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Sunday, March 28, 2010
Gene Wolfe at Wikipedia
Order "The Sorcerer's House" HERE
INTRODUCTION: In my 2010 Anticipated Books post I said: it's Gene Wolfe, it's at least a try; recent novels have not been quite on my taste though I loved some of his new short stories, but the author of the various "Sun" series is in a class of his own so I will check out each of his novels asap. The blurb of this one was very exciting and the sample available on Amazon through the Kindle edition made me want to read "The Sorcerer's House" immediately, though to my surprise I looked in maybe ten big bookstores in three major urban areas (NYC, DC, Greenwich/Stamford CT) without finding it so I finally got it from Amazon.
"The new Gene Wolfe fantasy novel is told entirely in a series of letters. Only Wolfe could have made this so gripping, a surprising page-turner of a book.In a contemporary town in the American midwest where he has no connections, an educated man recently released from prison is staying in a motel. He writes letters to his brother and to others, including a friend still in jail. When he meets a real estate agent who tells him he is the heir to a huge old house, long empty, he moves in, though he is too broke even to buy furniture. He is immediately confronted by supernatural and fantastic creatures and events."
FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: "The Sorcerer's House" stands at about 300 pages and consists of 44 letters and an epilogue. Most letters are addressed by main hero Bax(ter) Dunn to his twin brother George or to George's wife Millie, with several addressed to a former cellmate and several addressed by others mostly to Bax.
The novel belongs to the "isolated urban fantastic" category set in the present day, where weird things happen to a small number of people in usually a restricted geographical area, without any connection to the rest of the world. Recent novels like this that I loved are Jasmyn by Alex Bell, White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi and Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, though "The Sorcerer's House" is the "cheeriest and most pure fun" of all.
All of them are of the type "accept the premise and enjoy the ride".
ANALYSIS:"The Sorcerer's House" was super-fun; now "pure fun" and Gene Wolfe is something that is usually incongruous since his books like the awesome three Sun series are dark and demanding, but this one is just a zany novel end to end.
A holder of 2 PhD's - for reasons to be discovered reading the novel - Baxter Dunn is just out of prison for defrauding George and several of his business partners of as he puts it, insignificant sums for them, but it was the pride of being taken in by a seemingly unworldly scholar. Living at a motel in the middle of nowhere he sees a house that seems abandoned but with some little work could me made livable; soon he actually finds out that the house is his, deeded by a mysterious, disappeared and presumed dead Z. Black and actually even sooner he finds out that the house is much larger inside that it seems and that it has lots of mysteries, some that could be deadly.
Later the mysteries thicken and we meet a cast of ultra-eccentric characters among some more normal ones, though slowly it is clear what is going on and some of the revelations are easy to guess.
The letters that form the novel work very well as a narrative device and Bax' voice is perfectly rendered. From trying to survive as a penniless and jobless, ex-con with two doctorates, to becoming rich almost overnight but at the price of the weirdness and even personal danger, Bax just goes with the flow and does not really stop to question what's going on, though he proves very adept at making friends and dealing with everyone from the strange characters of his house, to local real estate agents, cops, reporters and even a "psychic consultant" that comes to "exorcise" the house or maybe Bax himself. While the rest of the characters are mostly seen through Bax' eyes, the few letters addressed to him change the pace and style to differentiate some of them quite well.
The main attraction of the novel is the zaniness, the flow of non-stop action that twists and turns and the "what weirdness will come next?" that continues almost to the end. Once the major revelations are done and we seem to achieve closure, the novel takes one more unexpected turn and ends with a superb epilogue that makes one reread at least the last half of the book.
"The Sorcerer's House" is a strong A that will entertain and enchant as long as you do not question it too much, but accept its premise and just turn the pages and get immersed into it.
12:01 AM | Posted by Liviu | | Edit Post