Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on January 5, 2000
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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