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The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction Hardcover – 2 Apr 2009

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1 edition (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765321351
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765321350
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 4 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,499,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Praise for Gene Wolfe: "If any writer from within genre fiction ever merited the designation Great Author, it is surely Wolfe...[who] reads like Dickens, Proust, Kipling, Chesterton, Borges, and Nabokov rolled into one." "--The Washington Post Book World""One of the literary giants of science fiction.""--The Denver Post""Gene Wolfe is as good a writer as there is today.... I feel a little bit like a musical contemporary attempting to tell people what's good about Mozart.""--The Chicago Sun Times"

About the Author

Gene Wolfe is winner of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and many other awards. In 2007, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He lives in Barrington, Illinois.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is my favourite book. If you are interested in the weird and wonderful, then Gene Wolfe is the man for you. I am a massive fan. This is proper literature, thought provoking, life affirming and deep. This is art.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars 17 reviews
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some of Gene Wolfe's best short fiction 12 July 2009
By D. Richman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What can there be not to like about a Gene Wolfe Retrospective? Mr. Wolfe has included his personal favorites, with brief comments following each story, some of which shed light on the story (but don't expect too much in the way of explanation), some autobiographical. This book could serve as a good introduction to a reader new to Wolfe, and will give one a fairly good idea of the range of his shorter fiction. Although one can read Wolfe and enjoy a story on a purely intuitive level, most of his stories bear rereading for deeper layers of meaning.

The only negative is that many of the stories in this collection are included in other collections I already own. This would not be a problem for a reader new to Wolfe, while those of us who are longtime fans are quite willing to glean whatever unread works we can find.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stories -- but pricey for an electonic edition 28 May 2009
By Michael - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've read many of these brilliant stories in other venues, so have no doubt it is a worthy book. At the moment the electronic edition is priced at over $15, which seems quite expensive for a "virtual" book and only slightly under the $18 Amazon charges for the hardcover. Amazon promotes the Kindle partly on the idea that many new titles are available at $9.99, and while Tor doesn't seem to follow that model there are prominent publishers that do. The $9.99 price point seems a reasonable compromise between the author/publisher making a profit and the reader receiving a product that does not have paper, glue, hardcovers or a dustjacket.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the best by the best 25 May 2010
By J. T. Thorleifson - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While the printing press is a marvel of mass production, the Kindle puts it to shame. As a result, the countless hours of enjoyment Gene Wolfe has provided to me over the years are completely out of proportion to the paltry sums I have paid for his books. Mr. Wolfe is certainly the finest writer of the latter half of the 20th century to grace the science fiction genre. Actually, he's probably the best writer of the last half of the 20th century, period. Nothing lasts forever, I suppose, and Mr. Wolfe's illustrious career is perhaps approaching twilight. Still, it saddens me to see a Gene Wolfe collection, even as wonderful as this, titled a retrospective.

Mr. Wolfe is a wildly prolific short story writer. In fact, he loves the form so much that he cannot refrain from inserting short stories into his full length works. So while "The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction" is a marvelous collection spanning much of his career, with award winning stories selected by the author, it's a volume or two short of being definitive.

Mr. Wolfe's work is densely alliterative, and much informed by his faith. For the church goers among us, "La Befana," "Westwind" and "The Eyeflash Miracles" are delights. Throughout his career Mr. Wolfe has displayed a fascination with forms and aberrations of memory and consciousness. Mr. Million, the unbound simulation of "The Fifth Head of Cerberus," Nicholas of "The Death of Dr. Island" and Baden of "The Tree is My Hat" are cases in point. Mr. Wolfe has a fondness for the cadences of myth and fable; "The Boy Who Hooked the Sun" is a fine example and a terrific story for young readers. (My kids enjoyed many a Gene Wolfe short story around the campfire as they grew up.) Mr. Wolfe is known for his use of first person active voice, and has made the literary device of the unreliable narrator famous. His protagonists are often impaired in some way, but nonetheless noble and likable. Sam of "Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon" is a type specimen Gene Wolfe protagonist. Mr. Wolfe evinces a genuine affection for humanity in general, and his characters in particular (even the villains). At his best, Mr. Wolfe evokes a wistful, bittersweet, almost elegiac tone in celebration of the beauty and foolishness of the human condition. "The Death of the Island Doctor" is a gem of story that chokes me up with happy tears every time I read it. Eventually all who are blessed discover that Dr. Insula had not been mistaken about the island after all.

Of course, there must be at least a second, and hopefully a third volume to complete the "retrospective." So I'll cast my votes now. As mentioned, some of Mr. Wolfe's best short fiction is embedded in his novels. I'd like to see "Melito's Story - The Cock, the Angel and the Eagle" and "Foila's Story - The Armiger's Daughter" included. Both are from "Citadel of the Autarch" and are simply marvelous fairy tales. "The Tale of the Student and His Son" from "Claw of the Conciliator" is the most wonderful transmogrification of the legend of Theseus imaginable. Finally, Mr. Wolfe has written some marvelous military short fiction. "The HORARS of War" gets my vote.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives up to its name 27 July 2009
By Jay - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Word for word, Gene Wolfe is almost certainly the finest stylist currently active in the English language. This book demonstrates that amply. The stories here range from just a few pages to short novella length. Some have splashes of humor while others are dark and bleak throughout. What they all share though is Wolfe's unflagging imagination and ability to absorb his readers into the universe he creates for his stories, however fleeting the time the reader may spend in that universe ultimately may be. Among writers, Wolfe is an anomaly for his refusal to tell stories in a linear path, and this only adds to the awe and sense of wonder of his work, both as in this volume, in his short work and in his novel-length fiction. It's hard for me to pick a story I would consider to be my favorite or the best in the book. I would probably count Seven American Nights as the most reflective of what to expect among those included herein though. Others of note are the Island/Doctor/Death stories, Petting Zoo (probably the most elegiac of the tales), The Fifth Head of Cerberus (which will slingshot the reader directly into Wolfe's first successful long work), and The Hero as Werwolf (which goes off in a direction I was pleasantly surprised to never see coming). Overall, this is clearly the strongest representation possible of Wolfe's short fiction, but I hope it will serve only as a springboard for readers new to Wolfe into his other work. Although his work is intentionally difficult--as anyone who reads this will have to acknowledge--it is both thoughtful and rewarding, and I hope this will help catapult Wolfe into a more commercially viable place among modern-day authors. Ultimately the best thing about Wolfe's work is this: As with Robert E Howard, another great storyteller of the last century, Wolfe's best work is so powerful because he himself is in everything he writes. To those fortunate enough to come across this book and read it in the future, I can say only one more thing: You will be far from disappointed.
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Place to Begin or to End Up. 29 Mar. 2009
By Dmitry Portnoy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Some of the best, and best known, works of science fiction are neither novels nor short stories, but something in between: just long enough to fully explore an idea, yet short enough to focus on a single set of events. "The Time Machine," "Who Goes There," (a.k.a. "The Thing,") and "Flowers for Algernon," (a.k.a "Charly") are three examples of the genre adopted into movies. Others were expanded into novels or even series by their original authors: for example, Theodore Sturgeon's turning "Jefty Is Five" into "More Than Human," Isaac Asimov's linking a series of novellas into "The Foundation Trilogy," and Orson Scott Card's stretching "Ender's Game" into a cottage industry that would be the envy of Pere Dumas. I would guess more than half the science fiction novels ever published started out as something shorter (and often better.)

As far as I know, Gene Wolfe himself has done this twice: turning the bleak and brilliant "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" into a single-volume "trilogy" of interlocking mysteries, and expanding an unpublished (possibly untitled) novella into his unprecedented and unsurpassed four-volume masterpiece "The Book of the New Sun." In this, he has shown remarkable restraint. Pretty much unanimously acknowledged as the master of the novella form, Wolfe could have filled ten acclaimed careers simply expanding into novel-length the short fiction collected in this book. "The Eyeflash Miracles" could easily have been a novel, "The Cabin on the Coast" a fantasy-adventure trilogy, "Seven American Nights," what else, a seven book post-apocalyptic epic, "Forlesen," the lifetime output of a couple authors I could name.

But no, they are what they are. "The Best of Gene Wolfe" is a book of books within books, a book of seeds each of which sprouts into a sequoia, but not on the page, in your head. It saves trees by blowing minds, I guess, making this collection both a boundlessly generous feast and an exquisitely torturous tease.

Is it "The Best of Gene Wolfe?" No, the best of Gene Wolfe is still his twelve-novel (untitled) sequence of "Sun" books. ("New," "Long," and "Short," in case you don't know.) But "The Best of Gene Wolfe" is the best of the best. A paradox? Why not. It's a great place to start reading him. Or a great place to finish--then start over.
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