- Series: The Book of the new sun
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: LEGEND PAPERBACKS; New Ed edition (January 1, 1981)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099263203
- ISBN-13: 978-0099263203
- Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.3 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,340,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the new sun) Paperback – Import, January 1, 1981
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Top Customer Reviews
And to be honest, I hate even putting it into a genre category; it's just a damn good read.
After having read tons of sci-fi/fanasy in my youth, I had reached a point where I was embarrassed to read any more of the stuff; almost all of it was trite, Tolkien- or Arthur C. Clarke-derivative, and, frankly, just plain juvenile. It was as if being a Fantasy writer meant that your standard of writing quality didn't have to be as high as that of straight fiction, as long as your characters included a busty warrior girl and a talking dragon. Then I picked up Shadow of the Torturer...
With The New Sun series, Gene Wolfe did to Fantasy what William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson did to Sci-fi; raised the bar for the genre and told a story that adults could read without feeling embarrassed. This is an epic up there with Lord of the Rings and Dune. It's that good.
Be aware that the negative reviews here (and most of the luke-warm ones as well), miss the point entirely. The "made-up words" and "anachronisms" they mention, for example, make complete sense if you actually pay attention, and the people who call Gene Wolfe's writing "rambling and incoherent" simply aren't doing that; he's one of the smartest fiction writers alive today, just don't expect to be spoon-fed everything.
In short: This is actually literature (big word, I know...), not just another spin on the same recycled themes.
My only question is: why haven't more people read this?! (Not to compare the two, but it's criminal that a predictable teen sci-fi book like Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game has over 2000 reviews and this one has only 13)
Inside the back cover of my copy, at one of my readings, I listed the dozens of words that Wolfe invents or modifies to suit his needs. . .many based on Latin or Greek, all with a phenomenal rightness to what they identify or - often - suggest. Badelaire, lansquenet, amchasphand, chrisos, orichalk, pinakothek, salpinx, ephor.. . . .And the tricky thing is that every now and then one of them is a real word . . did you recognise lansquenet and salpinx? Wonderful wordcraft.
Do read the four books of the series in order (this is the first). Otherwise you will certainly be confused, especially after Severian's encounter with the alzabo (the hideous animal that feeds on corpses and for a while thereafter posesses some of the dead person's ability and can mimic his/her speech: not a good voice to hear at your door in the middle of the night).
But as I reviewed the books that would make my best of the best list, the top choice is obvious. Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, of which The Shadow of the Torturer is the first volume.
For anyone who enjoys craftsmenship, language, poetry, nuance, and irony, this is a book for you.
I'm astounded at the reviewers who have criticized the books for the very thing I love most about them: the use or archaic, rare, and invented words. Others complain about Wolfe's richness of detail, bemoaning the fact that it leads nowhere. I disagree. Everything ties together - it just requires some patience on the part of the reader to discover that.
This is not just some space opera romance that you can read while soaking in bath salts. This is literature that demands some sophistication from the reader. The New Sun quartet ranks with Dickens, Peake, Dostoevsky, and Hesse. It's not for everyone, but those who appreciate substance over butter popcorn will enjoy it.
My runners-up for best fiction of the last 25 years would probably be Connie Willis' The Doomsday Book and Tim Powers' The Annubis Gate.
This story is set in a future so distant that our own world is almost completely forgotten. All that remains of our civilization are a few artifacts and legends. To Severian and the other people of "Urth", our own world is as ancient and remote as the prehistoric age is to us. Urth is now an unbelievably old planet, circling a dying sun. It is littered with the remains of past civilizations. New plant and animal life exists of the strangest kinds. There are the relics of technology so advanced they look like magic.
What I find so appealing about this book is that Gene Wolfe succeeds in creating an alien world so ancient, fantastic and magical that you often forget it's really our own planet. The strange new people are distant descendents of us. Many of the book's influences come from Jack Vance's "The Dying Earth". When reading "The Shadow of the Torturor" and the other books in this series, you have to give it your complete attention to fully appreciate what is happening. Sometimes it's tedious, but overall it's rewarding. These books will challenge your observation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Full of richly textured unique language. This book is not a fast read, but rather a long, slow smoldering burn in your head. A great variation on the sci-fi/fantasy theme. Read morePublished 4 months ago by MikeW
Well . . . based on the awards this book has received--including the World Fantasy Award and the British Science Fiction Association Award--lots of people really connected with... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Frank J. Edwards
This book came highly recommended to me and I couldn't get past the 11th or 12th chapter. It was painfully slow and full of things that didn't seem to help push the plot along. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Keontez A. George
I think I'm going to start with a 3-star rating. While it was well written, it's clearly and Act 1 establishment up for the rest of the series. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Fenrix
I was immensely moved by the writing style of Gene Wolfe. He's just miles ahead of almost every other writer I've encountered over the years. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Luke Brimblecombe
I started reading this book (almost) without preconceptions, having just read a short review in a newspaper on the new translation of the second book. Read morePublished on June 28, 2014 by Mika Kortelainen
Second time I read these books. I enjoyed them again and appreciated the fantastic world, their characteres, and the plot. A classic that you need to read if you like fantasy.Published on April 19, 2014 by Amazon Customer
The quality of Gene's Wolfe writing does not need to be introduced. The is a literary piece, not a quick summer read. Read morePublished on February 7, 2014 by Alain C.