To say that Gene Wolfe is a difficult author is both a compliment and a knock. In Shadow of the Torturer, the first in a four book series known as The Book of the. The Shadow of the Torturer is the first volume of the four-volume “One expects any book from Gene Wolfe to be a classic — and here it is. Gene Wolfe’s science fiction is neither operatic nor scientifically accurate; his In the early part of the first novel, “The Shadow of the Torturer,”.

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Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer – Kate Macdonald

The world he shows us, which at first seems charmingly although morbidly medieval, gradually reveals itself to be the poor remnant of a great modern civilization in decline perhaps it is ours? Agia takes him under her wing for the day, escorting him to the Botanical Gardens, where he can pick the avern, and then to the Sanguinary Field for the duel.

Master Palaemon gives Severian a letter of introduction to the archon of the city and Terminus Esta magnificent executioner’s sword. Inside the gardens, Severian falls into a lake used to inter the dead, and while pulling himself out he finds a young woman named Dorcas to have come up from the lake as well. What IS this society that maintains torturers to separate verdict and punishment? The shop is owned by a twin brother and sister, and the brother immediately takes interest in Terminus Est.

There are no normal people in this world, only double agents and kings in disguise. The result is a rich mix of technology and decay, both social and physical. These weren’t vital and strange ideas to be explored, like the mix of sci fi and fantasy in VanceLe Guinor Lovecraft, but inconsequential ‘easter eggs’ for obsessing fans to dig up.

However, the novel’s unique viewpoint is that of from the guy who’s job is to send heroic and antiheroic seekers to the Underworld. Power of Myth 1which I read in the ‘s. This can be an effective technique, but in combination with a world of infinite, unpredictable intrigue, Wolfe’s story begins to evoke something between a soap opera and a convoluted mystery novel, relying on impossible and contradictory scenarios to mislead the audience.


This series is the one that started my obsession with comic books.

Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer

It was all understated and slipped in so gently that we the readers were delightfully focused upon the characters long enough to be surprised by the full weight of the world. Wolfe anticipate this 30 years prior with ‘fuligin’ the material that clothed the main character.

The Book of the New Sun [1].

Whilst I can certainly appreciate aspects of this writing, for example Gene has a wonderfully lyrical prose which makes Death sound Wow Everyone in the book has secret snadow, secret connections to grand conspiracies, and important plot elements that they conveniently hide until the last minute, only doling out clues here and there.

Return to Book Page. Paperbackpages.

Shadow of the Torturer: Gene Wolfe: Books –

There are reasons why that isn’t possible however. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. Foglio, Phil and Kaja. That said, I didn’t give this one star because I think it’s a book one has to read the entire series to understand, and then re-read a number of times to truly see the genius in it.

Wolfe’s terms pepper otherwise and unremarkable modern style, which hardly helps to throw us into a strange world. Wolfe is a rare stylist with the English language, and he has an ability to communicate difficult concepts that approaches genius. In the near future Emotional Transference is the drug of choice.

If you’ve read the synopsis then you know that once Severian becomes a Journeyman tortureer is I feel like this is the sort of book which, with a lot of study and breaking it down and analysing it, would be an interesting and cool read.

His protagonist started off interestingly enough: A strange note is left by someone, probably the waiter Ouen. Poe’s Law states that it can be difficult to tell wole something is an act of mockery or an example of genuine extremism, and perhaps that’s what’s going on here: The appendix at the end of the first novel acknowledges torturwr setup and the word choices are explained as being necessary to translate a language that has not yet come into existence.


I have very strong memories of this book. From humble beginnings, an apprentice torturer begins a fantastic journey of epic proportions.

The Shadow of the Torturer: SFF’s greatest and most challenging epic

At that point, it’s just a trick–adding complexity to the surface of the story without actually producing any new meaning.

Protagonist, torturer Severian, tells his story in retrospect, very reminiscent of Mika Waltari’s “Sinuhe the Egyptian”. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. Do the current inhabitants understand the technology they use? The events that follow Severian’s departure appear largely random and disconnected.

At first, I was expecting something along the lines of Jack Vance, and while Wolf is a fantastic craftsman of prose, his dialogue does not sparkle as Vance’s does and the humour and sardonic wit that is a staple of Vance’s writing is not here.

I am a little puzzled as to why he uses so many Latin terms, even though he includes an unnecessary appendix at the end of the novel explaining that the book is translated from a future manuscript in a language that he doesn’t know?? Hiding from the past, from the horror of his life as a priest after the gods disappeared. I formed no attachment to the protagonist Severian and I didn’t care for his narration as an older version of himself telling the story of his young life.

Wolfe also takes his time despite the size of the novel in getting where he wants the character and the audience to go.

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