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Free Live Free [Mass Market Paperback]

Gene Wolfe
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 1993
"Free Live Free," said the newspaper ad, and the out-of-work detective Jim Stubb, the occultist Madame Serpentina, the salesman Ozzie Barnes, and the overweight prostitute Candy Garth are brought together to live for a time in Free's old house, a house scheduled for demolition to make way for a highway.

Free drops mysterious hints of his exile from his homeland, and of the lost key to his return. And so when demolition occurs and Free disappears, the four make a pact to continue the search, which ultimately takes them far beyond their wildest dreams.

This is character-driven science fiction at its best by a writer whom, at the time of its first publication, the Chicago Sun-Times called "science fiction's best genuine novelist."
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Wolfe established himself as one of the new masters of SF in 1972 with his Fifth Head of Cerberus; he has since received high acclaim for his four-volume Book of the New Sun series. This new novel is a disconcerting departure that resembles the work of Thomas Pynchon and William Gaddis rather than traditional SF. Like Gaddis, Wolfe spins a web of conspiracy, con-games, coverups and detection, endless dollar chasing and genuine talent put to the service of fakes and forgeries. But at the end of the quest for Wolfe's four protagonists (an unlicensed detective, an overweight prostitute, a novelties salesman and a witch who works gypsy scams) is a Pynchonesque vision of America's secret masters living perpetually aloft in an immense wooden plane. Always intriguing but sometimes equally baffling, this novel reaches comic heights of cross purposes in the malapropisms of old Mrs. Baker and the sequence set in a mental hospital during a blackout. Although it requires patience, the narrative is darkly humorous, affecting, continually surprising and surprisingly affirmative in its presentation of unconventional, deadbeat characters. November 19
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"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." --Chicago Sun-Times
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Free Live Free is a major disappointment Jan. 22 2002
By A Customer
It's hard to believe that the same man who wrote the masterful Shadow of the Torturer series would allow his name to grace the cover of this piece of garbage.
Free Live Free is quite simply one of the worst books I have ever tried to read. The fact that it has Gene Wolfe's name on the cover makes its existence even more amazing -- how could the great man produce a work of such poor quality? And why didn't his editors try to discourage him from releasing it? It's so uncharacteristically bad, that I begin to wonder if there wasn't some bizarre plot hatched at the office of the publisher (Tor) whereby an inferior wannabe author -- perhaps a high school student, or a B-grade attendee of a writing seminar -- managed to get his work released in Gene's name.
Some Gene Wolfe fans may understand where I am coming from. The vision, the characters, the construction, the sheer storytelling magic of works like Shadow, Soldier of Arete and Fifth Head of Cerebus are nowhere to be found in Free Live Free. Instead, readers are given a contrived scenario (four gritty strangers are given free lodging in a condemned house whose landlord has supernatural powers), idiotic characters ("Madame Serpentina?" Please!) torturous dialogue, and a lumbering, amateurish plot.
Why, Gene, why?
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book! March 1 2000
Wolfe's fans probably admire most the books in which he demonstrates his ability to create believable (and yet unbelievably complex) fictional settings. In this novel, Wolfe has placed the strange events of his plotline right in the middle of a run-down and rather seedy neighborhood in Chicago, with forays into a nearby luxury hotel and an insane asylum. It's remarkable how well this works. Wolfe demonstrates that he's just as good at listening to how people actually talk to each other in the real world as he is at imagining how they would talk in particularly baroque and distant futures. The conversations between the many characters who make up this book are its biggest pleasure. It's pointless, however, to attempt to explain why the conversations leave such a lasting impression in the mind, because the dialogue derives its effectiveness from the way that it reveals the psyches of some extremely well-drawn characters. If you don't know the characters, you can't understand the appeal. A part of it is that the main characters are all, in one way or another, the type of people that our culture regards as losers. Wolfe manages to make you root for them, but not by idealizing them. Instead, he shows you all of their many flaws...and pretty serious flaws they are, from an ethical viewpoint. Then he shows you their small virtues and talents. And then you begin to realize how hard they have to struggle, because of their poverty, just to get through life. This is a remarkable science-fiction novel for a lot of reasons, but mainly for being populated with protagonists who are neither fearless heroes nor nihilistic violent cretins.
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5.0 out of 5 stars After a long search...................... Nov. 15 2001
I have managed to track this fantastic book down. I read it a few years ago now on loan from a friend. With no cover on the book, sorry fellow book lovers but the girl had travelled with it across Europe and the cover went the way of all well read books, sad but true. I had no memory of the author only the blinding, blazing story line that had me captured from the first page. I think i fell in love with Candy the slightly pudgy "Escort Girl", who spends the book munching chocs and delivering some great lines that help to carry the story page after page. Look, enough words, its almost Christmas time, go out and treat yourself to this book, stick it in your stocking, then forget about it till you wake up on Christmas morning, you wont be disapointed, your family may though feel neglected as you wont be talking to much. Enjoy!
Colin Gould.
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By A Customer
You will see elsewhere on this page a few words which mention the characters and plot of this remarkable book. They are but shadows casting shadows... how can a spattering of words capture the magic of the work as a whole? You simply have to read the book itself to discover the intricate art of it, the unexpected and delightful revalations that make you laugh and weep.
My first exposure to Gene Wolfe was through his Book of the New Sun (consisting of four books, with a few related titles - it was a pleasure to read them all.) The Book of the New Sun impressed me enough to count Gene Wolfe as one of my favourite authors. Free Live Free has pushed the man into a seemingly unassailable first place position. If another author ever manages to displace him, I fear I may perish from sheer joy of reading.
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3.0 out of 5 stars SF only if you include the ending Feb. 2 2003
I will have to re-read the last few chapters of this book but there is no getting around the fact that the plot ends with an unsatisfying and unnecessary red herring. It is as if Wolfe had a manuscript lying around unfinished and some cohort of his said "I dare you to end it using [X] plot device," and Wolfe took up the challenge.
Nor did I find his characterizations really compelling. "Mr Barnes" is the most fully fleshed out of the four protagonists, but all four seem like facets of a single individual, not four distinct people driven by their individual motivations.
That all said, it was an interesting read, and more accessible than Gene Wolfe's heavier fiction. It is atypical among Wolfe's work for its lightness and clarity of prose.
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