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.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Soldier of Sidon

Soldier of Sidon is the third novel by Gene Wolfe about Latro, an ancient warrior who loses his memory when he sleeps. Latro writes in his scrolls every day and reads when he wakes so that he can learn about his history. He is from Sidon, but is with a friend in Egypt searching for a way to regain his memory. This narrative technique provides for a curious sort of irony, where the reader's knowledge about the main character grows even as the character's memory keeps getting erased.

Latro and Muslak are traveling up the Nile on Muslak's ship on a mission from a king. They stop at a temple to hire two "river wives" for their trip. They bring others on the ship, including a healer who brings a sarcophagus containing a wax woman. Strange things start to happen when the wax woman begins to walk around the ship at night and a large cat talks to Latro. Mistrust breeds on the boat, but Latro is in the most precarious position, for even if he discovers something to trust or mistrust someone, he doesn't remember unless he writes it in his scrolls.

When a wealthy merchant joins the group telling of his missing son, they decide he might be found at the mines they are sent to investigate. There is a gap in the narrative, when Latro starts to write while a captive at the mines, and readers are left to fill in the missing parts.

As in many other Gene Wolfe novels, the characters are mysterious. I am reminded of The Sorcerer's House, an epistolary novel, albeit one in which the protagonist deliberately leaves out information. There is ambiguity about what happens in the story. However there is little in the way of conflict. The main focus is Latro's search for help restoring his memory, and the growing mystery of the happenings on the ship. It is barely enough to sustain a whole story. It is enjoyable mainly because the characters and the ancient lands evoke a great sense of ancient Egypt and its times. B+

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