Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Book 52: Sword of the Lictor

Tuesday, July 11, 2006
I am frustrated by Gene Wolfe and The Book of the New Sun.  It began with such a strong effort in Shadow of the Torturer and and I thought that first volume boded well for the rest of the quartet.  We meet Severain, an apprentice torturer and he ends up being exiled to take up his position as the town torturer/executioner in Thrax, a distant town.  It took two volumes for Severain to actually make it to Thrax and he had quite an adventure and it was questionable whether or not he really wanted to go or if he would go at all.  Now that he is there at the beginning of Sword of the Lictor (volume 3), he promptly acts in such a manner that he must escape and leave the woman, Dorcas, he had been traveling with.  Dorcas had been slowly leaving him anyway.  He spends the entire novel wandering, having odd adventures which he neither seems to intend nor reject.  He is there, so he acts.  Nothing more, nothing less.
This is what is frustrating me so much: I have no idea what is going on anymore.  Perhaps the fault is all mine, that I am confused and this truly is a masterpiece of science fiction and fantasy, but I don't see it.  Nothing seems at all connected, the characters are all fairly shallow and flat, and the only one with depth (Severain) is incomprehensible to me.  While I thought the first volume was well done and The Claw of the Conciliator was an absolute mess, The Sword of the Lictor is somewhere in between, though far closer to mess than well done.  Severain is getting closer to something, but I couldn't say what. 
I'm just disappointed here.  A series I had high hopes for has pretty well fallen apart.  I know I will finished the Quartet (Tetrology?), but I don't think I'll read the Long Sun or Short Sun books unless someone can tell me they are significantly different/better or maybe easier than the New Sun


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