Review: The Urth of the New Sun (The Book of the New Sun Book 5 of 5)

The Urth of the New Sun  - Gene Wolfe

This was the last book in the series The Book of the New Sun.  For the most part, I really liked it, and I might even have rated it higher than the four stars I’ve consistently given the other books in this series.  However, I thought it went off the rails a bit toward the end.


It gave me the answers I was looking for in terms of what happened after the end of the fourth book, and I enjoyed the story it told.  Then, without giving anything away, it shed new light on many of the events from those first four books, and gave more meaning to them, and I also really enjoyed that.  Some things were spelled out, but others were quite a bit more subtle, and I enjoyed catching the various references.


My problem was that I thought the author went too far with it by the end.  Just as I was admiring the cleverness, he took things a few steps further.  I felt like, in an attempt to keep things twisty and complicated, he robbed it of some of the meaningfulness.  Kind of like a cook who can’t stop tweaking his recipe until it doesn’t taste quite right anymore, or a painter who keeps adding “just a bit more” to his design until it’s no longer quite as pleasing to the eye.


A smaller complaint I had with the series in general is that, since the story centers around Severian, there are some characters who play a large role in the series but for whom we don’t get much closure because their paths diverge.  There was one character in particular that I really wanted more follow-up on, especially considering how often he was remembered and referenced in Severian’s narrative.


Over all, though, I enjoyed this series quite a lot.  I liked that it wasn’t simple or straight forward, and I liked its unique (in my experience) blend of some of the best elements from both science fiction and fantasy.  For now, there are many other authors and books I’m interested in trying, but I’d like to cycle back around to give Wolfe another try sometime down the road.


Next Book

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.  This will be my first time reading Heinlein and I’m not too sure what to expect.  I have a variety of nebulous impressions based on comments I’ve seen here and there, but now it’s time to find out for myself.