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Litany of the Long Sun: Nightside the Long Sun and Lake of the Long Sun (Book of the Long Sun, Books 1 and 2) Paperback – April 1, 2000

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  • Litany of the Long Sun:  Nightside the Long Sun and Lake of the Long Sun (Book of the Long Sun, Books 1 and 2)
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  • Epiphany of the Long Sun:  Calde of the Long Sun and Exodus from the Long Sun (Book of the Long Sun, Books 3 and 4)
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  • The Urth of the New Sun: The sequel to 'The Book of the New Sun'
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Editorial Reviews Review

Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun tetralogy ranks as one of the greatest literary achievements of 20th-century science fiction. Litany of the Long Sun, comprising the first two books in the series, is suffused with looming transcendence and theophany. Wolfe takes familiar speculative fiction tropes and embeds them in a tale so complex and wonderful that readers may find themselves wondering whether what they're reading is science fiction, fantasy, or something different altogether. Or whether it matters.

The story of Patera Silk, a devout priest whose destiny is wrapped up with the gods he serves, takes place within the Whorl, a vast, cylindrical starship that has traveled for generations and is crumbling into disrepair. Through a strange and amazing series of events, Silk finds himself descending to base thievery, running afoul of a notorious crime lord, befriending a cyborg soldier, and encountering at least one of the gods of Mainframe.

She shook her head almost imperceptibly. "All that abstinence! And now you've seen a goddess. Me. Was it worth it?"

"Yes, Loving Kypris."

She laughed again, delighted. "Why?"

The question hung in the silence of the baking sellaria while Silk tried to kick his intellect awake. At last he said haltingly, "We are so much like beasts, Kypris. We eat and we breed; then we spawn and die. The most humble share in a higher existence is worth any sacrifice."

But when Silk encounters the Outsider, who may be a God of a very different sort, all his beliefs are shaken to the core, and his life swiftly takes a messianic turn. In a rousing climax, Silk becomes the reluctant leader of a political rebellion against the corrupt Ayuntamiento, who rule the city-state of Viron.

It is not necessary to have read Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series, which takes place many centuries earlier, to enjoy the Long Sun novels, but keen-eyed readers will find many clues as to the origin of the Whorl and its gods in those stories. Further, although Wolfe's reputation for literary precision and trickery is well deserved, the Long Sun series (which continues in Epiphany of the Long Sun) is one of the more accessible places to start appreciating the author's treasures. --Therese Littleton


“Today quite possibly the most important writer in the SF field.” ―The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

“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.” ―Chicago Sun-Times

“Wolfe is quite simply a superb writer.” ―The Washington Post Book World

“Gene Wolfe is a national treasure.” ―Damon Knight

“Wolfe is our Melville.” ―Ursula K. Le Guin


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Product Details

  • Series: Book of the Long Sun (Book 5)
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; 1st edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312872917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312872915
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Some Wolfe fans find the Long Sun books disappointing. At first glance, the writing doesn't seem to be of the same beauty and complexity as that in the books narrated by Severian; the philosophical and metaphysical insights here seem less breathtaking. However, this is a Gene Wolfe novel, so appearances are expected to be deceiving. Patera Silk alone is worth the price of admission, and the plot of Long Sun is Wolfe's best yet, intimately connected to the presentation of the varied and fascinating cast of characters. THE BOOK OF THE LONG SUN rewards rereading perhaps even more than most of Wolfe's work.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Marc Aramini on March 28, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun, while at first simple, proves every bit as complex as his opus The Book of the New Sun. While the third person narration employed in this book is not as ornamented or as difficult as some of his other prose, the character of Silk as he is transformed from a priest to a secular authority (and the subsequent changes brought about through his "enlightenment") are truly fascinating. The plot is more involved than it appears, and a rereading of Wolfe always yields surprising and rewarding results. This series serves as an interesting counterpoint to the transformation of Severian in the Book of the New Sun from torturer to Messiah. Also, this the characters presented in this work are pivotal in Wolfe's amazing Book of the Short Sun which begins with "On Blue's Waters", a truly phenomenal reading experience.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Sean P. Melican on July 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
_Litany of the Long Sun_ is the first half of the "Book of the Long Sun." (The second half is supposed to be out sometime in November. I think too that the third and fourth are available in mass market paperback, if you don't wish to wait for the second omnibus.) Gene Wolfe's work is often like opera: you may not understand all the words, may only grasp the basics, but the beauty and depth of the language conveys nuances not found within the text. "Litany" combines the familiar beauty of language often layered with obscure yet contextually clear terminology with a clear and exciting plot. (For those who had difficulty with the language in the "New Sun" series, this series uses less.) Like so much of his work, Wolfe shows rather than describes the unfamiliar world -- really, Whorl, for that is where the action takes place -- through the actions and lives and choices of his characters. Patera Silk is a simple priest in a poor but largely devout neighborhood. He experiences an epiphany (read the second omnibus) in which an obscure god in the pantheon of the Whorl demands that he save his manteion and palaestra which has been sold to a thief (who is more than a thief). He embarks on this holy quest by engaging the help of another thief and quickly finds himself embroiled in a network of men and women (initially unlikable as they are dishonest and criminals) who are more than they appear to be. At the end of a long sequence of events largely outside Patera's control, and through sometimes long exposition (which may come as a relief to some of Wolfe's admiring but normally mystified readers) we learn the apparent fate of our hero. However, this is only the first half and if Wolfe is to be himself, there will be many more surprises. Wolfe fans will not be disappointed, and neither will newcomers to his work. This is likely the best way to be introduced, because this is probably Wolfe's best work to date.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ML VINE VOICE on April 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
There are billions and billions of stars out there, but none of them are especially close. Absent hyperspace jumps, relativistic speeds, or reliable hibernation technologies, the generation ship is the way to send people to the stars. A lot can go wrong in a multi-century journey between the stars, however, and the generation ship that somehow gets lost and forgets it's a generation ship is a staple of sci-fi lit ... or at least it was back in the 1950s and 60s.

In Wolfe's tale, the "long sun" is a heating and lighting element that runs the length of the "whorl"--a miles-long cylindrical ship that rotates on its long axis. It is so-called in contrast to the disc-shaped "short sun" that people knew in the world before. People in the whorl are generally ignorant, superstitious, and at best minimally conscious of being space voyagers. They worship as gods the men and women responsible for building the whorl, gods that communicate with them through big-screen TVs that have some sort of mind-hacking software built in.

Patera Silk is a celibate parish priest in a religion dedicated to worship of the gods. One day while playing basketball with boys in the parish school, Silk receives a vision from a minor god telling him that he must save his poor parish, which the church hierarchy has already (without telling him) sold to a gangster. Thus begins a journey that will lead Silk to, in a few short days, consort with thieves and prostitutes, attempt murder and extortion, and become the most loved and hated figure in his native city of Viron.

It is tempting to contrast Silk with Severian, the narrator/protagonist of Wolfe's Book of the New Sun.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
LITANY OF THE LONG SUN contains the first two volumes of Gene Wolfe's four-volume The Book of the Long Sun.
NIGHTSIDE THE LONG SUN opens this story of political intrigue, revolution, and Christian allegory set in a starship sent from Earth to colonize a distant planet. Gene Wolfe rose to fame with his magisterial work The Book of the New Sun, which is one of my most cherished books. The Book of the Long Sun takes place, in fact, in the same universe as Wolfe's masterpiece. However, differences abound. The Book of the New Sun is a first-person narrative in which the narrator stands between the reader and a clear view of his world. The Book of the Long Sun, on the other hand, is told in third-person and the setting is richly illustrated by Wolfe's prose. That is not to say that there are no mysteries in the Book of the Long Sun, it is of course a Gene Wolfe novel, but the plot is much more straightforward and clear than in Wolfe's earlier triumph. NIGHTSIDE THE LONG SUN slowly introduces the plot that will later rage through the city of its setting and by the end of the four-volume work utterly change the world in which the characters live. NIGHTSIDE opens with the enlightenment of Patera Silk, an augur (i.e. priest), in Viron, one of the cities within the Whorl, the gigantic starship sent from Urth. The rather pagan inhabitants of the Whorl worship a pantheon of deities based upon the ruler who sent out the starship and his family. Silk's enlightener, however, is an obscure god called the Outsider, because he abides even outside the Whorl, who is quite possibly in fact the Christian God. The Outsider has called upon Silk to save the local church and school, which have been sold for back taxes to a criminal named Blood.
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Litany of the Long Sun:  Nightside the Long Sun and Lake of the Long Sun (Book of the Long Sun, Books 1 and 2)
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