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Customer Review

on 16 May 2000
This is a great book, but I'm not sure if it can really be described as fantasy. For me it works precisely because it is SF. If part of the aim in sci-fi is to do new and surprising things then Wolfe succeeds big time. His genius is in rendering the (extremely) far-future totally convincing, and paradoxically this is acheived by making it utterly alien. Where most SF basically transfers our own concerns into a technologically or socially 'advanced' society, Wolfe makes Severian and his world virtually incomprehensible. At various points in the novel space and time travel, teleportation, genetic engineering and biomechanics all feature, but they are all depicted as ancient, decaying and irrelevant. Furthermore, Wolfe fills the text with half remembered myths and historical misinterpretations from our own age and the millenia which have followed. Attempting to work out the possible source of these stories, and solving the other mysteries of the text, is great, and turns the reader into a kind of textual detective.
On the downside, the sheer 'strangeness' of this future can be quite offputting, as can Wolfe's laboured use of language. While both of these factors are vital to the novel's structure, they do take a bit of getting used to...
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Product Details

3.3 out of 5 stars