Customer Reviews


 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books ever written
This book is one of the most beautiful writings ever produced in the English language. It is not what I would call an accessible "storytelling" book; Stephen King is the master at writing such novels. This book is beautifully written and complex at every level, from each sentence to the whole story and every image and thought it creates in one's mind. It is also...
Published on July 12 2004 by Mark Wilson

versus
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Genius or sham?
That's what I can't figure out about this book, and this writer. I'd read books before that I felt were not for me, or that I felt I had not understood. This one, however, left me wondering, "IS there anything to understand?" I like challenging reads, but sometimes there's such a thing as a pointlessly difficult read with no other reason for being difficult than...
Published on May 7 2004 by Fallout Girl


‹ Previous | 1 214 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Genius or sham?, May 7 2004
By 
Fallout Girl (Brooklyn, NY United States) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (Paperback)
That's what I can't figure out about this book, and this writer. I'd read books before that I felt were not for me, or that I felt I had not understood. This one, however, left me wondering, "IS there anything to understand?" I like challenging reads, but sometimes there's such a thing as a pointlessly difficult read with no other reason for being difficult than to claim itself a masterpiece. Unfortunately, only very few of such books are actual masterpieces, and this is not one of them.
First, the good points: the main character is definitely very unique and intriguing. Despite his rather odd and disturbing occupation, Wolfe manages to make him strangely compelling. The writing is highly descriptive, detailed and rich, creating a picture of a truly bizarre, fantastic society.
That said, there is no doubt that the story IS original. Yet at the same time, it falls short on so many levels that it would take me about 5 pages to describe in detail. The main character's nature and profession are what makes him so interesting yet, having given us much insight into his past and present, Wolfe all of a sudden disregards those aspects completely just as the story starts getting interesting. He brings in more compelling and well-written characters (Dorcas, Agia, Jonas) in the middle of book one, only to abandon them for no solid reason and with no explanation by the beginning of book two. He makes things happen that seem like they might lead to very interesting plot turns and resolutions, but in the end they only prove to have been completely pointless and unnecessary. All that the reader is left to think is, "huh?" There are enough loose ends in this book to choke and elephant. So many times in the course of reading it, I found myself drawn into the story in one chapter, only to be disappointed and confused by lack of resolution and continuity in the very next. By the end of book two I felt annoyed and exhausted and definitely not interested of reading any more.
I cannot help but imagine the author writing this book without quite knowing where and how it would end, and with a thick dictionary of medieval terms at his side. I feel that the fancy archaic and invented terms were put in there simply because they sounded cool, and for no other reason than to make the writing sound fancier and more original. But if you really look at it, it's what's often called a "replacement technique". Replace "horses" with "destriers", replace "nobles" with "chatelaines", replace "gold" with "orichalks", and there you have it. I'm sorry to say but that is NOT a mark of a genius. Fancy words do not an original story make. If you want to see a truly original story set in a truly alien world, don't waste your time on this. Try China Mieville's "Perdido Street Station", and its sequel, "The Scar" instead.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Starts strong but quickly became tedious, Feb. 11 2004
By 
Zachary (Somerville, MA United States) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (Paperback)
The concept of the main character being a torturer is fascinating and is by far the most interesting concept of the book. The first book (Shadow of the Torturer) is actually decent for this reason. Unfortunately the author seems to get bored and entire chapters are taken up with short stories, plays, and other half-assed works. In the second book the narrator states "assume I am continuing to work as a torturer as I travel" and goes on to tell the story in a high fantasy style ignoring the most fascinating parts of the character.
I had just finished China Melville's "Perdito Street Station" and have to say that Gene Wolfe's pretensions are a mockery of writing after reading China's masterful ministrations.
If you want complex worlds try Steven Erikson, if you want artistic style try China Melville. If you want good fiction about executioners you should try to chase down some of Dru Pagliosotti's High Lord Executioner tales (web only). All those works show years of care and effort, while this book had obvious spelling and textural errors. Even the editor had trouble finishing the book to all appearances.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books ever written, July 12 2004
By 
Mark Wilson (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ce commentaire est de: Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (Paperback)
This book is one of the most beautiful writings ever produced in the English language. It is not what I would call an accessible "storytelling" book; Stephen King is the master at writing such novels. This book is beautifully written and complex at every level, from each sentence to the whole story and every image and thought it creates in one's mind. It is also an unforgiving book -- nothing is really explained. But, the book rewards careful reading and re-reading. I enjoy it anew every time I read it. My son has read it several times since he was a teenager and has become enthralled. Without compromising, Wolfe is letting his central character tell a story that takes place in a culture and a physical environment far removed from our own. The reader must struggle to comprehend this alien landscape with only the unfamiliar and idiomatic, but still human, narrative of a single person from this other time in the far future.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars laughable genre-writer pretension, Feb. 4 2004
By A Customer
Ce commentaire est de: Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (Paperback)
Wolfe is the type of writer who writes to impress critics, other writers, and people who would like to be writers, instead of drawing on deeper cultural archetypes or his own spiritual depths (such as they might be). What that means is this: first, he gets good reviews. Second, he heavy-handedly inserts vapid asides which he and his target demographic imagine are deep philosophical insights in every twentieth paragraph; provides slick, polished prose that really says and evokes nothing at all; and most importantly, leaves everything of any importance in the book open to endless interpretation, giving the genre-fiction geek-critics fodder for endless useless debate. It goes without saying that he provides zero entertainment value, as that would injure his reputation. If you're one of these pseudo-literary types who likes the Harlan Ellison or Neil Gaiman brand of fantasy, well, here's some more of it. Or, if you actually have any taste or want to have any fun, go read Jack Vance's marvelous, ten-star classic "Tales of Dying Earth" -- the book that Wolfe is doing a poor job of ripping off in this egregious product of sci-fi-convention, writer's-workshop culture.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something original in all aspects, Dec 12 2003
By 
tyler hunter (Savannah, GA United States) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (Paperback)
If you have found yourself in the same position as I, were time and again you run into typical cliché formulated fantasy and science fiction. Then I feel you will find this novel and its predecessors truly captivating. The novel tells the story of a Severian, an apprentice of the guild of torturers, who through his own mercy becomes an outcast in a world as alien to him as it is to the reader. The series guides Severian through a long a struggle filled journey filled with characters and locations that range from humorous to out right bizarre. Summing up the depth and elegance of Wolfe's creation is something that can only be achieved by reading the novel itself. The language, the intricate story that weaves its web in subtle ways, the philosophy, the mysteries that uncover the identity of the world all bring something new to the table of fantasy. I was truly captivated by this novel and recommend it to any advanced reader. I say advanced because I will admit the language is difficult and from what I read from other reviewers this seems to bother a few people. This is not romp along cheesy fantasy and if that is your ticket I'll suggest you should avoid. Anyone who is looking for something that provokes the mind, and has a bit of rich texture go no further then this novel and its follow up Sword and Citadel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overwrought and Under Measure, May 21 2003
By 
bellatrys (New England USA) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (Paperback)
Years ago - while working in a library in high school - I set about reading all the "classic sf" I shelved. There were a few I could not get through. Gormenghast was one; this was another.
I had already read (and reread) Our Mutual Friend, Anna Karenina, Elie Wiesel's Dawn, much of Joseph Conrad and RA Lafferty - so dense prose, ornate vocabulary, and dark themes were no strangers. But I couldn't get farther than Severian's "crime" and even that was an effort. I couldn't figure out if the opaque prose was a sign of an art so rarefied it was still beyond me, or if it was just pretentiousness. And I couldn't make myself stop saying what I later learned are known as the Seven Deadly Words: "I don't care what happens to them."
Chanced across it again the other day & decided to try again. The impressions of half a lifetime ago were validated. There are far more deft ways of using archaic and obscure words - at least indicate, in the sentence, by a short epithet, if the word is supposed to indicate an animal, plant, piece of masonry, or citizen! There are less torturous ways of telling an involuted narrative - case in point, Lord Jim.
It isn't as bad as Foucault's Pendulum was (imo), and I will probably plod through to the end of the quartet, if for no other reason than to tally up the number of teeth-gnashingly chauvinist dogmatic assertions for my own grumly amusement. But the Iliad it ain't, that's for sure. Now *there's* a story filled with obscure reference, too many names and characters for comfort, comfortless tragedy and a remote style - which *works*, as New Sun does not. (Nor is it the True History: Wolfe could stand a few lessons from that master of sf and mythological mockery, Lucian of Samasota.)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe overrated, Dec 6 2003
By A Customer
Ce commentaire est de: Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (Paperback)
When I saw that this book got such great reviews I decided to buy it - big mistake! I feel obligated to write a review to others so that they can avoid the same mistake. In all fairness some of the reviews which rated this book as great did so with the qualification that the style is difficult. This is an understatement - the characters are boring and the story is confusing. The direction is never clear, characters come and go with no overall theme and you never get any strong feeling for the main character (one way or the other). I got through the whole book and even tried to start book#3 in the series but could see it going nowhere and finally decided to put myself out of my misery and just quit. I would advice you to avoid making the same mistake and take a pass on this series.
Recommend :
Any Jack Vance novel - especially Demon Princes, Night Lamp, Dying Earth, Lyonnesse
Stephen King's Dark Tower series
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars High-brow prose with a little something to help you sleep, Aug. 1 2003
By 
greatkingrat (Camarillo, Ca USA) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (Paperback)
I did not like this book. Part of it was that every other page required me to run to a dictionary, as Wolfe has a compulsion to use the most obscure words available whenever possible. It really became aggravating to watch this guy flex his vocabulary muscles apparently for the sheer joy of doing so.
But that wasn't the only problem, as one can still follow the story even with the "I'm of superior intellect" verbiage.
This story is about the biggest non-event I have ever read. Simply put, very little happens. Mr. Wolfe is so enamored of his own prose that he rambles incessantly without purpose. I will admit that he paints a decent picture; his imagery is strong, but that's all it is. All the frosting in the world won't hide the fact that it's a flavorless cake.
If you are having trouble sleeping, purchase this book and you will be welcomed into the arms of Morpheus before you know it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second to None, March 6 2004
Ce commentaire est de: Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (Paperback)
Why try to go in-depth? This book is the pinnacle of american fantasy: kafka-esque, nightmarish, but full of hope. The interludes provide a very-real backdrop to a society that has slowly lost itself over millions of years of stagnation. Severian is the chlorine thrown into the stagnant water that is modern fantasy.
This series will leave the most gourmet appetite filled. Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman fanbois need not apply.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Begin the Dream..., Nov. 18 2003
By 
Amazon Customer (Centreville, VA United States) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (Paperback)
Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series involves the reader immediately in a maelstrom of intrigue and adventure. The surreality of a protagonist as a torturer sets the scene for a dreamlike succession of Candide-like complications. Severian is not easily categoried; at times he seems amoral, violent, and indecisive, yet he also strives to be part of something larger than himself, has his (almost outside himself) tender moments, and makes tough choices that could put his life on the line. In short, a very real person. The world he lives in is pseudo-medieval. There are street hawkers and city paid executioners and a hierarchy of nobles. But there are also machines that run on "lightening" (the word "electricity" having been long forgotten), Pleistocene era animals, and "fliers." Yes, there are probably a couple hundred words you won't know, but they won't slow you down when you first read it, and when you read it again, you'll start looking them up (by the way, Wolfe did NOT make up any of the words--he's used Latin roots, Biblical references, obsolete words, Indian, Persian, and Greek mythology, heraldic terms, and a vast array of names for weapons and extinct animals) and your new knowledge will only add to the books' seduction. Not to mention, you'll kick ass if you ever play Scrabble. You will forsake family, work, and Christmas just to have more time to read. I cannot recommend these books enough.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 214 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun'
Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' by Gene Wolfe (Paperback - Oct. 15 1994)
CDN$ 21.99 CDN$ 15.01
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews