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The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories [Paperback]

Gene Wolfe
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 15 1997
A superb collection of science fiction and fantasy stories, The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories is a book that transcends all genre definitions. The stories within are mined with depth charges, explosions of meaning and illumination that will keep you thinking and feeling long after you have finished reading.

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"Humane, outrageous, forever unexpected....Some of the best American short stories of the decade are in this book." --Ursula K. LeGuin

"This collection makes his work readily available and makes clear that his is one of the names most to be reckoned the literate science fiction of today." --Foundation

"Wolfe is simply a superb writer." --The Washington Post Book World

"Gene Wolfe is among the best writers working in this century." --Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"One of the literary giants of science fiction." --The Denver Post

About the Author

Gene Wolfe has been called "the finest writer the science fiction world has yet produced" by The Washington Post. A former engineer, he has written numerous books and won a variety of awards for his SF writing.

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Customer Reviews

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THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR DEATH AND OTHER STORIES AND OTHER STORIES (yes, it's supposed to be titled that way), first published in 1980, is Gene Wolfe's first collection of short stories. It brings together 14 works published in the 1970's, some of which originally appeared in Damon Knight's "Orbit" anthologies. Like with any collection of short stories it ranges widely, but the volume does contain some of Wolfe's finest pieces.
The first story in this book may make the reader wonder why exactly Wolfe receives so much praise, for "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories" (1970) is a very immature work, an unconvincingly written tale of child whose love of pulp adventure magazines helps him escape a broken home. The next story, "Alien Stones", dates from two years later and shows a dramatic improvement in Wolfe's writing. On the surface it appears to be about a spaceship crew exploring an abandoned alien vessel, but under the surface hints at a darker story. Wolfe, like Larry Niven in his 60's hard science-fiction works, unfortunately underestimates the progress of technology---his spacecraft's computer uses CRT's and manual switches---and his far-future female character seems supiciously like a stereotypical ditz of the early 1970's. Nonetheless, the strong storytelling and intricate plot more than make up for this.
"Three Fingers" is a short diversion, an enhibition of Wolfe's droll sense of humour. "Tracking Song" is another of the high points of the volume, the chronicle of a journey on a frozen world where humanity has evolved into myriad diverse forms. The narration is reminiscent of Wolfe's first great novel, THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS.
If this collection begins with Wolfe's weakest story, it ends with one of his best.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe's best collection. March 24 2003
His Castle of Days comes at the second place.
One other reviewer called this a perfect introduction to Wolfe. It certainly is. Do not begin with The Fifth Head of Cerberus. That one might turn you off.
Wolfe is at his best in these short stories and he keeps publishing them. I hope an additional collection will appear. Even in his novels Gene Wolfe holds tight to his concept of creating tiny gems of writing. Every chapter in the Book of the New Sun could be seen as a short story. Some of them might well stand alone. Will make some weird reading, but that's Wolfe.
This is a review of this collection, so I will return to this book now. This language is one of the best prose I have yet encountered. Vladimir Nabokov is another superb stylist. If the language won't sedate you the ideas will.
This is so good! On par with the greatest of short story writers. Certainly the top of SF in general.
I'm not giving away anything. Just buy yourself a copy and start reading, slowly. Give it the time it needs. SF readers are generally not used to this kind of writing, but don't think you can't handle it. I don't think that many non-SF/F readers come here, but that's fine. They don't know what they're missing.
Other readers recommended the more favorite stories in this collection. Follow their advice. Start with them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasury of Magnificent Fiction Nov. 25 2002
Two fantastic stories, "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories" and "Seven American Nights" bookend another excellent collection from the masterful Wolfe. Several of the stories contained herein were award nominees...and rightfully so. With each story, the reader gains more appreciation for the skill employed by Wolfe. Truly he is a master storyteller.
The two stories mentioned above stand out as the masterworks of the collection. Each is a touching and delicate rumination on love and the tender connections that bind us to one another. In "The Island..." a young boy retreats into the fantasy setting of a Dr. Moreau-type novel when his chaotic family situation comes to a head. (This is only one way to read the story. A literal interpretation makes the story even more interesting and is hardly improbable in a Wolfe story) "Seven American Nights" tells thte tale of a young Middle Eastern man who comes to a ruined (post-apocalyptic?) America in search of a nebulous goal (Wolfe twice tantalizingly mentions something hidden beneath a mountain. Nuclear Weapons?) The young man is entranced by a young actress and his quest is subsumed by desire. A masterful piece.
Other standout stories inlcude "The Toy Theater" about a powerful puppeteer and "The Eyeflash Miracles" wherein a blind boy travels with a deranged ex-school superintendent.
Wolfe tells dense yet powerful stories. I don't claim to fully understand his works, but I do make the attempt. I've yet to read the Gene Wolfe story that wasn't worth my time. He is one of th most accomplished American writers today. This collection of his early short fiction is a marvelous collection and should be read. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect introduction to Gene Wolfe Nov. 27 2001
If you've read some reviews of Gene Wolfe, you've probably noticed an interesting trend. People either love him, or they hate him. This isn't such a great thing when you're not sure into which category you'll fall! Well, here's a collection of his works, broad enough and good enough so that you'll know by the end of it whether you are a fan, or whether his work is unswimmably deep for you.
Let me say that Wolfe is not casual reading. A deep, thorough exploration of his works will leave you re-examining your points of view on subjects as diverse as Christianity (The Urth of the New Sun series), the future of mankind (most of his works), the role of personal enterprise in capitalism (Hour of Trust, reprinted here), psychiatric medicine and it's practice (The death of Doctor Island, also reprinted here), and the origin of numerology (Alien Stones, possibly one of his best works, included). That's a rather short list of the things that Wolfe has left me pondering, late into the night, forced to re-examine my views in the light of the understanding he applied to each.
If that sound a bit thick, allow me a quick quote:
"You know nothing. You are like a child who has wandered by accident into a theatre half a minute before the final curtain. You see people moving about, some masked; you hear music, observe actions you do not understand. But you do not know if the play is a tragedy or a comedy, or even know whether those you see are the actors or the audience."
If the quote appeals to you, catches your interest, give this book a try. It is a great series of Science Fiction stories, written by an absolute master. If it doesn't even vaguely interest you, you might want to look further.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A genius collection!
Gene Wolfe has always been the kind of author that makes me feel guilty and maybe a little dumb. All his works - but especially his short fiction - require undivided attention, an... Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2010 by Roland
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't get no better than that
This collection features some of the best Science Fiction short stories ever written, and is probably Wolfe's best collection. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2003 by Amit D.
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Island
Wolfe is at his best when he has room to develop a theme, thus his most engaging stories are the longer ones in this collection: 'The Death of Dr. Read more
Published on March 12 2001 by Stephen Hoy
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that might became part of you
I've been keeping an eye out for this book since I lost my only copy in 1988 or so At the time I read them (age about 20) they were the most moving and mysterious stories I had... Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2000 by Andrew Blake
4.0 out of 5 stars A superb collection
"The Island of Doctor Death and other stories," "The Death of Doctor Island"; "Tracking Song"; "The Eyeflash Miracles"; "Seven... Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe's Best Collection
This is one of the best collections of short fiction ever published, of similar quality to the major collections of Joyce, Poe, Woolf, or Flannery O'Connor. Read more
Published on May 25 2000 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars I ripped this book in half and threw it across the room
And then I taped it back together and read it again and again. One of the stories was just a bit to painful...
If you loved the Urth of the New Sun books, hang onto your hat! Read more
Published on June 12 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS IS IT
You need search no further to find the epitome of sci-fi/fantasy writing. This collection is it. It delivers like nothing you've read. Buy copy won't last forever.
Published on Jan. 27 1999 by
5.0 out of 5 stars The best short story collection I've yet encountered.
Wolfe is rightly considered a master (if not THE master) of the science-fiction/fantasy novel, and yet I believe his greatest strength lies in writing short stories. Read more
Published on Dec 2 1998
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