The Library Basement
Reading under ground

Tag Gene Wolfe

Readings for February 2018

In which expectations are challenged.

There Are Doors by Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe's There Are Doors tells the surreal story of a man's inter-dimensional quest to regain his true love. Here's what I love about Gene Wolfe: the obvious twist in this type of story is that the protagonist is crazy. Well Wolfe addresses that in the first chapter by telling us that the protagonist is indeed a mental patient. But that's not the whole story.

Wolfe's style of narration is perfectly suited to this sort of story. He always has this dreamy style of writing which requires the reader to pay close attention, and leaves you questioning what exactly was described. I love it, and I recommend it.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

I absolutely loved Leni Zumas' The Listeners. When I saw that she finally had another novel published, I sought it out immediately. However I must admit I was a bit put off when I learned that abortion was a major theme of Red Clocks. Luckily I decided to stick with it really enjoyed it.

Zumas is really skilled at story telling, and her characters are very compelling. Plus, this book is set in a fictional Oregon coast town, which is not too surprising given that Zumas works at Portland State University. So what's not to like? Well, the theme of the novel is fairly difficult at times. And there was no Juno-esque cheerful ending per se. But it was a significant read and I recommend it.

Readings for September 2017

Sword and Citadel by Gene Wolfe

Holy smokes. I really enjoyed Sword and Citadel. Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun definitely figures into my favorite "genre" series of all time. And part of that is of course that Wolfe demands a lot from his readers, and his writing is literary.

Severian is simply one of my favorite characters in fiction, and he is a perfect guide to the strange world of Urth. Absolutely recommended.

I have decided to keep expanding into Wolfe's writings, which I'll detail in a coming month.

Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

Have you ever read a novel because of a song lyric? David's Bazan's lyric in the Headphones cut: "Wise Blood":

If you think you've been redeemed Then I wouldn't want to be

The above always resonated with me. So when I saw Wise Blood the novel on staff display at the local library, I snagged it.

I was not disappointed when O'Connor's iconic line-turned-lyric is spoken in the opening pages by Hazel Motes, the iconoclastic atheist protagonist. Motes is always taken by strangers to be a man of faith, before he embraces the role as a sort of anti-minister. If this sounds remotely interesting to you, then it is recommended.


  • Harper's June 2017

Readings for July 2017

Shadow and Claw by Gene Wolfe

After getting a taste of Wolfe in The Land Across, I finally decided to get to his magnum opus in Shadow and Claw, which are the first two volumes of The Book of the New Sun. I was by no means disappointed. Wolfe is an excellent writer. He is up there with LeGuin in bridging the literary/genre divide. The prose is carefully crafted, and that makes for a great reading experience - though you must read carefully!

How to summarize this novel? Severian is an apprentice torturer who puts his guild to shame and is sent away on a long journey into the North. His world is Urth, which is really our Earth, but many millennia in the future, after mankind has attained and then lost interstellar travel. The setting is excellent, the characters are compelling, and the story is riveting. I reached the end of this book being quite excited that I already had the concluding volumes Sword and Citadel.

I recommend this to you, if you love yourself. A note of caution: some have accused Severian of not being a wholly trustworthy narrator. And there is a transition between the two volumes in this book which is a bit jarring, but do not despair at any confusion which arises.


  • Harper's May 2017

Readings for April 2016

Novel streak!

The Land Across by Gene Wolfe

I happened across a positive review of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun and decided to check it out. As it happened my local library branch did not have that particular work, but did have some more recent of his novels. I was honestly unsure what to choose, so after some jacket perusal I went with The Land Across. It is the surreal story of a travel writer stranded in a generic eastern European nation. Grafton suffers successive misadventures at the hands of the bureaucracy and the occult. Let the reader decide which threat is more dire.

Now I'm not one to put much stock in review blurbs. However, Gene Wolfe has the amazing distinction of being called the sci-fi/fantasy community's Melville by Ursula K. LeGuin. I was sold.

The Land Across is one of those novels where I have a particular issue: I really enjoy my reading experience, but I progress slowly. In this case I dragged through and eventually took a break to read My Struggle Book Four. Then I picked Wolfe up again and finished it. I love Wolfe's voice and I love the tone of this book. But for some reason I was not compelled to turn pages. Gass is another author with whom I had this struggle, but later enjoyed tremendously. So I'll try another by Wolfe, maybe the original recommendation.

Assumption by Percival Everett

After Glyph I went directly back to the Percival Everett well. Assumption is comprised of three novellas centered on the same small town policy deputy in the U.S. Southwest. Now I'll give this note in hopes it'll save another reader the confusion I suffered: Assumption is three discrete stories, not three acts in the same arc. I was confused in reading because I was looking for a link from the first story in the second before I more-carefully read the back cover description.

Do you like detective stories? Do you like deconstructing detective story tropes? Check it out. I really enjoyed it. Recommended.


  • Harper's March 2016