Save Big On Open-Box & Used Products: Buy "Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the ...” from Amazon Open-Box & Used and save 50% off the $18.99 list price. Product is eligible for Amazon's 30-day returns policy and Prime or FREE Shipping. See all offers from Amazon Open-Box & Used.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' Paperback – October 15, 1994
The Amazon Book Review
Discover what to read next through the Amazon Book Review. Learn more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Special offers and product promotions
One of the most acclaimed "science fantasies" ever, Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is a long, magical novel in four volumes. Shadow & Claw contains the first two: The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator, which respectively won the World Fantasy and Nebula Awards.
This is the first-person narrative of Severian, a lowly apprentice torturer blessed and cursed with a photographic memory, whose travels lead him through the marvels of far-future Urth, and who--as revealed near the beginning--eventually becomes his land's sole ruler or Autarch. On the surface it's a colorful story with all the classic ingredients: growing up, adventure, sex, betrayal, murder, exile, battle, monsters, and mysteries to be solved. (Only well into book 2 do we realize what saved Severian's life in chapter 1.) For lovers of literary allusions, they are plenty here: a Dickensian cemetery scene, a torture-engine from Kafka, a wonderful library out of Borges, and familiar fables changed by eons of retelling. Wolfe evokes a chilly sense of time's vastness, with an age-old, much-restored painting of a golden-visored "knight," really an astronaut standing on the moon, and an ancient citadel of metal towers, actually grounded spacecraft. Even the sun is senile and dying, and so Urth needs a new sun.
The Book of the New Sun is almost heartbreakingly good, full of riches and subtleties that improve with each rereading. It is Gene Wolfe's masterpiece. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk
“The Book of the New Sun establishes [Wolfe's] pre-eminence, pure and simple....The Book of the New Sun contains elements of Spenserian allegory, Swiftian satire, Dickensian social consciousness and Wagnerian mythology. Wolfe creates a truly alien social order that the reader comes to experience from within...once into it, there is no stopping.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Magic stuff...a masterpiece...the best science fiction I've read in years!” ―Ursula K. Le Guin
“Arguably the best piece of literature American science fiction has yet produced.” ―Chicago Sun-Times
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
The social climate of this future is virtually Medieval in temperament with its rigid, autocratic hierarchy and religious atmosphere. Characters live with remnants of their past all around them, including highly advanced technology, though their understanding of these things is as primitive as if they were in the Dark Ages.
The story is narrated in first-person by a man named Severian who is writing a memoir of his origins growing up in a guild of highly ritualistic, state-sanctioned Torturers until he is exiled from the guild and, we gather, eventually becomes emperor. We don't know who the intended audience of these memoirs is supposed to be, only that we are reading Severian's account of his past.
What's so interesting about author Gene Wolfe's writing is that Severian is an unreliable narrator, a literary device for which Wolfe is famous. Severian is both partially insane and prone to lie, which makes for interesting but difficult reading. We learn about his world and its history inferentially through his remarks and conversations, though we can never be sure what's illusory or fictitious in his account.
Severian's world is highly religious. The themes and imagery that emerge are frequently spiritual or even Christological in nature. But there is nothing evangelistic in the musings of the characters, no coherent message, more meandering than declarative.
Author Neil Gaiman called this series "the best sci-fi novel of the last century." Having only finished the first of four books, it's too early to tell if I would agree, and I'm not engaged quite enough with the story at this point to begin three more installments requiring the level of mental stamina to follow the recollections an unreliable, insane narrator.
Still, it's one of the most interesting books I've ever read. I look forward to finishing the series one day and untangling Severian's web of lies and delusions.
The second time I read it, it seemed like a meditation on death, and all the ways we try to cope with and circumvent our own mortality. On this reading I started to notice that Severian probably dies (and resurrects himself, and others) a lot, without realizing it.
The third time I read it, it seemed to be about life and remembered experience. How fleeting and unreliable these are! I noticed a lot more of the visual allegory and suggestion and symbolism that time.
The fourth time I read it, having read Borski's essays, it seemed like a fantastically intricate and subtle puzzle to be carefully teased apart. Borski has not convinced me on every point, but he does draw some of them together quite impressively. My suggestion to start would be to look up the Earth-historical origins or meaning of every single character's name as soon as they are introduced to the story (start with Master Palaemon and Master Gurloes, I suppose) and notice the insight it suggests into different characters.
I have also seen it as a meditation on the presence, or absence, of God in life, and as a beautifully crafted feast of words to roll around my mouth and my head. And a bit about how we might lead our lives. And the stability or instability of time and history. And a reflection of major events of GW's own life. It's surprisingly religious, too (Wolfe is a devout Catholic), but not preachy.
I also know with absolute certainty that I will find new meaning and insights every time I read this work. It is my favorite written work, ever. I would give it ten stars (out of five), if I could. It is the finest thing I have ever read. It rewards every reading and every re-reading. Incredible.
Suggestions on how to approach this work: it is a very dense and very subtle work, so it takes effort to read, but that effort is rewarded.
First, there is the story Gene Wolfe wants to tell; the author knows all.
Second, there is the narrator, Severian, who has directly experienced most of Wolfe's story. He doesn't know all the details.
Third, there is the story that Severian perceives and tries to tell, which is similar to but not quite the same as Wolfe's story.
Fourth, there is Severian's actual attempt to tell what he thinks is the story; but Severian does not always understand what is or is not important, and further attempts to conceal some information that he does not wish the reader to know. He is not a simpleton; he just doesn't trust his reader with everything he knows (or thinks he knows).
Fifth, there are little details that Wolfe slips in to communicate bits of the true story to the reader, without Severian noticing.
The simplest way I can describe it is: Severian is an alternate reality/timeline Jesus Christ, literally saving and redeeming all mankind in the followup volume Urth of the New Sun. At the time Severian is supposedly writing, he does not fully understand this; he thinks he is telling how he accidentally rose from nothing to eventually be the leader of mankind on Urth.
Read it. Take notes. Discuss it. Read it again. Wolfe may be the finest English language writer alive, and this is his masterpiece.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an extremely challenging read. It rivals "Moby Dick" in linguistic complexity.Read more