27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2006
This is a brilliant Gene Wolfe novel. If you have ever enjoyed a Gene Wolfe novel, you will probably enjoy this book a great deal; if you've read the earlier Latro novels, you must read this book (if you haven't, don't read this one until you're done with the first two).
Wolfe is 20 years older than the last time he took us into the world of the ancient mercenary Latro, cursed to forget each day the previous day's events, blessed (or cursed) to speak to the gods, the monsters, and the dead that shape the everyday world of his past. Have those years changed Wolfe's writing? Yes. He's less tricky for no reason than in SOLDIER OF ARETE, and the bare bones of the writing are possibly better, more spare, more lovely. It's still deep and wise and strange, but it's also one of the more compelling fantastic swords-and-battles-and-magic adventure tales in years (if you wanted to know what KING SOLMON'S MINES by Nabokov & Herodotus would be like, this is for you).
My only complaint is that Wolfe teases us mercilessly with the end (there will be more Latro, we must hope), and I miss Io & Pindar.
This is a marvel of a book, and Wolfe is a marvel of a writer.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
A Gene Wolfe novel is always worth reading. I found "Soldier in the Mist" riveting as well as, "Solder of Arete", but found the third installment, "Soldier of Sidon" not up to the visceral, philosophic, symbolic, and sheer enjoyment provided in the previous two books. I was ecstatic when I discovered the third installment would take place in Egypt, but none of the ancillary characters involved my interest, or much of my empathy or concern. Latro seemed sadly diminished, more "leaden" than capturing my interest. His interactions with the other characters were "wooden" and didn't elict much development in discovering himself, or even concern with his plight. His involvement with Egyptian gods was also not as fascinating and plot developing as in the previous novels. Mostly, Latro's introspective thoughts in this installment failed to move the story to anything more than a hint that there would be another installment! Wolfe's writing, so beautifully evocative elsewhere, seemed formulaic, not moving Latro's story to new heights of understanding, wonder, interest,and involvement. Worth the read, but not on par with the previous installments. Latro does not need to find "Falcata", as much as his "spirit".
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
As a huge Wolfe fan, it was always an object of some disappointment to me that the open-ended, episodic glimpses of the soldier Latro seemed, ironically, to be forgotten in the wake of his other novels. Days turned into months, and years, and even approached that most daunting of milestones ... decades. Had Wolfe forgotten his early plans for the amnesiac hero?
I had always been of the opinion (after a re-reading or two) that Latro was in fact an avatar of Pleistorus/Aries, who had been missing from his temple for some time in Soldier of Arete, (and was also revealed to be an incarnation of Ahura Mazda ... and it's only a hop skip and a jump from Ahura Mazda to the God of the Judaic and Christian systems). I was quite eager to see if my suspicions that Latro was a fallen divinity would be instantiated (or to see if Latro's increasing hatred of war would lead to a Christian passivity that would explicate, in bizarre parable form, the change in attitude from the old testament vengeance to the new testament forgiveness of the monotheistic divinity)
I didn't get that in Soldier of Sidon, but I did get a brilliant novel. In the years that have passed, Wolfe has become more econimical, and perhaps less overtly confusing and more satisfying on an initial reading here than in many of his books. He hasn't lost the essence of Latro, and this is what I feared most, for Latro has always been a good "man" who never has enough information to make meaningful judgements. Sometimes he may be right ... and other times he can be misled. This moral dichotomy is sublime, but at the heart of this novel is the wonderful picture of Egypt and its gods - coupled with the basic tragedy of Latro's condition, this is compelling indeed.
The problem for me with identifying with The Wizard Knight was the bullying/childish mentality of Able. Wolfe proves with Soldier of Sidon that he can still write the philosophically compelling mature warrior with a perfect hand. Latro is one of his best characters, and by extension, one of the greatest characters in all of literature.
Read Herodotus, read the Soldier books (Arete is easier going the third time through, believe me), and wonder at the sheer richness of story that Wolfe has tapped in history, to its fullest potential. My only criticism isn't a real one: Wolfe better get to writing that fourth soldier book with an ending like this.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I've waited twenty years for this story. I needed closure. Thank you, Mr. Wolfe. It was worth the wait.
We rejoin Latro, the brave wounded Soldier of the Great King. We learn that he found his way home to Italy with his friends from Sidon. We also learn that he is not happy with home and hearth, and finds himself still driven to 'remember as other men do'. He leaves his wife behind and journeys to Egypt in search of help.
Wolfe uses Latro and his friends to lay out threads of information that the reader slowly weaves into a tapestry of ancient Egypt. Nobody does this better. And in Latro Wolfe has his most interesting hero, as the gods of Egypt can attest (his weighing is my favorite part of the book). Tho' Latro can't remember yesterday he rediscovers his own bravery, his own moral compass over and over. He may not recall yesterday, but he knows right from wrong, and tho' he knows fear he learns again and again that he can face it. Latro is a brave, good man. A hero, willing to fight gods, demons or men. But as I read I feel more genuine sorrow for this hero than I'd believe possible. It's like seeing an old friend, lost and alone. You're happy to see him, but so sorry for his troubles.
Mr. Wolfe, neither one of us can wait another 20 years for yet another Latro book. This ending did not provide the necessary closure. So...get busy, por favor. Thank you sir, may we have another?
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Soldier of Sidon is Gene Wolfe's follow-up to Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete (now packaged as Latro in the Mist). Yet once more, Mr. Wolfe has been given a scroll with writing on it. Yet once more, the story details the daily adventure of Latro, sometimes known as Lucius or Lewqys, and the people who help Latro and his sword Falcata. Instead of being in Greece though, this time Latro is in Egypt and once more he's lost in the Mist and seeing gods.
In Soldier of Sidon, Latro is traveling in Egypt with his friend Muslak and Muslak's ship. They're there to sell the ships cargo and to bring Latro to Riverland (Egypt) to cure his problems. While in Egypt, Latro and Muslak are hired to explore the Nile and trace it as far as they can with the satraps soldiers and representatives. As in his adventures in Greece, some people do take advantage of Latro and others help him because of his innocence. And as always, the gods interact with Latro and guide him, sometimes though, it seems for their amusement rather than to help him.
This book is nicely crafted. There are some changes in style from Latro in the Mist; these changes though come across as if a Latro hasn't written about his life in awhile and has changed slightly. While the story itself isn't up to the level of Soldier of the Mist, I do feel that it is a good sequel to the series as a whole. The one addition I'd make is that I really wish Mr. Wolfe would have included a map of Egypt. While I'm generally familiar with Egypt, I wasn't always familiar with the locations Mr. Wolfe described. Considering everything, Soldier of Sidon is a very solid 4 star book! Don't just read this book though, read the entire series! Btw, I'm hoping that Mr. Wolfe can be "handed" another scroll and we can read more about Latro in the near future!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is the first review I have ever written online and I do so because I feel compelled to let everyone know just how good this novel is. I have read every Wolfe novel and this may be the very best one he is ever written. This is coming from someone who's Book of Gold is the New Sun. You do not have to have read the previous Latro novels to enjoy this book which is a plus for any new readers. Buy this now and be prepared for one of the most pleasurable reading experiences you will ever have.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Any new Gene Wolfe work is an event to look forward to. And Soldier of Sidon holds true to many of Wolfe's usual treats- mysteries to solve, arcane facts, hidden meanings, etc. Yet it seems to be a little less dense than other Wolfe works (although I am only on my third reading, hardly enough to discover all that Wolfe has hidden in one of his novels). Like Soldier of the Mist, it does not appear to stand alone, but requires a sequel for complete understanding. For Wolfe fans this is good news, for it promises another book in the Latro series. Please don't make us wait too long, Mr. Wolfe.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2011
This is Gene Wolfe's third installment of our favorite amnestic Roman mercenary known as Latro, Lewqys or Lucius depending on whether you are Egyptian, Phoenician, or Persian. Latro's tale is based on the author's translation of a papyrus scroll found in a 2,500 year old sealed vase in a land once known as Nubia.
In book one, our hero became an amnesiac due to a head injury in a Grecian battle. Latro has to write down his daily activities every night lest he forgets them. He has a habit of duplicating information while defining previous unclear events. His head injury also gave him the amazing ability to see and talk to various Egyptian Gods and mythical monstrosities. This is a historical fantasy of the highest degree.
The story follows Latro and his hired wife, Mytsereu, along with their many companions as they sail south to Nubia and beyond under the orders of the Persian Satrap, the occupying Governor of Egypt. They are to gather information from their expedition, especially about the gold mines, and report back to the Satrap. During this trip we meet many wonderful characters, Gods and Goddesses, mythical monsters, and furious warriors. Latro gets in and out of many sticky situations that he will soon forget unless he writes them down or is reminded of them by his friends. The book's ending implies that there is a book four in the future, although Mr. Wolfe is 80 years old and writes other series. I'm only bringing this up because there was 20 years in between this book and Soldier of the Mist.
This is a very pleasant book that is so good that it could stand alone. I thought this was a unique way to write an original historical fantasy. Now I know why the great Neil Gaiman said, "Gene Wolfe is the smartest, subtlest, most dangerous writer alive today"! If you haven't read a Wolfe book yet, I suggest you start with this one.
on September 6, 2013
The first two Latro novels were not books I expected to see a sequel to. While the ending of the last novel was open-ended depending on how you interpreted it, I'm used to finishing a Gene Wolfe novel and not being totally certain of the import of what I just read, let alone whether it wrapped up all the thematic threads in a neat bow. So I'm generally perfectly content with finishing one of his novels and assuming that I've seen the end of that particular character's story, even if I don't quite understand how it ended.
Yet here we are. Quite some time after he wrote the last novel, Wolfe decided to come back and revisit poor old forgetful Latro, this time stranding him in Egypt while he wanders around not remembering things. The basic concepts are the same this time around, Latro still can't remember from one day to the next without having to write it down on his scrolls, and he's still trying to figure out exactly who he is and where he came from, even if he can't remember sometimes that he's forgotten. This alone is kind of rare for a Wolfe novel, it generally seems when he revisits a setting from a previous novel, it's normally at an angle we don't expect or through a radically different approach (q.v. the New Sun, Long Sun, Short Sun novels, all of which sometimes only seem to be related because he told us they are). Here it's literally a continuation of the story that was begun in the first two novels.
So if we're back to more of the same, is it worth dipping into these waters again? If the first two novels had been the result of a lesser hand, maybe not, since the memory issues would have been used as a gimmick or a crutch, an attempt to dazzle the reader with some literary slight of hand. Here, as in the last time, the nature of the telling becomes the nature of the story itself, as it constantly questions and revisits what it's been told before, as mistakes become repeated and put down as fact and truth when there's no way to verify if they were even wrong in the first place. Latro tells the story this way because it's the only way he can tell it and still maintain some semblance of his identity, instead of letting it be shaped by others.
This time he's made it to Egypt and has managed to become part of an expedition from the local satrap (the governor of sorts as Egypt was a holding of Persia at that point) to explore the Nile further down south, especially where the kingdom of Nubia lies. And that's basically it. Much like the first two novels, Wolfe doesn't give us a concrete plot but a rather seemingly formless drifting punctuated with moments of revelation so subtle they might as well be asides. Latro goes here, stuff happens that people have to remind him about later and they move on. Repeat and repeat and keep writing it down. Yet we oddly have more of a straightforward experience this time out, Wolfe having learned in the decades since the first pair that the needle doesn't have to hit elliptical at every single moment, which makes the individual chapters much more satisfying because it feels like comprehension is happening, as opposed to having your narrator being totally unable to tell the differences between dreams and real life. But Latro's head injury induced ability to see the gods and others hasn't changed at all and much like the first run he's often running into various deities without realizing who they are.
But even this comes off better, maybe it's because Egyptian mythology lends itself better to this type of setting or it's easier to tell who the gods are because they all have animal heads, as opposed to guessing the last time around who the Shining God was based on Latro's rather scant context. The intrusions of the gods seem more subtle this time and adds to the ambiance of the whole affair. Instead of the gods poking their heads in and actively manipulating poor Latro, these ones don't seem as conniving and either want to give him veiled clues or simply order him around. But they feel more integrated with Egyptian life as a whole and instead of "Hey! Lesser god here!" it's more the feeling of pulling a curtain back from the world and witnessing the gears of a life that everyone is immersed in.
Has Latro become better with age? He seems more passive here but the initial draw of the character is still intact. He remains charming in his ability to move forward despite not remembering where his last step was without looking behind him, and his incomprehension of the world around him still mirrors our own when thrust into an environment that we only really know from Bangles videos and King Tut exhibits. Wolfe manages once again to recreate a world that is both familiar and alien, seen through eyes that reassess it every day. It seems like Wolfe isn't quite done with the character either, given the extraordinarily open-ended cliffhanger he ends the book on. And that's fine. Despite stripping the original cast away between books, it doesn't suffer at all without the familiar faces that kept Latro from forgetting. He remains lost with a vague sense of discontent and unease, but unable to pin down what the true problem is. Until he remember again. And in a world where it sometimes seems like we have everything but are still missing something, that feeling that Wolfe can evoke, of being told you belong but only believing it because you have no other choice, is a feeling that a lot of us can probably relate to these days.
on April 29, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
It's an amazing device; Latro was injured performing his duties as a soldier, and cannot retain memories, losing everything when he goes to sleep. To remind himself of who he is and what he is trying to do, he writes down everything that happens each day. The story is told through the record he keeps, and because he sees everything fresh, it allows the rich setting and fascinating detail of the ancient Egyptian setting to be told without pretense or over-description. It's a riveting read.