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16842841 No.16842841 [Reply] [Original]

This is surprisingly high every time there is a vote for /lit/'s top books, but I don't know what you guys see in it. I tried to read it a couple years ago and the first couple of chapters filtered me. What's so good about it? Make me want to give it another shot

>> No.16842854

My favorite part is the words.

>> No.16842877
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One person on /lit/ once said something that's always stayed with me: that BOTNS is a very religious, very Catholic book, but not as much in its content as in how it makes you FEEL. The mood, the mindset, that reading it engenders in you. Something about Severian's narration, the way he tells his own tale, gives you a sense of what it means to be religious, to have faith. I actually agree with that, and it's a big part of what makes the book so interesting.

Not to mention I actually think it's a bit Proustian in the way it dwells on the slow passage of hours, days, and years.

>> No.16843012

It's honestly one of the harder books I've read. There's a lot left to the reader to think for and interpret.
It excellently takes the future technology=magic quote and expands on it as much as possible.
the time travel stuff in the 2nd book is also incredibly memorable.

>> No.16843042

There is no time travel in the second book. What are you on about?

>> No.16843061

>This is surprisingly high every time there is a vote for /lit/'s top books, but I don't know what you guys see in it.
This is a board that thinks of itself as literati aesthetes yet their favorite authors tend to lean towards entry level garbage like Tolkien, Lovecraft, or McCarthy and maybe some obligatory selection from the "canon" (aka anything the anglos in academia tend to enjoy) sprinkled in. I don't take anything these college freshmen undergrads say seriously.

>> No.16843094

Severian's narrative uses very evocative language, but it's also abstract and in fact, so evocative that I was in a fever dream when I first understood what the setting actually was and how I was supposed to imagine it. I'm extremely happy I started reading it with no prior knowledge. I thought it was another random medieval fantasy novel. So the sun was red, okay, I was expecting 3 or 4 moons and a couple distant suns. The awkward Gothic sounding words, a typical antihero MC, semi deserted huge cities. Before that realization, I had read 1/4 of the book already. Then Thecla's torture struck me as odd... the "revolutionary"? Huh? Oh, so the purple rays and energies... and the major pieces fell in place and I couldn't stop reading.
I've read a few hundreds of books and it's the only book that made me feel that way.
Another bit that struck me as particularly powerful is when Severian describes the type of multicolored sand that artists used. There are tons of little obvious things happening which are great by themselves, and other very awe inspiring yet mysterious ones. I've reread it a couple of times, read a bunch of theories and discussions, and every time I find something new or a new perspective. The story is now mine to shape.

And this is partly correct >>16842877. I'm an ex Catholic, so the religious themes felt familiar. Still, it's one man's quest and finding his own faith, in a one sided contact with the Pancreator or God. Something I noticed was that even if other characters express religious views (there's even an order of nuns) Severian is still very much the only one that feels like he actually believes, and this little germ of belief, expands as the book progresses. The others seem more interested in their material life. How to get from point A to point B, how to survive this thing, how to get back into power, etc. Their desire for a new sun is more formal than actual faith. Severian stumbles along the way, armed with a few relics and his belief.

It's not a perfect book though. There are a few terrible anticlimaxes, the prose drags very dryly at times, some parts are very obscured, and at some point, all the reminiscing and digressions feel out of place (on a second read, these bits offer interesting contrasts). Proust's method followed no predefined plot, there's no quest behind his recollections. Things trigger memories and he chases after them, recreating them in his mind. Wolfe does the same, except he's following a thread. And even though the whole universe is seemingly following that same thread, making things happen for Severian without his full understanding, you never catch Wolfe moving the pieces and these things going on backstage. It's a meticulous puzzle you will play with and eventually "solve", and it's designed so you can't really know how it works.

>> No.16843136

I got the double books.
The end where he becomes Autrech / goes back to the tower

>> No.16843153

oh, in Citadel of da Autarch. Book 4. I have those reissues as well, but sometimes I forget people refer to them that way

>> No.16843261

I'm this brainlet >>16843012
Would you consider BOTNS to be the opposite of what Dune in the sense that Dune gives incredibly clear narrative?

>> No.16843299

Are you a real literati aesthete?

>> No.16843430

no, I don't think anything Wolfe did can be used in any sort of analogy with Herbert's work. They connect at the fidelity of their worldbuilding, but they had vastly different goals.

>> No.16843634

>Entry level garbage

>> No.16843652

>entry level
how to spot a pseud

>> No.16844007

Probably, yes. I doubt Herbert is the best example of straight story telling, but Wolfe wrote BotNS with the notion in mind of the sort of books he liked reading himself, those that can be read multiple times.
I don't know what Herbert's process, but from what I know, he wrote the book, failed to find an editor and had to publish through a crappy publisher specialized in car parts. The sequels came later.
Wolfe's approach was more peculiar. Before he submitted his first manuscript for the first part (Shadow) he wrote the manuscript for the second (Claw). He revised the first and second manuscripts, and began the third (Sword). When Claw had a 2nd or 3rd revision, only then did he submit the first part to his editor and started on the 4th and revising the other ones. This way, he had complete control of the plot, to reduce plot holes and other artifacts of writing this sort of puzzling books.

>> No.16844721

thanks for the write-up.
any recommendations for me if I have read most of Wolfe's stuff already? Him, Lafferty, and Vance are my favorite authors for reference

>> No.16844801

I don't really have straight equivalences, sorry.
There's Borges. Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose has very nice dialogue (perhaps more in line with Long Sun). Chesterton is full of allegories and religious fantasy.
John Crowley was recently in a Gene Wolfe podcast (will probably read Ka and Engine Summer next). Little Big is a great book but perhaps too surrealist to resemble Wolfe.
The Pastel City is a nice Dying Earth short novel with extremely sharp prose and a similar tone. It's not Wolfe and the rest of the Viriconium series sucks imo.
The Mask of the Sorcerer has its own cosmogony, Egyptian aesthetic, and feels very schizophrenic. The interesting part, aside from the MC's devoutness to the Gods which resembles Severian's faith and love of his humble trade (at times an acolyte, at times a copyist), is the way the magic works. As if Severian's absorbed personalities all had some power over Severian. Thematically and plot-wise, it's one of the books I found more similar to BotNS in recent times.
I read somewhere Ted Chiang was very influenced by Wolfe but I haven't checked him.
Even a vaguer semblance: Tales of Neveryona (I swear the narrator sounds just like some Wolfe's short stories at first glance), Zotique, Hyperion Cantos, Prince of Nothing, Gormenghast.

And there's a few threads asking for similar authors in the genewolfe subreddit (the only rec I took was JK Nemisin, even though it sounds awful because it's by a black female author and reeks of SJW stuff --it's the only incentive I got to actually try her book).

>> No.16844906

I read both of Chiang's short story collections recently and both are very good but not really like Wolfe. Less mysterious or puzzley, more classical sci-fi where the author establishes some technology or a phenomenon and you see how it affects characters or settings.

>> No.16845010

It's shit. It's typical 4chan contrianism. Don't worry about it.

>> No.16845223

fuck off faggot

>> No.16846018

Predictable replies from "highbrow" genre fiction readers. Wring your necks with a rope.

>> No.16846156

Read his superior book 'The Fifth Head of Cerberus' instead.

>> No.16846183

I hate reading this kind of comment, because I am aware of 4chan's contrarianism, and I know that mentioning contrarianism is a typical act of the contrarian. So I wonder: "is this anon trying to one-up the contrarian take of 4chan contrarians with his own contrarian take? BOTNS might actually be great."
I cannot trust anybody on this site!

>> No.16846210

I loved the first part and liked the 3rd part. I'm not sure if the 2nd was schizo ramblings or I just got filtered.

>> No.16846293

Knowing Wolfe, you definitely were filter'd.

>> No.16846545

Anglos in academia hate the "canon" and would prefer to read YA or a novelization of black panther.

>> No.16846626


>> No.16846763

i took a fantasy lit course in uni and besides fellowship of the ring every novel assigned was YA fiction written after the millennium.

>> No.16846928

a Canticle for Leibowitz is way better at accomplishing this and doesn't needlessly drag itself out like New Sun does. None of the characters in New Sun have any kind of charm or appeal either.

>> No.16846954

The McDonald's of bait. Boring and totally unremarkable but undeviating from known effective techniques. Effective, yes, but ultimately unsatisfying.

>> No.16847028

That sounds like fuckingl hell.

>> No.16847107

My sci-fi/fantasy course had frankenstein, the hobbit, the time machine, neuromancer, dune, do androids dream of electric sheep, and some conan stories.
My teacher was also accused of being a misogynist by the girls in my class so maybe I just got lucky and found someone based.

>> No.16847293

i also took a scifi class but the professor was one of those hardcore black pseud spike lee types, little round glasses and all, and this was just after trump got elected so we didn't read a single scifi novel, just atrocious leftist "speculative fiction" that went along with his coping.
never read Looking Backward. its shit.

>> No.16847919

Read both, liked both and I disagree. Comparing the two in subjective terms leads nowhere, more so when there's such a difference in length and scope (250 pgs versus 1000 or so).
There's even 3 different main characters in Canticle, which is just a slice of the daily activities of an order of monks, with a few crucial events in their lives to exemplify the foolishness of the outside versus a "holy foolishness" of sorts of each PoV, which works as a social critique (martyrdom is about being confronted by external rejection, the illumination realizes the doubts of whether the outside can be trusted and act responsibly, the third part shows it's not possible). The three PoVs are being tested in some way.
New Sun is a coming of age and the tests are much broader, obscure and difficult. There's hardly any criticism because it's more of an internal search for meaning.
>None of the characters in New Sun have any kind of charm or appeal either.
This is like comparing The Hobbit with The Children of Hurin.

>> No.16847978

I read the book of the new sun series last year and is one of my favorite works i've ever read. Make sure to read the 5th book (the Urth of the New Sun), as it closes the loop on most of the plot.

I'm now almost through Gene Wolfe's next series the book of the long sun. It is far easier to read the botns, as Wolfe spoonfeeds most of the major plot points. It is not as good as botns, but still has a lot of wolfe's crazy epic ideas, so I am enjoying it nonetheless.

>> No.16848125

>Make sure to read the 5th book (the Urth of the New Sun)
I would actually recommend not reading Urth right away. Ruminate on the series for a while, and maybe even re-read it, before moving onto Urth. Everything you need to know is in those first four books, and putting all of the pieces together is half the fun of the series. I definitely regret reading Urth right away because I felt like that feeling of discovery was cheapened upon reading it. Wolfe spoonfeeds every possible vague plot point to you with no subtlety since so many people complained about not getting it in the first four books.

>> No.16848392

Wolfe is a good writer but confuses a complex plot and crazy world building with depth. Because Severian is an unreliable narrator it’s fun to guess about what he’s getting at regarding the plot and wonder who’s an alien and who’s a robot and what beings live backwards in time and how many Severians there are, and what’s the technology behind the seeming magic. It’s fun. But ultimately it’s all just mechanical world-building and any deeper content boils down to basic Catholic theology and grade-school speculations about the malleability of memory and identity. There’s also some basic ethics: even bad people can sometimes have good effects. It’s fun, but it’s not as deep as it looks, but Wolfe’s style tricks readers into thinking there’s more to his writing than there is.

>> No.16848464

I lost interest the first few times I read it also; it wasn't until he set out on his exile (i.e. it became closer to a bildungsroman/picaresque hybrid) that it stuck. THEN, the narrative saltation of Book 2 filtered me hard, such that I had to re-read Book 1 months later before I forced myself to read 2. But Book 3 is undiluted kinography, and Book 4 has some great moments like the story-telling contest and the battle.

It's now a pleasure to re-read BotNS, as it's become one of my favorite novels of all time.

>> No.16848479

>Wolfe’s style tricks readers into thinking there’s more to his writing than there is.
yes. And it's the utter fidelity of that effect that instills all the """depth""" that you think is only image. Re-read the part in Shadow about Father Inire's mirrors. Who are your favorite authors? Talk about their """depth""" and try to iterate on how you think *their* particular ruminations are the """deep""" ones, with all the same cynicisms you felt safe imposing on your post. Think less about BotNS's theological pretensions and think more about its' mythological narrative implications (or themes). Wolfe was a million times more concerned with the empathetic and "post-historical" transposition of human myths than any of the (admittedly basic) religious ruminations
If it wasn't clear, I'd like for you to stop using the word deep. You can do better.

>> No.16849302

Based and sadly truthpilled

>> No.16849448

>grade-school speculations about the malleability of memory and identity.
Nice hyperbole. Sadly, it means nothing and it's a shitty non sequitur. The fact his memory is "malleable" has at least 2 or 3 different explanations, and Severian indeed speculates but it takes a long while for him to reach any conclusion. This is not something a guy who read Proust and some pop science book on neurology could come up with. Wolfe studied Proust since 5th Head of Cerberus and probably read Paul Sollier.
The reasons why he is unreliable and his memory not entirely trustworthy are multiple. The obvious reasons are the alzabo soup and how his identity and memories can be hijacked by different personalities; another having to do with the multiple Severians; and ultimately, his destiny of bringing the White fountain which closes the loop. Then there's his utter cluelessness about the world (this is in line with the worldbuilding, technology as magic because nobody knows anything any more, which you described as "mechanic" ffs) and the powers at be keeping him in the shadows. There are little breadcrumbs carefully laid out. When Severian invokes his perfect recollection, there's usually a subtle contradiction. "I have perfect memory. I was with Roche and I almost drowned. Anyway, back to the story, I was with Drotte..."
>basic Catholic theology
What the hell does this have to do with anything? Why should something simple (a subversion of basic Cath catechesis, like the alzabo) be shallow? The Chinese and Japs are crazy about calligraphy, when it's just handwriting with ink and a brush.
In Wolfe's words, in the whole of the New Testament, Jesus is described as a mason or a carpenter, but the only thing we're explicitly told he built was the whip (a torturer's tool btw) he used to expel the merchants from the temple.
Jesus personifies mercy with his ultimate sacrifice. Severian, a torturer, casts his shadow upon the execution block (one of the most poetical descriptions of a deadly trade I've encountered). This torturer, eventually becomes a better person. This "lol worldbuilding" and "basic Catholic doctrine" is woven through the whole book. Again, calling them that means absolutely nothing.
And I believe nobody claims it's the most profound book ever. It has a sufficient depth to lose yourself in it and reread and reinterpret it as much as you want.

>> No.16849848

5th head is so tightly put together it's almost unbelievable. And, even together as 3 parts, it's a fairly short read making it even more impressive

All 3 parts fit perfectly together but as you said, during the first read it's difficult to make sense of it, especially that second part. Look for imagery patterns, like certain characters who are described in a specific kind of way, to help you figure it out

>> No.16849885

Read this ages ago, but can still remember great moments like the feast, the woman in the water, typhon (perhaps the weirdest chapter narrative wise), the story about the boat and every description about the sword

>> No.16849909

Also I don't know if anyone else found this, but 5th head has an incredibly sinister vibe. Despite it not being a horror story

And I want to let you know, it is even possible to work out Number Five's real name from just the clues in the text.

>> No.16849921

Another thing to keep in mind is that Cerberus is generally regarded as having three heads. Not five

>> No.16849988

My own favourite was when he is climbing through the mountains, either just before or after that part with Typhon, when he's lying down and looking up at the stars and almost overcome

Plus the library, the duel with the flowers, everything in the botanic gardens.

>> No.16850723

one moment that suck out to me quite a bit was when Severian and lil severian were walking across the mountain, lil sev. wearing the fuligin cloak, giving any onlooker the impression that Severian was walking along with a disproportionate shadow.

>> No.16851007

t.only read The Road and got filtered by the arctother.

>> No.16851148

Read The Silhouette. It's about a guy and his shadow, sort of.

>> No.16851231

That sucks. I took fantasy and sci fi as an elective in high school a decade ago. The teacher let the class vote on the books for each section. We even had a whole section on listening to dark side of the moon while watching wizard of oz

>> No.16852043

Love Gene. He is the best fantasy writer in the english speaking world.

>> No.16852091

not hard when most fantasy is young adult

>> No.16852209

My favorite part is the sounds.

>> No.16852231

The book sucks and is massively overrated. Big WHOOP.

>> No.16852299

Literally nothing surprising about it.

>> No.16852307

Board demographics. Board demographics. Board demographics. Board demographics.

>> No.16852407

I included Tolkien and peake too. All 3 are dead

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