Free Live Free Mass Market Paperback – Nov 1986
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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?
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Whilst the charaterizations and story development kept my rapt attention during the telling of the tale, to say I was disappointed by the ending would be an understatement. Read morePublished on June 10 2002
Every novice writer should be force to read this novel to see how characterization should be done right. Read morePublished on July 16 2000
Free Live Free has some brilliant moments, and some very well drawn characters. Unfortunately, the reading experience for me was badly damaged by the ending. Read morePublished on April 5 2000 by frumiousb