Tuesday, November 03, 2015

An Evil Guest by Gene Wolfe

It must be annoying to have readers parse your work so closely that on the basis of a single phrase they conclude that several of the characters have been traveling in time. If you're Gene Wolfe, I suppose you've gotten used to it. He is so careful to make the details matter than an occasional bobble sends some fans off into the tall weeds. He's a master of telling several stories at once--don't just listen to the magician's patter; watch his hands. In one book the introductory sentence ties in with a promise on page two hundred something, to clearly show that the narrator has been dead for many years. And if you know the symbolism of it (I didn't) the introductory incident suggests an important reason why the narrator is telling the story. I've run across convoluted explanations that try to preserve continuity in some Star Wars or Star Trek series, and the straining at gnats always had an "infinite mirrors" feel to it. But Wolfe deliberate puts in tiny clues, and yes, some of his character travel in time. Two explicitly. That I know of.

I didn't have time to read An Evil Guest twice, which is what's usually needed for one of Wolfe's books, so I cheated and went online to look up a puzzling question. Yep, I'd missed quite a few details, details which put a different light on Cassie's nature.

I didn't like this one quite as much as others. The review I read suggested that might be because Wolfe was trying for some humor here and there, and not quite succeeding. Now that I think of it, yep, that sounds right. Irony he can do, but I haven't read anything I'd call funny. Werewolves and R'lyeh and aliens with unclear technologies and a mysterious billionaire and a theater musical and a wizard who can make you a star, and does. Fun.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

Gene doesn't work for me.