3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Most Unreliable Narrator.,
This review is from: The Sorcerer's House (Paperback)
This is a classic Gene Wolfe novel and has all the elements that he has returned to, on many occasions. The classic unreliable narrator, fantastical creatures and a feeling of being "out of time" or from another, earlier age.
This would be quite a scary story and there are points where it ventures into deeply unsettling psychological horror territory. But we are separated from this by the narrative device of this being presented as a series of letters, written mostly by the main character - Bax/ Baxter. His profound unconcern for whatever happens - his phlegmatic nature, you might say - mean that we can't at first be scared. But there are times when the story runs away with him into the immediate present and this doesn't feel like a letter at all and we are there with the characters.
While it's clear that Bax is unreliable and he tells us so, all the time; there is also a feeling that Gene Wolfe is not telling us the truth and that he is just cloaking this story in artifice. He knows more than he is letting us in on - just hinting at the world that lies on the other side of the house and draws Bax in.
This book does have werewolves, vampires and magicians - but it is unlike any other work of "genre" fiction that deals with this kind of thing. Wolfe is literary, old-fashioned and considered. He is more interested in the art of writing than anything else and how all of this is just words on a page - who knows what actually happened? We only get clues of what the writers want to tell us and it's often the minutiae which concern them and not the weird situation(s) in which they find themselves.
This does have some gruesome parts and the fantasy elements are quite vague - but in some ways this could be seen as an allegory for the way that sets of twins relate to each other - competing and playing psychological games with each other. In fact this part is more satisfying - but you just have to read this to find out how this is realised and resolved. I don't want to give away the plots twists that make this an enjoyable addition to Wolfe's novels - if not his best, certainly an enjoyable romp and a good read.