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VINE VOICEon 9 August 2000
If you have read and enjoyed the "Book of the New Sun" then this book is a must. Wolfe has created in Severian, Torturer, Ruler and Saviour of a far future dying Earth, one of modern Science Fiction's most intriguing and unlikely characters. His often bizarre, episodic adventures create a complex picture of a world that is slowly dying, weighed down by the weight of millennia of history and the dabbling of various alien races.
This sequel takes the story of Severian, now installed as Autarch of the Commonwealth one step further. Taken beyond the circles of our Universe by a giant starship crewed by strange and often adversarial crewmen from all across time and space, Severian must stand the ultimate trial to see if he is the messianic New Sun who will bring the dying Old Sun back to life.
Where the first novel painted a complex picture of a familiar yet alien world through Severian's subjective narrative which explains little and leaves much to the reader's imagination and powers of deduction (and memory - it bears repeated reading), "Urth of the New Sun" takes Severian on a more metaphysical trip through time and space.
Time indeed becomes one the characters in the story, and one has to constantly go back to obscure incidents in the original to understand the full significance of some of the events and characters in this novel. It is a bizarre, sometimes confusing narrative, but Wolfe's love of language and classic story telling holds together a very episodic and convoluted narrative. The style hovers between Mervyn Peake and Charles Dickens in its love of language and eccentric character, Swift and the Lucianic satires in its episodic structure, with elements of Tolkien and even Stapledon in its unlikely juxtaposition of homely fantasy and epic cosmology.
It is no understatement to say that this book completes an already perfect work. There is a poetic sense of circularity in the story, as the character of Severian grows and matures in new ways. His humanity and compassion come to the fore, and there is a real sense of the loss and isolation that he faces in his role as the paradoxical Saviour and destroyer of Earth. For it is only by destroying the world that he (and we) knew, that he can bring about the long promised New Earth. It is an eschatological and soteriological metaphor that harks strongly to Wolfe's own faith and the strong elements of cabalistic and Catholic imagery give the story a spiritual depth missing in much modern fiction.
This is not conventional science fiction (nothing Wolfe writes is typical of any genre). It is not obvious or easy reading. But if you want to stretch your mind, and read a book that will resonate in your imagination for years to come, then you could do much worse than read this.
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on 21 January 2015
Few books work on as many levels as Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun and few works have a 'sequal' that extends and completes the original work while doing something new and original. The Urth of the New Sun does all of these thing while providing any reader who has reached this point an extra later of meaning and clarity to what has gone before. Biblical and classical references are brought into sharper focus without so much masquerade as previous volumes, which some will welcome.

Few works compare to The Book of the New Sun and fewer endings compare to The Urth of the New Sun. Your journey with Severian is not complete without it.
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on 16 May 2000
If you have read and enjoyed the "Book of the New Sun" then this book is a must. Wolfe has created in Severian, Torturer, Ruler and Saviour of a far future dying Earth, one of modern Science Fiction's most intriguing and unlikely characters. His often bizarre, episodic adventures create a complex picture of a world that is slowly dying, weighed down by the weight of millennia of history and the dabbling of various alien races.
This sequel takes the story of Severian, now installed as Autarch of the Commonwealth one step further. Taken beyond the circles of our Universe by a giant starship crewed by strange and often adversarial crewmen from all across time and space, Severian must stand the ultimate trial to see if he is the messianic New Sun who will bring the dying Old Sun back to life.
Where the first novel painted a complex picture of a familiar yet alien world through Severian's subjective narrative which explains little and leaves much to the reader's imagination and powers of deduction (and memory - it bears repeated reading), "Urth of the New Sun" takes Severian on a more metaphysical trip through time and space.
Time indeed becomes one the characters in the story, and one has to constantly go back to obscure incidents in the original to understand the full significance of some of the events and characters in this novel. It is a bizarre, sometimes confusing narrative, but Wolfe's love of language and classic story telling holds together a very episodic and convoluted narrative. The style hovers between Mervyn Peake and Charles Dickens in its love of language and eccentric character, Swift and the Lucianic satires in its episodic structure, with elements of Tolkien and even Stapledon in its unlikely juxtaposition of homely fantasy and epic cosmology.
It is no understatement to say that this book completes an already perfect work. There is a poetic sense of circularity in the story, as the character of Severian grows and matures in new ways. His humanity and compassion come to the fore, and there is a real sense of the loss and isolation that he faces in his role as the paradoxical Saviour and destroyer of Earth. For it is only by destroying the world that he (and we) knew, that he can bring about the long promised New Earth. It is an eschatological and soteriological metaphor that harks strongly to Wolfe's own faith and the strong elements of cabalistic and Catholic imagery give the story a spiritual depth missing in much modern fiction.
This is not conventional science fiction (nothing Wolfe writes is typical of any genre). It is not obvious or easy reading. But if you want to stretch your mind, and read a book that will resonate in your imagination for years to come, then you could do much worse than read this.
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on 27 May 2012
Having loved the original Book of the New Sun I was excited to find out about the existence of this sequel. Considering that the main series is pretty popular, I was surprised by how difficult it was to get hold of a copy and how little awareness of it there seems to be. I don't know why that is, because to my mind, it was almost as good as its predecessors, which are very impressive books indeed (I'd definitely give them five stars, I'm giving this four as the plot wasn't quite as compelling). In writing this review, I'm assuming you've read the original series - technically, this could function as a stand alone book, but I really wouldn't recommend reading it without having read the others first.

The book opens a couple of decades after the end of the final part of BotNS, with the main character and narrator, Severian, on a gigantic spaceship on a mission to find a way to restore his planet, Urth's, dying sun. There's little explanation of what has happened in the intervening years or, initially at least, of exactly how he proposes to do this, and as a result, I spent the first few chapters feeling quite disorientated. It's been a while since I'd read the other books so I'm not sure if this would be clearer if you wee reading them back to back, or if it's a deliberate ploy by an author who seems to revel in keeping his readers thinking. From there, the plot spreads out in all kind of directions that can't really be summarised here, but which, suffice to say, are always interesting.

The literary style, the clever use of real but obscure words, the compelling (and probably unreliable) first person narrator and the strange, sweeping plot that made the earlier books so unique are all in place. It also clears up lots of the questions that were never entirely resolved in the original series (eg how can Severian bring people back from the dead, who is the man in the tomb that looks like him etc). That said, don't expect something exactly the same. Where the original series broadly had the feel of a fantasy adventure, the first half of this is much more overtly sci-fi (not a genre I'm usually keen on, but it worked well here) and the second half is a sort of philosophical time-travel epic that defies any kind of genre categorisation.

Some of the weirder elements that started to come in towards the end of the main series (have there been other Severian's, that sort of thing) are much more at the forefront in this book. I love that kind of stuff so I really enjoyed this, but if you mainly enjoyed the series as a clever adventure tale, you might find some of the odder and more complex aspects of the book a bit much. It's certainly not an easy read, by anyone's standards, and I think it's fair to say that it isn't going to appeal to everyone.

In conclusion, if you enjoyed the original series, give this a go. You may love it just as much, you may find this one a bit too odd for your tastes, but it's unlike any other book out there, and well worth a try.
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on 12 September 2014
I came to this book having read and enjoyed Wolfe's four part tale of the life of Severian the torturer as he journeyed across a dying earth. I had previously been impressed with the series for the way it used ambiguity and omission to draw the reader in to getting mentally involved figuring out the story.

This "sequel" gives a conclusion to the tale, and in doing so revisited some of the moments from the first four books that had been so obtuse that I had rather overlooked their weirdness at the time as being asides that did not impact on the tale. The result is both rewarding because it brings new insight to the tale, but at the same time I found it to be a bit frustrating.

My frustration comes from the fact that the first four part tale demanded that the reader speculate to fill in some of the gaps of the tale. This book then fills in some of the gaps that I hadn't realised were there, but in such a way that I now need to go back and reappraise my speculations. I found this to be deliberately complicating an already complicated tale, and I didn't appreciate the confusion I now have about what this series was actually about.

I certainly wouldn't recommend this book if you haven't read the first four in the series. And if you are happy with the story you have pieced together already from the first four books then you may not wish to unsettle that by reading this sequel. It's weird, but not really in a good way.
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on 28 July 2014
No where near as good as the earlier books. Enjoyable in places but the story crawls at times. I'm glad I read it but that has more to do with finishing the journey of Severian
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on 22 December 2014
I did enjoy it but I did think the plot went on a bit long over the five books. It was a bit of a relief to get to the end.
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