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Land Across, The [Hardcover]

Gene Wolfe
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Feb 2014
An American writer of travel guides in need of a new location chooses to travel to a small and obscure Eastern European country. The moment Grafton crosses the border he is in trouble, much more than he could have imagined. His passport is taken by guards, and then he is detained for not having it. He is released into the custody of a family, but is again detained. It becomes evident that there are supernatural agencies at work, but they are not in some ways as threatening as the brute forces of bureaucracy and corruption in that country. Is our hero in fact a spy for the CIA? Or is he an innocent citizen caught in a Kafkaesque trap? In The Land Across, Gene Wolfe keeps us guessing until the very end, and after. A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (4 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765335956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765335951
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.1 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 526,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gene Wolfe is the author of two dozen novels and hundreds of shorter stories. He is best known for the three multi-part series The Book of the New Sun, The Book of the Long Sun, and The Book of the Short Sun, as well as for the acclaimed duology, The Wizard Knight. Over his forty-year career, he has won the Nebula Award, the John W. Campbell Award, the World Fantasy Award, the British Science Fiction Award, the Locus Reader's Poll, the Rhysling (for poetry), and many others. In 1996, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the World Fantasy Convention, and in 2007 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He lives in Barrington, Illinois, with his wife Rosemary.

Product Description

About the Author

Gene Wolfe is one of the most admired and respected living writers of SF and fantasy. He is the author of The Fifth Head of Cerberus, the bestselling The Book of the New Sun tetralogy, as well as among many others including Soldier of the Mist, The Sorcerer's House, Home Fires, The Knight, The Wizard, Peace, and The Book of the Long Sun. He is also a prolific writer of distinguished short fiction, which is collected in many volumes over the last four decades, most recently in The Best of Gene Wolfe. He received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award, and multiple Nebula and Locus awards, among other honors. In 2007, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. In 2012, he was awarded the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award. He lives in Barrington, Illinois.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SF Genie Still Going Strong 24 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's not easy to review Wolfe since even the worst Wolfe is much better than some of best commercial works in genre of fantasy and science fiction. Last couple years old wolf is writing strange fantastic, dreamlike novels which plays with different combinations of genres. They are not so cryptic as some of his older works. Or better if you are the Wolfe fan you are used to mysteries and hidden jokes in his works. If you are new Wolfe reader I envy you. You are about to discover large, mysterious, beautiful world of Gene Wolfes writing. The Land Across continues in the same tone as previous novel (but in totally different world) and in spite that it is not as complex and strong as Wolfe's serialized worlds of New,Long and Short Sun it's still good read and, as I said, stylistically better read than many other commercial genre novels.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Aiculik
It's enough to read the first page to know what a pile of crap this is. Slovakia is Central European country, as is Austria. The capital of Austria is very close Slovak borders; by train, it takes ONE HOUR to the capital. Even if the character travelled to some town in East Slovakia, there would be no 'hours of wilderness'. He'd have to change the train 2 times, and the train would go through several other cities, where the train would stop. And, surprise surprise, there are no half-timbered houses with sharp roofs in those cities. You can find them in villages in mountain areas, but the train wouldn't go through those.

Do I have to continue? The author obviously thought, 'to hell with it, it's unlikely Slovaks will read this book, and the Americans probably never heard of the country, it's small and therefore obscure and exotic, and I can make up whatever s*** I want about it'.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining, and puzzling ... 3 Dec 2013
By Antigone Smith - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
... as usual, for Wolfe. There were some aspects of the novel that took some getting used to, like the narrator being more crude, more modern, and less adept at writing than many of Wolfe's other first person narrators, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel very much. The plot is quite complex, and the detail given at various twists and turns is often sparse; if you are an old Wolfe fan and appreciate the many mysteries and unanswered questions that saturated his previous novels, you will find lots to like here.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing is revealed 16 Dec 2013
By David R. - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Gene Wolfe has a fascinating interest in developing the narrative voice into a fully-formed character. His first-person narrators are never the thin masks for the author's voice of less introspective writers. He has spent much of his career ringing changes on that narrator.

"The Book of the New Sun" takes on the (retrospectively obvious) question--how does the narrator remember all the intricate detail, every word and tic, we conventionally read without questioning? Then "Soldier in the Mist" turns that upside down. "The Book of the Long Sun" plays a game, building a picture of the narrative voice, changing it at the last minute, and inviting the reader to reconsider the entire story. A lot like the kind of "I'm going to blow your mind" games some people like to play on their stoned friends. (I've heard.)

More recent books have worked on the persona and personality of the narrator, cf. "Pandora by Holly Hollander". In "There Are Doors" the third-person narrator is not only limited in view but strangely uninvolved. And in "An Evil Guest" that third person has become something baffling, an observer with an alien viewpoint whose motto seems to be Mary Poppins's "I never explain *anything*".

In "The Land Across" the inscrutable narrator returns to the first person, with results that are at least as baffling. As the story expands, the narrator himself develops quirks and oddities--more than that, _strangenesses_--that seem to demand explanation. There is, as in "There Are Doors", something deeply strange about the narrator, but as it is seen only in reflection it is distorted and fragmented, often seeming as if it about to become clear, never doing so.

This time Mary Poppins is played by Wolfe himself. The narrator doesn't know that there is anything to explain. The author knows but won't. What he gives away he does with style, but what we want he keeps to himself. The most mysterious character in this book is Wolfe.
22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe in a Different Land 29 Nov 2013
By The Ginger Man - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Grafton is an American travel writer who journeys to an unnamed country in Eastern Europe to get material for a new book. Upon crossing the border, he is arrested without cause and his passport is sent to the capital pending investigation. Grafton is sentenced to stay in the home of a couple in a local village. What follows is a varied sequence of events that includes finding a body in a house while looking for treasure, being kidnapped by dissidents to star in propaganda broadcasts, acting as a detective for the secret police and saving a love from strangulation by a disembodied hand. As in Kafka's The Trial, Grafton is never confronted with the nature of the charges against him. The Land Across also reminds the reader of Kafka's The Castle because Wolfe's hero spends a large part of his time making little progress in getting to the American embassy to secure assistance.

The problem is that Wolfe is not nearly as successful as Kafka in portraying the surreal as normal. The plot moves slowly. The characters are wooden and the Land Across never seems to pose enough menace to overly concern either Grafton or the reader. The violence is muted and Grafton finds ample opportunity to sleep with his female captors. The food in The Land Across is not great but that is not enough to convey the oppressive sense of tension created by a writer like Kafka.

Wolfe has his characters speak to each other as if they are employing a second language with which they are not overly familiar. This helps remind the reader of the exotic nature of Grafton's locale but also makes even the book's most shrewd characters seem a bit dim after a while. At the same time, the questioning used by Grafton while trying to solve a not fully explained mystery is as complicated as can be found in Chandler's Big Sleep. The mixture of convoluted plot and pidgin english is a tiring one for the reader.

The last third of The Land Across includes an unexpected and rather forced transition to a more traditional, if bizarre, adventure story. Grafton's first person narration suggests that he is just as confused as the reader: "I was getting depressed, angry, and sad at the same time. Tonight I was going to be tortured to death and it did not seem right." Things don't always seem right to Gene Wolfe either as the author just seems to throw his hands up in the air at some points: "You may have noticed that every once in a while I put something in this book that I cannot explain but think I ought to tell you anyway. Okay," he warns, 'this is another of those."

In a very short appendix, Grafton (or Wolfe) apologizes for lecturing the reader before telling us that dictatorship is bad, democracy is a really good idea, ruling is work and we should vote for the right people. If The Land Across is meant simply as political allegory, this has been done better before. The land visited by Grafton is a bureaucratic dystopia with scared citizens, empty stores, secret police and disembodied hands but I'm not sure we learn anything new here either from the Land or from Grafton's plight.

I am a fan of Gene Wolfe's work. To his credit, he does not stick with narrative formulas expected by readers but experiments with cross genre approaches, new styles and novel subject matter. One risk of this eclectic effort is that his output is less even than if he gave his readers more of what had worked in the past. The Land Across is readable and possesses some of the brilliant eccentricities we have come to associate with Gene Wolfe but certainly is not one of his best efforts.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "When nine hundred years YOU reach, look this good you will not!" 25 July 2014
By Jerry Larson - Published on
Gene Wolfe is often, really quite often, called The Greatest. I agree, it's deserved. He's most famous for three tremendous series:
The Book of the New Sun and its sequelae; the Book of the Long Sun; and the Latro series, starting with "Soldier in the Mist".
That should be enough for anybody, but some reviewers are complaining that this isn't a monumental series like the New Sun.

GW is also an extremely idiosyncratic, difficult writer. I loved the above mentioned series, but a lot of his other works, I can't get into.
I had trouble getting started on this one, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. And no, it's not the New Sun, but I don't think that means there's anything wrong with it, or his "powers are declining", or anything like that. And btw, so what if his powers ARE declining?
"When nine hundred years YOU reach, look this good you will not!" Somebody who can write this book, imho, still has a lot on the ball. If you want him to write another giant series, maybe you're being just a little too demanding.

I'm not going to recap anything; others have done that, and said a lot of interesting things too. I just want to say, for the newcomer to GW, this might not be the place to start. I'd recommend starting with any one of the three big series, most of all New Sun (first volume is called Shadow of the Torturer).

For GW fans, I'd say, look, I think GW is the greatest, and I don't like, or can't relate to, some of his books. There may be some I just haven't managed to get into yet. All his books are weird, if you like; all the stand-alone books different, though they may all be the same in some ways. I like this one a lot, and recommend it.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars medium range Wolfe 13 Jan 2014
By J. Vacek - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
first, I am a 5 star fan of Gene Wolfe, His major works are among my favorite books of all time. This book follows his recent trends of interesting but certainly not front line novels. Any Wolfe is welcome for sure, and we are so fortunate that he continues to write, but this does not match the mystery and wonder of his greatest.
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