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.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Litany of the Long Sun

Litany of the Long Sun is the first half of Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun. It takes place in an artificial habitat in the distant future. Though the world is technologically advanced, the people who live in it do not know how it works and live a primitive existence. The story displays a blend of religion and strange technology.

The main character is Patera Silk, an augur (oracle) for a small manteion (temple) in a poor district. At the start of the story, Silk receives a revelation that he believes is from one of his gods. When Silk discovers that his manteion has been purchased by a crime boss named Blood due to unpaid taxes, he hatches a plan to sneak into the man's villa and force him to give it back. While inside, he runs into a strange woman named Mucor and a woman named Hyacinth working there as an escort. Silk falls and hurts his ankle and gets captured by Blood and his henchmen. Blood makes an agreement to sell back the manteion to Silk for a large sum of money, which Silk doesn't have. But before he leaves, a doctor named Crane fixes his ankle and sneaks him a weapon.

Silk makes plans to use the weapon to steal the large sum of money. He is so obsessed and committed to this goal that he barely thinks about the moral questions, only that he has to fulfill his duty to his gods. The next day Silk visits a brothel where one of the women has died. He discovers that another woman there is a spy and deduces that she works for Dr. Crane. As the first half ends, Silk performs an exorcism for the dead woman and a goddess manifests at the ceremony.

At the start of the second half, Silk officiates the dead woman's funeral and a vision manifests on the screen of the manteion, the first in decades. Then he realizes that Chenille, Dr. Crane's spy, has been possessed by a goddess. This possession is some sort of advanced technological ability, and the goddess is apparently an artificial intelligence. Now Silk hatches a plot to blackmail Dr. Crane, but to do this they need to travel to the nearby lake and fine the ruling council.

Here the story gets more interesting as Silk start to uncover a plot and learn more about Dr. Crane. Silk stumbles into a series of secret tunnels under the lake and the city. He discovers a chamber full of people who have been asleep for centuries. When one of the sleeping women wakes, he realizes she has been possessed by Mucor and exorcises her. Silk learns about the history of the habitat and his own gods, though he has trouble reconciling what he learns with his beliefs.

The strange things Silk sees and learns make the second part of the book more compelling. The first half is a bit slow, what with Silk's single-minded focus on Blood and his crazy scheme to compel Blood to give his manteion back. With the second half, forces become apparent such as the missing calde (ruler) of the city, the mysterious council, the goddess who possesses Chenille. Religion comes into play as Silk gains popularity with the populace (due to his visions and the appearance of the goddess) and this becomes a threat to the government. The reference to the story of Christ becomes apparent to me when Silk has a vision that includes seeing a man nailed to . Though Silk is a religious man who only wants the best for his people and doesn't care about the government, his popularity makes him dangerous and a target for the those who fear him. The end is a cliffhanger, to be completed in the next book, as Silk is captured by one faction vying for power. B+

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