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From: "Tom Foster" 
Subject: (urth) Re: 5HC a good introduction to wolfe?
Date: Wed, 24 Apr 2002 17:10:55 +0100

I've been following the recent discussions of 5HC with a good deal of
interest. My introduction to Wolfe was _The Shadow of the Torturer_ (the
best possible introduction IMHO), which I came to via Jack Vance's _Dying
Earth_ books. I read 5HC shortly afterwards, but had never returned to it
since (many years having now elapsed). The recent discussions of it piqued
my interest (it's one of the only 'major' Wolfe books that I had not read
more than once) and I've been reading it for the past few days. I enjoyed it
considerably more this time around, perhaps because when I first read it I
was only around 15 and didn't understand/appreciate many of its qualities.
I'm not sure that I would consider it an especially good introduction to
Wolfe as it is convoluted even by his standards and requires a lot of
thought and involvement from the reader. It also lacks a stong central
character like Severian, Silk or Horn (or even Latro), the depiction of
which is where Wolfe excels, I feel. I think that had it been my first Wolfe
I would have enjoyed it but not particularly felt the need to seek out other
works by him, whereas having read _Shadow_ I immediately wanted to find out
what else this author had written.

With regards to the issue of whether or not the abos possessed the ability
to shape change, I am inclined to agree with those who feel that this was
probably not the case. There are no instances in the book where we are
positively told that a character has morphed into something else. Sandwalker
*seems* to become an otter (though this is only part of a story written by
VRT(?) anyhow), VRT assumes John V Marsch's identity but still looks younger
than him, VRT's mother could make herself look older by doing certain
things, etc, but nothing concrete.

I thought it was interesting to note the apparent similarities between the
inhumi and the abos. There is a mention of an abo looking like a piece of
"old wood", compared to the liana staff of Silkhorn (and indeed the liana
itself shows up again in 'A Story'). Also, the ability to shapeshift, which
the inhumi certainly possess in comparison to the abos' rumoured ability.

Anyway, thanks to the group for inspiring me to re-read 5HC and also to
Robert Borski for his useful insights at Cave Canem.



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