Shadows of the New Sun

Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene WolfeShadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe by Bill Fawcett

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If you love Gene Wolfe, read this book. If you don’t know who Gene Wolfe is, or if you haven’t yet gotten around to reading his stuff, don’t read this book. Read his stuff. Because, consider: for what other contemporary science fiction and fantasy author could you publish an anthology with original contributions by such well-known and respected names all somehow influenced by and tributing him? Even if you don’t believe all your nerdy and literary friends about how great Gene Wolfe is, you should believe Gaiman and Brin and Haldeman and Zahn.

That said, I only gave the anthology two stars. As much as I wanted to like every story in here, I was less than impressed by many of them. It’s probably not fair to compare them to Wolfe’s own stories (the anthology is Shadows of the New Sun, after all), but I couldn’t help it. A story written about Severian by someone other than Wolfe? Someone else trying to play with myth and allegory in a Latro tale? A view of Ushas through non-Wolfean eyes? They felt flat to me. Even Gaiman’s contribution was a bit of a disappointment. I would also have enjoyed hearing more about Wolfe’s life and influence; the introductory paragraphs before each story weren’t enough, especially when each story was followed by author bios two or three times as long.

There were bright spots. I especially enjoyed the contributions by Brin, Allston, Swanwick, and Zahn. Maybe because they were original pieces, and to me that seems the best tribute to Wolfe: be original. Do fine writing, but be original. Not that the others were totally derivative, they just weren’t Wolfe enough to play in Wolfe’s worlds or to play the kind of literary games that Wolfe does so well. Or I’m just picky when it comes to my favorite writer. If anything, this anthology (in particular Swanwick’s story) did inspire me to re-read The Fifth Head of Cerberus, and that may be the best gift of all.

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