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The Land Across [Kindle Edition]

Gene Wolfe
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $25.99
Kindle Price: $11.04
You Save: $14.95 (58%)
Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

An American writer of travel guides in need of a new location chooses to travel to a small and obscure Eastern European country. The moment Grafton crosses the border he is in trouble, much more than he could have imagined. His passport is taken by guards, and then he is detained for not having it. He is released into the custody of a family, but is again detained. It becomes evident that there are supernatural agencies at work, but they are not in some ways as threatening as the brute forces of bureaucracy and corruption in that country. Is our hero in fact a spy for the CIA? Or is he an innocent citizen caught in a Kafkaesque trap?

In The Land Across, Gene Wolfe keeps us guessing until the very end, and after.

A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2013

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. An expedition to write a travel guide lands an American in a nightmare of mystery, espionage, and the supernatural. Grafton, arrested on arrival in an unnamed Eastern European country, is assigned to the custody of a private family. This leads to his involvement in a treasure hunt and a relationship with his married jailer, Martya, with cryptic encounters along the way. Then Grafton is kidnapped by a dissident group, the Legion of the Light, which wants him to make radio broadcasts in English. This involves him in a struggle between the secret police (JAKA), and the Satanist group the Unholy Way. Grafton is glad to meet another American, magical adept Russ Rathaus, but Rathaus's escape from imprisonment leaves unclear who is pursuing whom, and the disappearance of Martya requires Grafton to figure out what the sides are so he can choose one. Wolfe evokes Kafka, Bradbury, and The Twilight Zone in combining the implausible, creepy, and culturally alien to create a world where every action is motivated by its own internal logic, driving the story forward through the unexplored and incomprehensible. (Dec.)

From Booklist

Master fantasist Wolfe feeds into every tourist’s worst fears in this cleverly constructed travelogue though a country figuratively accessed through a looking glass. When an American travel writer, Grafton, sets out to document his experiences traversing a small, exceedingly obscure Eastern European country (the land across the mountains), he winds up in a nightmarish predicament from which there appears to be no escape. After his passport is confiscated, he is taken into the custody of a mysterious couple. Virtually imprisoned, he becomes a pawn in an elaborate game that includes a treasure hunt, a kidnapping, and a bevy of supernatural forces. A timely political message is wrapped up in this appropriately satirical and surreal parody. --Margaret Flanagan

Product Details

  • File Size: 633 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0765335956
  • Publisher: Tor Books (November 26, 2013)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DA6XJY0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,993 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining, and puzzling ... December 3, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
... as usual, for Wolfe. There were some aspects of the novel that took some getting used to, like the narrator being more crude, more modern, and less adept at writing than many of Wolfe's other first person narrators, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel very much. The plot is quite complex, and the detail given at various twists and turns is often sparse; if you are an old Wolfe fan and appreciate the many mysteries and unanswered questions that saturated his previous novels, you will find lots to like here.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing is revealed December 16, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Gene Wolfe has a fascinating interest in developing the narrative voice into a fully-formed character. His first-person narrators are never the thin masks for the author's voice of less introspective writers. He has spent much of his career ringing changes on that narrator.

"The Book of the New Sun" takes on the (retrospectively obvious) question--how does the narrator remember all the intricate detail, every word and tic, we conventionally read without questioning? Then "Soldier in the Mist" turns that upside down. "The Book of the Long Sun" plays a game, building a picture of the narrative voice, changing it at the last minute, and inviting the reader to reconsider the entire story. A lot like the kind of "I'm going to blow your mind" games some people like to play on their stoned friends. (I've heard.)

More recent books have worked on the persona and personality of the narrator, cf. "Pandora by Holly Hollander". In "There Are Doors" the third-person narrator is not only limited in view but strangely uninvolved. And in "An Evil Guest" that third person has become something baffling, an observer with an alien viewpoint whose motto seems to be Mary Poppins's "I never explain *anything*".

In "The Land Across" the inscrutable narrator returns to the first person, with results that are at least as baffling. As the story expands, the narrator himself develops quirks and oddities--more than that, _strangenesses_--that seem to demand explanation. There is, as in "There Are Doors", something deeply strange about the narrator, but as it is seen only in reflection it is distorted and fragmented, often seeming as if it about to become clear, never doing so.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe in a Different Land November 29, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Grafton is an American travel writer who journeys to an unnamed country in Eastern Europe to get material for a new book. Upon crossing the border, he is arrested without cause and his passport is sent to the capital pending investigation. Grafton is sentenced to stay in the home of a couple in a local village. What follows is a varied sequence of events that includes finding a body in a house while looking for treasure, being kidnapped by dissidents to star in propaganda broadcasts, acting as a detective for the secret police and saving a love from strangulation by a disembodied hand. As in Kafka's The Trial, Grafton is never confronted with the nature of the charges against him. The Land Across also reminds the reader of Kafka's The Castle because Wolfe's hero spends a large part of his time making little progress in getting to the American embassy to secure assistance.

The problem is that Wolfe is not nearly as successful as Kafka in portraying the surreal as normal. The plot moves slowly. The characters are wooden and the Land Across never seems to pose enough menace to overly concern either Grafton or the reader. The violence is muted and Grafton finds ample opportunity to sleep with his female captors. The food in The Land Across is not great but that is not enough to convey the oppressive sense of tension created by a writer like Kafka.

Wolfe has his characters speak to each other as if they are employing a second language with which they are not overly familiar. This helps remind the reader of the exotic nature of Grafton's locale but also makes even the book's most shrewd characters seem a bit dim after a while.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This review is a conversation March 22, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Originally posted, with links, at Fantasy Literature.

Kat and I both read Gene Wolfe’s The Land Across last week. I read the print version produced by Tor and Kat read the audio version produced by Audible and narrated by Jeff Woodman. I wrote most of the following review, but Kat insisted on sticking in her comments so she didn’t have to write her own review. That’s how this review became a conversation.

Bill: Let’s be honest. In an ideal world, nobody should be reviewing a Gene Wolfe book having only read it once. The guy just has too much going on, too much slippery subtlety, too much unreliability, too much word play and a sense that there is always a layer underneath the layer underneath the layer you think you caught a glimpse of. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and so despite knowing there’s a whole lot going on in The Land Across that we probably missed on our one trip through it, here goes…

Kat: Actually, maybe I’m a dunce, but I didn’t feel like there was anything going on that we missed. I think The Land Across is a different kind of book than what we’ve seen from Wolfe before. I don’t think we missed the subtlety, I think the book is missing it. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book — it was highly readable (especially with the excellent audio narration provided by Jeff Woodman). It was a weird trip through a strange world, and weird trips through strange worlds is something Gene Wolfe does exceptionally well.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A commentary on power, politics and identity
This book is about post-Communist Eastern Europe and the post Cold War world. Today, the elite of the old system are the elite of the new system, in business and politics. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Benedict E. Dedominicis
2.0 out of 5 stars What was that?
I'm not sure what the hell this book was about. Democracy vs. dictatorship? A scifi fantasy . Whatever.....I am interested in reading other peoples' comments. Weird.
Published 1 month ago by Mary Quite Contrary
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
To quote Alan Cheuse's review for NPR - " If you thought no one could improve on Kafka, try this one at home. Read more
Published 1 month ago by K. Chien
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost paradigmatic Wolfe
Over the years Gene Wolfe has done more and more with less and less. As his language has gotten sparer the plots have gotten more Baroque and daunting. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Todd Ellner
3.0 out of 5 stars Land Across
I am not sure what to think, will pass it on to others to read. So that is that !
Published 2 months ago by kidblue
3.0 out of 5 stars a lesser Wolfe, but most would take that
Let’s be honest. In an ideal world, nobody should be reviewing a Gene Wolfe book having only read it once. Read more
Published 2 months ago by B. Capossere
5.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe at his best
Well, well, a new Gene Wolfe novel. Prepare to be puzzled (I says to myself).

Only ... nowhere near as much as usual. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dan'l Danehy-Oakes
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece
As seen on 16 Jan 2014

A travel writer arrives by train in a nameless Eastern European country, a mysterious remnant of the Soviet bloc and cast-off of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Martin T. Fossum
4.0 out of 5 stars medium range Wolfe
first, I am a 5 star fan of Gene Wolfe, His major works are among my favorite books of all time. This book follows his recent trends of interesting but certainly not front line... Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. Vacek
2.0 out of 5 stars Written with the most clunky, dumbed down prose of Wolfe's career, but...
Gene Wolfe's 2013 novel THE LAND ACROSS is an unusual combination of a Kafkaesque struggle with inexplicable bureacracy and the witch-hunting horror genre. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Christopher Culver
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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.

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What do you love most about Gene Wolfe's Books?
I love how there is always so much more under the surface in a Wolfe book. His use of archaic vocabulary and unreliable narrators are really unique.
Nov 27, 2013 by Brent Mccracken |  See all 2 posts
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