was talking.

HamsterPolice
Apr 17, 2016



my bony fealty posted:

there's this series of posts which are definitely some combination of the writer seeing what they want to and *something* textual being there

https://paintedblindpublishing.com/2018/03/09/botns-1/

I read the first two before my eyes completely glazed over.

I'm reading my Folio society edition of New Sun for the first time currently (at the part in Sword where Severian gets to the lake castle now) and its a very nice experience. the illustrations are nothing at all like I imagined any of it but they're a cool interpretation.

really need to re-read Peace, maybe I'll do that next.

Folio version? poo poo, I would have been all over that poo poo. Anyone willing to sell? :humblebean:

Chichevache
Feb 16, 2010

One of the funniest posters in GIP.

Just not intentionally.


BananaNutkins posted:

Just books in general. It was snark. Like, if number 1 Gravity's Rainbow and #2 Infinite Jest, I can put you in a box with a bunch of other people who like bad books this is also snark.

All my top ten books are Wolfe and manga.

Safety Biscuits
Oct 21, 2010



Nakar posted:

We can be absolutely sure that Weer killed Bobby Black, because he more or less says so. That was an accident (though Weer was overly aggressive; he attacks Bobby for what he imagines he's going to do), at least as far as we can tell. It's also extremely likely that he killed Lois, but again that was arguably justifiable as she pulled a gun on him. The coldhouse "prank" doesn't specifically have a named culprit, but the framing at least sort of implies Weer is responsible as he knows a tremendous amount about the incident, though it can be hard to make the timeline work out due to Weer's unreliable memory.

In terms of others, Aunt Vi is run over by a car and killed; most people think Peacock was the one who hit her but if the timeline works out correctly it's possible Weer did so instead, which would explain Julius Smart not talking to him anymore. There's also Doris, the carnie Cinderella that the dog man talks about in his letter, who kills herself by electrocution. Other murders are perhaps implied but not stated; there is some reason to suspect Weer might have killed Stewart Blaine, Sherry Gold's death is never given an adequate explanation or cause, Ron Gold may have been the victim of the coldhouse prank or something else may have happened to him as he disappears around the time Weer sleeps with Sherry and isn't mentioned again except that Weer namedrops the man who replaced him at work, and Julius Smart may have actually murdered Mr. Tilly or perhaps was Mr. Tilly, his story a veiled confession of some sort.

Thanks a lot. I definitely agree that the guy in the coldhouse was killed by Weer, because otherwise that scene didn't seem to make much sense, but I didn't follow the timeline that closely.

Neurosis
Jun 10, 2003


Fallen Rib

Chichevache posted:

Do you have a link to that? I'd love to see it.

Edit: Oops, beaten.

my bony fealty posted:

I've read An Evil Guest once and have a certain love for it, but that's because I read the whole thing on a red eye flight where sleep eluded me and that book was the only thing I had for entertainment.

if you asked me what it is about I would say, no clue at all, the only thing I picked up was that Cassie was glamored by Gideon Chase to her benefit and then downfall, much like Jolenta and Dr Talos. Aramini says Gideon Chase is actually Great Cthulhu and yeah sure why not

Does Aramini go that far? I woulda thought Chase is more of a Nyarlathotep character. I usually have a lot of time for Aramini's interpretations, as he tends to remember that the theories need to not only be supported by the largest amount of text possible, but also not to be contradicted by other parts of the text, and he looks for support for any theory at multiple levels (literal in-plot stuff, thematically, linguistically, etc). I wish he kept the essays he writes up rather than putting them up for a few days at a time on pastebin when people ask - I guess he's planning to put them in another book. Most of the four or five guys who write the lengthier analyses have some good stuff going on, though. The one exception is Borski, who occasionally stumbles on something interesting but it's more or less a broken clock being right twice a day - he suffers from incredible confirmation bias.

Neurosis fucked around with this message at 05:38 on May 9, 2020

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I don't remember all of the beats 'cause I binged all the videos in a day, a sure way to make your head spin with Aramini, but he's got an Evil Guest video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhTYdc_K_6o

Cthulu is definitely important to his interpretation. And I think I agreed with an idea or two in there.

Spite
Jul 27, 2001

Small chance of that...


is an evil guest

the one where every scene is a loop or the same pattern. and the entire book is too? I think I read that theory somewhere. I remember something about Cassie was basically a reverse werewolf. Instead of turning more animal-like she became more ethereal.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Yeah, I haven't re-read it since coming across that interpretation, but I'm very fond of it as I always felt like the book was setting itself up to have a sequel.

Then someone says that the book is its own sequel, and so many things just clicked.

Disjointed and spoiler-heavy sketches of that theory at https://www.wolfewiki.com/pmwiki/pm...teriousMargaret

anilEhilated
Feb 17, 2014

But I say fuck the rain.



Grimey Drawer

Hammer Bro. posted:

Then someone says that the book is its own sequel, and so many things just clicked.
It really says something about the book that that is considered one of the saner interpretations.

Chichevache
Feb 16, 2010

One of the funniest posters in GIP.

Just not intentionally.


anilEhilated posted:

It really says something about the book that that is considered one of the saner interpretations.

That it is awesome as poo poo?

Neurosis
Jun 10, 2003


Fallen Rib

The book has grown on me a lot - Sorceror's House, too. I think Wolfe's books in the most fantastic settings work best because they have a lot going on to enjoy even on a naive reading. This led to me underrating a lot of his later books on first reading. I still don't like them as much as the Solar Cycle, the Wizard Knight and Fifth Head, but I do like them now (mostly -- couldn't get into Home Fires).

I've also just never liked There Are Doors.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man



Pillbug

Hey - I'm on my second readthrough of New Sun right now. It's pretty good when it's good but I'm getting tired of the remarks on the essential nature of women.

hell astro course
Dec 10, 2009

pizza sucks



CommonShore posted:

Hey - I'm on my second readthrough of New Sun right now. It's pretty good when it's good but I'm getting tired of the remarks on the essential nature of women.

that's because severian is a dumb rear end about women, and he also has a woman inside of him who is a different kind of dumb rear end. If you're not rolling your eyes, I'd be worried.

Azram Legion
Jan 23, 2005

Drunken Poet Glory

hell astro course posted:

that's because severian is a dumb rear end about women, and he also has a woman inside of him who is a different kind of dumb rear end. If you're not rolling your eyes, I'd be worried.

It is easy to forget how utterly ruined both Severian and Thecla are by their life circumstances. For the first half of Severian's life, the only interaction he has with women is taking care of "clients" - and of course seeing someone who may be his mother be decapitated at the yearly feast-day ceremony. Thecla, meanwhile, was raised to be kept as a hostage who was expected to leverage her position as hostage into influence.

Speaking of Thecla, I've been listening to the ReReading Wolfe podcast, and one of the things they mentioned was how she is basically named The Claw. It is such a stupid, obvious thing, but I never noticed it before, and it has a lot of implications that I can't really make sense of. It is hard to imagine that it isn't intentional on Wolfe's part, but accepting it as intentional opens up quite a can of worms. Was Thecla's life as guided and planned as Severian's? How much of what we read about happens because someone set it up in precisely this way?

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HamsterPolice
Apr 17, 2016



I mean, isn't Severian like 15 years old? And yeah he lives in some kind of medieval environment. He lost his virginity to clone prostitutes iirc.

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