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The Sorcerer's House Hardcover – March 16, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A complex, spellbinding web of otherworldly sorcery and hauntings. Both terrifying and touching, this book of wonders speaks eloquently about the nature of responsibility and family.” ―Publishers Weekly

The Sorcerer's House is, without qualification, a masterpiece. A fascinating novel that repays close reading with a tale of delightful subtlety, wit, and true insight.” ―SFRevu.com

“If any writer from within genre fiction ever merited the designation Great Author, it is surely Wolfe.” ―The Washington Post Book World on Gene Wolfe

“Gene Wolfe is as good a writer as there is today. I feel a little bit like a musical contemporary attempting to tell people what's good about Mozart.” ―The Chicago Sun-Times on Gene Wolfe

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

World Fantasy Award–winning novelist Wolfe (An Evil Guest) spins a complex, spellbinding web of otherworldly sorcery and hauntings. When scholar and ex-con Baxter Dunn arrives in the Midwest town of Medicine Man, he learns that a mysterious benefactor has deeded him a rambling old house. As the building grows around him, Bax encounters a number of wonders and terrors, including family secrets, windows into Faerie, and a murderous animal dubbed the Hound of Horror. However, the greatest challenge Bax faces may be his twin brother's jealousy and rage. Both terrifying and touching, this book of wonders speaks eloquently about the nature of responsibility and family, but Wolfe's unforgettable world is marred by stereotypes—a flighty and submissive Japanese woman, a scandalmongering journalist, a rapacious and sadistic dwarf—and a rushed, incoherent ending. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1 edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076532458X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765324580
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,325,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kyle Muntz on March 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This new novel by Gene Wolfe is everything we expect of him: complex, surreal, expertly controlled, consistently surprising. Without a doubt, it's one of his best stand-alone works. While I would appreciate another series, it's good to know that Wolfe is still better than everyone else, and that this late in his career, he's still going strong.

In some sense, this strikes me as a return to form. "An Evil Guest", despite a magnificent plot, suffered from a very serious problem: Wolfe simply doesn't write well from a female perspective. His voice and attitude are so overwhelmingly male that the entire work just felt... off. "The Sorcerer's House" is more concise, extremely gripping, and, for lack of a better word, whole.

The epistolary form really plays to Wolfe's strengths. The narrator writes primarily to his brother (who eventually makes an appearance, in the most dramatic fashion), but we are also allowed to see the narrative from other perspectives, producing a dynamic loosely akin to parallax. Much, of course, is concealed, and we are eventually informed that we see only a possible order of events, rather than that in which Bax recorded them himself.

As to the Publisher's Weekly review Amazon has on display, I find it absolutely misleading. There are no stereotypes in this book, or if there are, they're treated subversively in an entirely original context. Moreover, the ending is ambiguous, but not "rushed". As always, Wolfe is in complete control of his material, and forces us to resolve the final chapters on our own.

Altogether, I really enjoyed this book. Gene Wolfe is one of the most accomplished authors writing in any language, and "The Sorcerer's House" does a great job reminding us of that.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wolfe is at best an erstwhile novelist: the heart (and brains) of his oeuvre lie in the magisterial multi-volume epics ("The Sun Sequence" and "The Wizard Knight"), in which he creates and populates entire worlds with a Jehovian fecundity, and in his diabolical short stories (especially the innocuously titled ones like "The Cabin on the Coast," or "The Wrapper"), in which he takes your breath away with a sucker-punch. Reading his long works, you get the sense of watching him juggle chainsaws, jackhammers and electric eels to find that not only has he emerged unscathed (and having grown a couple extra arms) but carved out a unique, intricate sculpture out of a marble block you hadn't realized was there. Reading his short works, you feel you are witnessing a magic trick, where rabbits or elephants vanish, or materialize out of thin air.

Wolfe in medium doses can be less thrilling, due in part to his own program of sensibly treating single volume novels as something less (duh) than multi-volume ones, and in part to his protean nature as a writer: other than a few rhetorical flourishes, such as certain characteristic dialectical elisions in the dialogue, Wolfe does not really have a signature prose style. Ever the engineer, he invents a new prose style to suit the specs of each new work. And page by page, his single-volume novels by necessity lack either the formal variety of his short story collections or the baroque expansiveness of his epic works. His epics are jungles, his stories hothouses. His novels are gardens. Generic constraints cause their language to be well-tended, well-manicured, and, well, (God forgive me) Midwestern.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the latest delightful tale from Gene Wolfe published in 2010. Although a short 300 pages, it seems to be a larger tale than it is. Maybe Gene Wolfe is really a sorcerer, or a warlock. It seems every time I read a Wolfe book I'm surprised by his style and ingenuity. There are a few parts that remind me of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which is a good thing.

The entire book is composed of letters written mostly by our lead narrator, a ex-con named Baxter Dunn to his twin brother George. Baxter was recently released from prison and is writing to his brother for some much needed money, but his luck changes as he discovers an abandoned house. He decides to find a Realtor to see if he can find the owner and live there rent-free in exchange for much needed repairs to the strange house. He meets Realtor's Doris Griffin and Martha Murrey and finds out that the previous owner Zwart Black has left the house to him in his will. He later finds out that a certain Mr. Skotos has left him valuable real estate and a large bank account! Who were these people? What did they want in return?

The house seems to have many rooms; some without entrances, some without exits, and with the strangest people and animals arriving and disappearing. As he tries to unravel this mystery, he will meet a werewolf, a changeling pet fox, a pair of strange butlers, a dwarf and a host of eccentric people. Some of the supernatural creatures in this novel are somewhat unique and original. The ending is unpredictable and is climaxed by some unanswered questions. Does this mean a sequel?

Although Gene Wolfe is 80 years old, his mind remains forever young and imaginative. This novel displays Wolfe's great story telling abilities and even though this is not quite a five star novel, it is highly recommended reading for any fantasy fan.
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