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Sword & Citadel: The Second Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' Paperback – October 15, 1994

4.3 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews
Book 2 of 4 in the New Sun Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Outstanding...A major work of twentieth-century American literature.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“Wonderfully vivid and inventive...the most extraordinary hero in the history of the heroic epic.” ―Washington Post Book World

“Brilliant...terrific...a fantasy so epic it beggars the mind. An extraordinary work of art!” ―Philadelphia Inquirer

About the Author

Gene Wolfe has been called "the finest writer the science fiction world has yet produced" by The Washington Post. A former engineer, he has written numerous books and won a variety of awards for his SF writing.

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Product Details

  • Series: New Sun (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; 1st edition (October 15, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312890184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312890186
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jacob G Corbin on May 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
What Frank Herbert attempted and only partially succeeded at in the DUNE series--a tale of theosophy and apotheosis that keeps its head in the heavens and its feet down to Earth (or Urth)--Gene Wolfe does with the apparent effortlessness of a true master. I consider myself well-read in general, but THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN is easily one of the two or three most difficult texts I've ever encountered...it's the ULYSSES of science fiction.
Wolfe presents us with a cosmogony staggering in its scope and detail and challenges us, along with his narrator Severian the torturer, to puzzle out its secrets. He poses questions to us that, until we stumble across the answers, we weren't even aware were asked. The story is filled to the brim with Biblical allusions, rich metaphor, high adventure, and--at the last--revelations and insight that feel authentic rather than contrived or exaggerated. THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN makes you work for your entertainment, but what you come away with really sticks to your ribs.
Information about Mr. Wolfe is depressingly hard to come by, so I can only marvel at the kind of mind that could have produced something this compelling, truthful, and--let's not forget--entertaining.
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Format: Paperback
Call me a simpleton, but I thoroughly enjoyed the novel without any knowledge of its biblical allusions, or others that may exist. I was actually enthralled with the plot in itself the entire way through. As far as the diction and syntax are concerned, I did find that certain sections were a bit confusing, and I also found that the quality of the writing fluctuated at times. However, when it is taken into account that the text is written by Severian, such inconsistencies, while still frustrating, end up adding to the overall mystique of the text. Just for arguments sake, even if the blame were placed on Gene Wolfe himself, I found that the well written sections captivated me like no other text has. At times, I found myself experiencing something similar to a dream like state, where that ineffable combination of awe and confusion took hold of me. Typically, when I finish a novel, I put it down for good. Yet, as soon as I finished Book of the New Sun, I felt the urge to re-read it. Not because I want to understand its complex literary allusions or because I desire to expand my vocabulary, but because, quite simply, it moved me.
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Format: Paperback
If Gene Wolfe's BOOK OF THE NEW SUN stood alone, towering over a vast field of L. Ron Hubbard "blockbusters" and the latter works of Piers Anthony, surrounded by the worst of the Star Trek and Star Wars novels, the existence of science-ficton would be justified, and its glory established forever. Wolfe's four-volume work is, of course, one novel. It is also one of the finest works of 20th century literature. As usual, Wolfe brings the powers of a Dickens, a Proust, a Kafka, (in other words, a unique genius like and yet unlike every other unique genius) to bear on his subject matter, and here the subject matter is memory, space, time, sin and redemption, God and Man. This is the Book of Gold, and its beauty and strength is great. It is worthwhile to note the high praise given to Wolfe's work even (perhaps especially?) by critics who profoundly disagree with his moral and metaphysical aims--Ian Watson, roughly, said that Wolfe has re-written the New Testament, only with better prose and a nicer sense of structure. I disagree--but imagine the kind of book that can bring forth such claims when ideological sympathy is not a contributing factor. Read Wolfe!
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Unparalleled, yes. Yet, I must offer a somewhat askew opinion of all four parts of Mr. Wolfe's magnificent series: There is much meandering and often seemingly parenthetical material to these episodes of Severian. Some of them are less than successfully interesting, others seem deliberately obtuse. Yes, Mr. Wolfe can illuminate by misdirection; but sometimes that misdirection is a distraction. In any case, after having read the entire series of four installments or movements - as you prefer to consider them - three times,I must confess that the Sword of The Lictor is, to my mind, perfect. Would that the other three shared the same wealth of plain old-fashioned narrative drive! Superb as the inventiveness, the brilliance of language and writing and overall ambiance of this masterpiece is, there are numerous tiresome stretches. Wolfe's virtue sometimes results in his only vice worth mentioning: over complicated indefiniteness -- he just hates resolution. This poetic openness of style, this opacity that makes New Sun so dreamlike, also can result in an aggravating diffuseness of meaning, as if he is afraid of limiting the story's scope or its resonance -- little chance of that though there is! Which brings me to that fith installment: Urth of The New Sun is the best example of over- mythopoeia, if that is the right word, I have ever seen (until Hyperion). After reading the fourth installment, Citadel of the Autarch, to discover its beautiful but unresolved finale to this long, long journey, I wanted to throw the book against the wall. In fact, I think I did (18 years ago). But after Urth, I vowed never again to let Mr. Wolfe take me on any more quests, or whatever it was! Of course, now I am planning to read The Litany of the Long Sun, so there is hope for me yet. Anyway, be prepared for wonder and beauty and deep, deep imagination...but at a price!
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