You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Urth of the New Sun

The Urth of the New Sun is Gene Wolfe's sequel to his Book of the New Sun. It tries to follow up on the story told in those four books.

Severian is on a ship traveling vast distances in space. The ship is huge, with long spars and sails that catch the winds of space. He launches a copy of his story into the emptiness of the universe, nearly getting separated from the ship. When he gets back into the ship, he gets lost and is found by a group of sailors who enlist his aid to capture a strange creature.

Back in his cabin, he finds three aliens who he knows, who tell him about his journey. We find out he is traveling to the edge of the universe to be judged, and the stakes are the future of the Urth. If he fails, he will be sent back unmanned to watch his planet die. If he succeeds, he will bring the New Sun, which will brighten the skies again.

Something happens, and Severian finds himself thrust into a dark corridor. He fights off two assassins. He meets the creature he helped capture, named Zak, who has changed into a more human-like appearance. He is helped by Gunnie, one of the the sailors he helped catch Zak. He fights for the ship against the jibers, a group of creatures who inhabit the empty holds of the ship.

When the ship reaches Yesod, the end of space and time, Severian watches as another man is brought out of the ship as the one being judged. He follows the procession, and chains himself to the place of judgment instead of the other man. Apheta, a woman from Yesod, helps him and gives him a tour of the island. He meets his judge, Tzadkiel, who turns out to be Zak. He finds out the judgment has been made, and he will bring the New Sun.

The second half of the story is Severian's return to Urth and what happens there. He meets the captain of the ship, who turns out to be Tzadkiel. He meets an younger version of Gunnie, because the ship travels through time as well as space. The younger Gunnie goes with him to Urth. Together they travel through villages, and he heals several people. Gunnie ends up with the captain of a boat. Severian is captured by police and taken to his old Citadel as a prisoner. He realizes that he is in is past, and that he has powers as the New Sun.

He is taken to see the leader of the Urth, the two headed man whom he kills in the future. He then moves to the future, and finds his old House Absolute, finds his wife remarried (for he has been gone for decades), and finds the giant Baldanders. Then the oceans rise, killing nearly everyone. He meets up with some people on a raft, and they are picked up by a man on a boat who turns out to be an old friend of Severian's. Then follows a strange ending where Severian travels to the past and grows old in a village of primitive people, and finally travels to the future again.

The book has Wolfe's typical rich prose and vast vision. Pieces of the previous books appear and enrich the story, though I am not sure it would work as well as a standalone book. The story bends back on itself and picks up pieces that you thought were unimportant, like Zak. Severian is as usual a complex character. He is more thoughtful and remorseful here, having the weight of the world on him. The wonders of the huge ship and the world at the end of space and time are strange and engaging.

The only problem I have with the book is that the ending tends to wander and digress without a real goal or purpose. Severian's travels are confusing and seem to lack coherence. But still, I'll rate the book an A-. It was worth reading to find out about the judgment of Urth and the coming of the New Sun.


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