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An Evil Guest Kindle Edition

3.2 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Length: 306 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

SignatureReviewed by Caitlín R. Kiernan Near the conclusion of An Evil Guest, a character of no particular importance to the plot rather nicely sums up something central to understanding the story and the world in which it is set: The distinctions we draw between past, present, and future are discriminations among illusions. This paraphrase of Einstein stands as a sort of thesis statement for this deliriously anachronistic novel, which, though seemingly set near or at the end of the 21st century, feels more like a wild confabulation of the '20s, '30s, '40s and '50s, with a bit of the '80s sprinkled here and there, and just a dash of the first decade of our new millennium.After striking an unholy deal with extrasolar ambassador and wizard Gideon Chase, Cassie Casey—a plucky amalgam of Grace Kelly, Claudette Colbert and Nancy Drew—becomes an overnight theater sensation and spends the rest of the novel coping with the cloak-and-dagger consequences. In a rapid-fire game of double-crosses, Cassie must come to terms with a world whose boundaries are not where she once believed, while avoiding death or worse. Though much of the action revolves around Lovecraft's fictional town of Kingsport, Mass., the book isn't the sort of baroque gothic horror that Lovecraftian usually denotes. Indeed, Wolfe moves deftly from the Oval Office to backstage Broadway and from faerie restaurants to South Sea islands menaced by the dread elder god, Cthulhu, in the nearby underwater city R'lyeh, concluding with a poignant scene that leaves Cassie looking back on the Milky Way as she races toward an alien planet. Even as Wolfe warps time and space, he also warps and dismisses the too often indulged expectations of genre readers. There is no slavish devotion to dull futurism, but a swaggering, romantic, unabashedly unlikely tomorrowland. The gilded age of the Busby Berkeley musical rubs shoulders with a film noir curiously free of smoke and grime. The Shadow's Lamont Cranston is a real historical figure; one may have breakfast at the International House of Toast and make calls on cellphones. Buck Rodgersesque science fiction careens headlong into Cold War intrigue. Lovecraft's mythos and Miskatonic University exist alongside iPods, the Internet and intergalactic flying cars. As befits such an homage to the pulp tradition, the novel's style is terse, minimalist, at times reading like a screenplay (or a stage musical's book), advancing primarily through dialogue. It succeeds by tumbling from unexpected world to unexpected world, from one grand absurdity to another, from one choreographed dance scene to the next, without ever missing a beat.Award-winning author Caitlín R. Kiernan's most recent novel, Daughter of Hounds, was published by Penguin in 2007.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“It’s a pulp thriller—and that’s a compliment, because Wolfe knows from pulp thrillers and because here he’s creating a strange sort of genre meltdown, a 21st century pulp adventure thriller with SF and horror elements that nobody else could possibly have written.”
--Neil Gaiman on An Evil Guest

“Vast, formless things astir behind a seductive dark romance of Broadway stardom . . .  our feet leave Terra Firma unbeknownst, till mythos titans ring us round and we are star bound, lost . . .   Wolfe is  a grand master, the king of sly and incremental sorcery.”
--Michael Shea on An Evil Guest

Product Details

  • File Size: 1263 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (September 16, 2008)
  • Publication Date: September 16, 2008
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0017SWR8W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #560,561 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More 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.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An Evil Guest follows other recent Wolfe novels (Pirate Freedom, Wizard/Knight) that pastiche various fantasy or SF forms of the past. Unlike the others I just mentioned, Evil Guest is broader in ambition and more more true to its (multiplicity of) sources.

At its core, Evil Guest is basically a Hammett or Chandler "mystery" thriller circa 1930. The style, use of dialog, basic milieu, and plotting would feel right at home next to the Big Sleep or Maltese Falcon. Yet we have a completely modern world also (with cell phones, the Internet, etc.), plus 1950's Buck Rodgers space opera elements and some Cthulhu mythologizing thrown in for good measure.

If this sounds dubious, crackpot, haphazard, or just plain impossible... well... it's Gene Wolfe, here. It's not just eminently possible, it all works to build tension and gravity---not knowing who precisely our heroine should trust or whether/how it will work out until the end. The disparate elements and homages (with one exception) play seamlessly together, blending into the whole nicely. (The one exception, for me at least, is the mention of Miskatonic University in the Epilogue: begone, blatant mention!)

If you love Wolfe's "Book of the {whatever} Sun", the Latro stories, and are here for the unreliable narrator, Byzantine plotting, and 57-layers of indecipherable meaning (and you didn't like, say, Pirate Freedom), you might not enjoy this book. The tautness of the genre and the nature of the book will *seem* to deny you those myriad pleasures. I say "seem" because I think he's doing something pretty remarkable without the sundry tricks. I don't love it quite as much as some of Wolfe's earlier works. But I was steadfastly entertained and I liked where this went, indeed indeed.
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Format: Hardcover
This is going to be a hard book to review and I suspect that the ratings will be all across the board. Some people are going to hate it, some like it, and many more will just be confused. I'm in the last camp, but despite being confused, I must say I liked and enjoyed this book.

The downside of An Evil Guest is that this book is extremely disjointed, not very clear, and parts seem missing. I truly wondered as I was reading this if Mr. Wolfe didn't thrash this out while on some very interesting medications. The upside is that the book grabbed my attention and I enjoyed reading it despite what I might normally call serious flaws. So this is hard to explain. I'm not sure I understood the story, I'm not sure who the evil guest was, I'm not sure what the heck Wolderan had to do with anything, and despite being set 100 years in the future I could detect no trace of that in the book other than that some people had personal spaceships. Other than that, and they didn't have any bearing on the plot, it could have been 1999. In fact, I am not even sure this book has a plot. The musings in the early part of the book regarding good and evil never bear fruit, fun forays into sentient mountains and werewolves never seem to amount to anything and the two Alpha males, Gideon and Reis, never deliver on their promise. The dialogue left me so confused that at many points in the book I had to go back and re-read a sequence three or four times to understand it. It often felt like reading a play without any of the visual cues, mostly because Wolfe didn't add much in the way of descriptions throughout the book. Ready to run away? Not so fast. Somehow I enjoyed this book.
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Format: Hardcover
This is another Wolfe book that will make little sense on the first read through. There are ample clues to understanding everything that is going on, but these clues are presented as offhand comments and meaningless flavor-text, scattered haphazardly. No attention is ever drawn to what is really important, but almost every sentence could signify multiple things if you wanted to read that far into it.

This would be a hard book to recommend because it's filled with almost nothing but dialogue and eating for the first 2/3rds. None of it seems to have anything to do with the story at a glance. The strange thing is, the words people use, the way they are described to walk, addresses, walking distances and even the foods that people order have a very large bearing on understanding what has happened after the story ends. This isn't made apparent at any point. Beware this, because you will have absolutely no idea what is really going on for your first read. It can be pretty aggravating to complete a novel that is recommended to you as deep and instead get a story about diners and changing rooms.

The story seems very simple on the surface, but it's got a few extra "un-lockable" stories (in the same sense that you'd use it in a video game) that require very close attention to trivial details. I'd say, as a complete story, the first 2/3rds are read, then the last third, then the first 2/3rds again, focusing on what may or may not have been altered by characters playing around with time and space.

This book also ties into the short story "The Tree is my Hat", from Wolfe's collection 'Innocents Aboard'. There doesn't seem to be a very deep connection between the two stories, besides a minor character or two, but it does tell you a lot more about the Takanga Islands and the strange things that happen to tourists there.
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