You Are What You Read

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

My Photo
Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Best of Gene Wolfe

The Best of Gene Wolfe is a retrospective of Wolfe's short stories going back to 1970. Wolfe is a great writer of science fiction and fantasy, and can create fascinating short stories as well as novels.

The collection starts with "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories," a whimsical story about a boy and his mother and his fantasies coming to life. A follow up is "The Death of Dr. Island", a bittersweet story about a boy on an island of land in a sea inside a space sphere. Nicholas is a mental patient taken to the island as a last ditch effort to make him better. However he must interact with two other patients there. The island speaks to him in the whispers of the plants and the ocean. He learns a painful lesson when one of his companions gets better at the expense of the other. The story is enchanting and moving.

"The Fifth Head of Cerberus" is a somewhat dark story about a boy and his brother raised in a mysterious mansion on a colonized world. The boy has a sinister relationship with his father, who calls him forth each night to speak a stream of consciousness until he passes out. Slowly he comes to a realization of his true identity. The tale evokes questions of personhood and determining one's fate.

Most of Wolfe's characters find an inner strength. They are typically young men or boys thrown into an awkward position and forced to change. An example is the protagonist of "The Eyeflash Miracles", a blind boy in an future world who has vivid dreams where he can see. The dreams become more real as the story progresses. He must fight both in real life and his dreams to survive.

One different protagonist is the title character of "Forlesen", who wakes up one morning with a wife and children and a job he knows nothing about. He stumbles through the day trying to fake everything and ends up in a coffin when he comes home from work. To me it is an allegory about stumbling through life.

There are other small gems in the book, such as "The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automaton", a story of deception and intrigue. Or "Straw", about medieval warriors in a hot air balloon. All of the stories are fanciful and intriguing. Wolfe is a great writer, and this volume is a great collection of stories. I find the fantasy in his stories very alluring. A-

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home