- 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)
The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction Hardcover – 2 Apr 2009
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.