on May 7, 2004
A young priest enlightened (or was it just a burst vessel?) by a being known only as the Outsider, sets out in the company of thieves and prostitutes (or are they?) to save his temple from demolition. Along the way he bumps shoulders with strange gods (but are they really?), tangles himself in political movements, and learns some deep mysteries about the place they call the Whorl. Just remember, nothing is exactly as it seems in a Gene Wolfe book.
All seven-hundred pages of the first half of this work take place in approximately four days. Wolfe doesn't write action adventures, so gird up your patience and be ready for some less than brisk, albeit highly interesting reading. Overall, the story is a quest: hero is burdened with a weighty task, goes off to fulfill objective, and gets tangled up with all sorts of crazy characters and strange adventures along the way. But with Wolfe, nothing is ever pat, easy to explain, or simple to understand. Be ready to take notes and still not know what just happened.
All in all, very interesting; very different. My largest gripe is that when I look back over what we learned in those seven-hundred pages, I think 'It didn't have to be so long.' I think maybe those silly editors fear using the big red pen on the Mighty Wolfe.
on July 17, 2003
After intensely enjoying the New Sun books and Wolfe's short stories I eagerly looked forward to these books only to see that (IMHO) Wolfe has gone completely over to the literary side. Hey, if you want to read beautiful prose then by all means buy this book. If you want to read some pseudo-philosophy then buy this book. If you want to read enjoyable Sci-Fi then look elsewhere.
What I enjoy about the New Sun books is Wolfe's ability to develop a wondrous universe filled with complex well developed characters with differing world views and some of the most beautiful and fascinating places ever described. What gets just a little tedious near the end is the author's desire to put forth his philosophy and morality. However, in the books of the Long Sun the Author has apparently gone from wanting to tell a story to wanting to tell us all about proper morality and it's consequenses and opportunities. Hey Gene, you're a terrific writer, there's no need for the morality plays.
on April 8, 2002
The story is of Patera Silk, a devout priest whose future is enmeshed with the gods he serves, takes place within the Whorl, a giant, cylindrical starship that has traveled for generations and is faced with political rebellion and war. Through a series of strange events, Silk finds himself caught up in intrigue and espionage, running against a major crime lord, befriending a cyborg soldier, and encountering at least one of the gods of Mainframe. All of the characters are rich in detail and truly engaging. Oreb the talking bird is my favorite! The books of the Long Sun stand on their own but is also part of the universe of the books of the Short Sun.
The mysteries in the Book of the Long Sun are clear (though abstract at times, rewards the reader with repeated reading). THE LONG SUN gradually introduces a plot that will later shakeup the city of its setting and by the end of the four-volume work totally change the Whorl in which the characters live. The transformation of Silk from naive dogmatic priest to a secular authority of sophisitication is interesting and enlightening. These stories are a part of me and will stay with you too long after you've read them. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
on February 25, 2002
LITANY OF THE LONG SUN contains the first two volumes of Gene Wolfe's four-volume The Book of the Long Sun.
NIGHTSIDE THE LONG SUN opens this story of political intrigue, revolution, and Christian allegory set in a starship sent from Earth to colonize a distant planet. Gene Wolfe rose to fame with his magisterial work The Book of the New Sun, which is one of my most cherished books. The Book of the Long Sun takes place, in fact, in the same universe as Wolfe's masterpiece. However, differences abound. The Book of the New Sun is a first-person narrative in which the narrator stands between the reader and a clear view of his world. The Book of the Long Sun, on the other hand, is told in third-person and the setting is richly illustrated by Wolfe's prose. That is not to say that there are no mysteries in the Book of the Long Sun, it is of course a Gene Wolfe novel, but the plot is much more straightforward and clear than in Wolfe's earlier triumph. NIGHTSIDE THE LONG SUN slowly introduces the plot that will later rage through the city of its setting and by the end of the four-volume work utterly change the world in which the characters live. NIGHTSIDE opens with the enlightenment of Patera Silk, an augur (i.e. priest), in Viron, one of the cities within the Whorl, the gigantic starship sent from Urth. The rather pagan inhabitants of the Whorl worship a pantheon of deities based upon the ruler who sent out the starship and his family. Silk's enlightener, however, is an obscure god called the Outsider, because he abides even outside the Whorl, who is quite possibly in fact the Christian God. The Outsider has called upon Silk to save the local church and school, which have been sold for back taxes to a criminal named Blood. Silk, in a bit of bravado, proceeds to break into Blood's mansion in hopes of getting his property back. This attempt at breaking in, along with an exorcism of a bordello, are the sum of NIGHTSIDE THE LONG SUN. It's a slow and simple start, the action of this book takes place over merely two days, but in the following books the pace builds exponentially.The Book of the Long Sun may not be as poetic and full of sophistry as The Book of the New Sun, but it's immensely good reading. Wolfe's use of Christian allegory (much stricter here than in the earlier work), and a plot full of revolution, war, and political mystery is a fine work.
LAKE OF THE LONG SUN is the second volume of this series that is linked to Wolfe's acclaimed work The Book of the New Sun. The first volume, NIGHTSIDE THE LONG SUN, was a slow and simple introduction to the Whorl, the giant starship sent out from Urth, and its inhabitants, including the protagonist young Patera Silk. LAKE OF THE LONG SUN picks up the pace significantly, and much is revealed. The book consists of several plot threads that dance around each other but never quite touch. The morning after another theophany occurs in Viron, Silk goes to a remote shrine at Lake Limna in order to confront Crane and extort money from him to save his manteion. Through a coincidental occurence, Silk is lost in the tunnels beneath the city, tunnels that go to the very outside of the Whorl. There, he meets an enigmatic woman who remembers the creation of the Whorl, and for the attentive reader the story's link to The Book of the New Sun is revealed. Meanwhile, back in Viron, political intrigue continues and everyone but Silk himself is certain that Silk must become Caldé of Viron. Auk and Chenille search for Silk at Limna, and Chenille has a run-in with another goddess.The Christian allegory is slight in LAKE OF THE LONG SUN, and the most touching moment is when Silk speaks to Crane of a scene revealed to him in his enlightenment from the Outsider. The next volume of the series, CALDÉ OF THE LONG SUN, is the most visibly Christian of the work, but LAKE has its moments, too.
After LITANY, readers who have enjoyed the series so far should move on to EPIPHANY OF THE LONG SUN, which includes the second half, that is the third and fourth novels of the series.
on January 19, 2002
These books are just amazing. The author assumes you are intelligent and doesn't spell everything out for you -- sometimes you have to read between the lines to understand what is going on -- but it is worth the effort. Not "light reading" but deeply engrossing. He has become one of my favorite authors.
on December 2, 2001
About 6 months ago, I purchased the Book of the New Sun, and after plodding through Shadow and Claw, I lost my desire to continue reading it. I went ahead and decided to give the Long Sun a try though and found myself captivated by it. I am now about halfway through Exodus from the Long Sun (book 4 of 4 -- found in Epiphany of the Long Sun). This story is written absolutely beautifully, the characters are truly multi-faceted and the world created by Gene Wolfe is mythic and realistic at the same time. Most people seem to prefer the New Sun to the Long Sun, so I'll go ahead and give it a try once more. IF however, like me, you find yourself drifting away from that series. Try the Long Sun before abandoning Gene Wolfe entirely.
on January 4, 2001
I've read and greatly enjoyed Wolfe's "New Sun" series. In that series, the writing is complex, but a lot of surprises are in store by the end of the series. Unfortunately, in this series, there are not many surprises. The major problem with the first story is that it plods along rather slowly. Events that are seemingly trivial to the reader are covered in agonizing detail. The second story ("Lake of the Long Sun") is a bit better, as things start to pick up a bit. If you haven't bought any of these books yet, though, see my review of the fourth book, "Exodus from the Long Sun".
on December 7, 2000
I purchased this book with great expectations, having seen good things about the LONG SUN books and my own experince with Mr. Wolfe's BOOK OF THE NEW SUN series.
I was disappointed, I did not get the reading experience I was expecting. Perhaps I was expecting another NEW SUN. I thought the language and symbolism were presented well; however, I only read the first book in this 2 book omnibus and did not care enough about Patera Silk or his plight to read further. I did not hate the books, I just did not really "get into them" for lack of a better term. I really did WANT to like the books, but I found that I was pushing myself too hard to get through the first book of the omnibus to enjoy it enough to read further.
I will probably give this another try in the future, simply because I enjoyed NEW SUN so much, hopefully I will be in the right frame of mind then.
on July 18, 2000
_Litany of the Long Sun_ is the first half of the "Book of the Long Sun." (The second half is supposed to be out sometime in November. I think too that the third and fourth are available in mass market paperback, if you don't wish to wait for the second omnibus.) Gene Wolfe's work is often like opera: you may not understand all the words, may only grasp the basics, but the beauty and depth of the language conveys nuances not found within the text. "Litany" combines the familiar beauty of language often layered with obscure yet contextually clear terminology with a clear and exciting plot. (For those who had difficulty with the language in the "New Sun" series, this series uses less.) Like so much of his work, Wolfe shows rather than describes the unfamiliar world -- really, Whorl, for that is where the action takes place -- through the actions and lives and choices of his characters. Patera Silk is a simple priest in a poor but largely devout neighborhood. He experiences an epiphany (read the second omnibus) in which an obscure god in the pantheon of the Whorl demands that he save his manteion and palaestra which has been sold to a thief (who is more than a thief). He embarks on this holy quest by engaging the help of another thief and quickly finds himself embroiled in a network of men and women (initially unlikable as they are dishonest and criminals) who are more than they appear to be. At the end of a long sequence of events largely outside Patera's control, and through sometimes long exposition (which may come as a relief to some of Wolfe's admiring but normally mystified readers) we learn the apparent fate of our hero. However, this is only the first half and if Wolfe is to be himself, there will be many more surprises. Wolfe fans will not be disappointed, and neither will newcomers to his work. This is likely the best way to be introduced, because this is probably Wolfe's best work to date.
on May 25, 2000
Some Wolfe fans find the Long Sun books disappointing. At first glance, the writing doesn't seem to be of the same beauty and complexity as that in the books narrated by Severian; the philosophical and metaphysical insights here seem less breathtaking. However, this is a Gene Wolfe novel, so appearances are expected to be deceiving. Patera Silk alone is worth the price of admission, and the plot of Long Sun is Wolfe's best yet, intimately connected to the presentation of the varied and fascinating cast of characters. THE BOOK OF THE LONG SUN rewards rereading perhaps even more than most of Wolfe's work.