FIND in
<--prev V12 next-->

From: "David Lebling" <dlebling@ucentric.com>
Subject: (whorl) It's Mostly the Ending
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2001 09:15:19 

> From: <akt@attglobal.net>
> Like the godling. No reason at all to introduce it/him, and a completely
> irrational sort of creature to put in a closed environment.

As I think I said before, the godling reminded me of similar closed
environment creatures in Varley's Titan trilogy. In both books they are
manifestations of the bad temper of a god. Wolfe writes science fantasy or
"science" fiction, so it didn't bother me all that much. Of course, I think
anything with telepathy, astral travel, possession is pretty much science
fantasy anyway, so a few square-cube law violations are a minor additional
offense, barely worthy of a traffic ticket.

> Also like
> Merryn, whose appearence just seems bad-tempered on the author's part..

Merryn's appearance, which struck me as a case of Asimov's syndrome, had as
a saving grace the fact that we _didn't_ find out she was Severian's sister,
which would have been an even worse case of the above. For me, the only
positive of the Red Sun sections was to get an outsider's view of Urth and
Severian. To the people from Blue, who are much more like modern Americans
than the people of Urth, we get a better idea of what a decayed, run-down,
utterly tired and hopeless place Urth is. That part I liked. Hints that Silk
is the ghost of Malrubius? Bah. Cilinia/Scylla buried in the Necropolis?
Bah, again.

> Oh, honestly, what nonsense--this isn't the Torah!

As a regular reader of this list, I wonder about that sometimes.

> It's not my fault
> that Wolfe abandoned Mucor, murdered Jahlee, sent Nettle and Seawrack
> off on a Star Trek menage a trois with the saintly Silk, ditched Babbie,
> gave us no word of Oreb and in general tossed his whole story out the
> window--or off-planet as the case may be. Leaving both Blue and Green to
> go to hell together, Neighbors, inhumi and whatnot. Tra-la, let's be
> off.

RttW exhibits a serious case of Heinlein syndrome, where the story just
rumbles to stop and disgorges something intended to be transcendant or
stirring, leaving loose ends all over the place. I thought the ending
forced, possibly because Wolfe wanted to come up with something that was T
or S, this being the conclusion of a twelve volume epic, but he doesn't do
that sort of thing, so it falls flat. It does have a "lighting out for the
territories" feel about it, to uplift the Star Trek reference a bit.

> That strikes me as more nonsense. Why in the world would he be offering
> an "homage" to Robinson, a very diiferent kind of writer. Proust, maybe,
> but Robinson? I don't think so.

I enjoyed the _Mars_ trilogy, once I got beyond the didacticism. I rather
doubt Wolfe would enjoy it, or write an homage to it, or even a response.
The Short Sun books are a planetary adventure of an almost Vancean nature at
the "what the plowman saw" level, with the genetic-engineered offspring of a
psychological novel and an imititation-of-Christ novel on top of it to carry
the real message. As such, I found it excellent until the rushed and
unsatisfactory ending.

> I do not even object to Jahlee's death
> per se. I object to the hasty, melodramatic and far-fetched (would
> Jahlee really have attacked Nettle so foolishly--allow me to doubt it)
> B-movie manner in which it is fobbed off

I've gone on record as thinking Jahlee's behavior and fate make sense in the
terms of the novel. She attacks Nettle out of jealousy the day after Horn
and Nettle spend the night together. She is killed because she violated her
agreement with Horn. This makes sense but it's sudden and disappointing in
its suddenness.

I think he ran out of energy or room or ideas or some combination of the
three. Up to the point where the inhumi attack the wedding, things seemed
almost on track, but after that there are few scenes that are excellent
(Silk and Remora is one, but it's undercut by the fact that we knew "Horn"
was Silk already -- we don't feel Silk's awakening).

There are two major areas where the book as a whole lets us down on, and
we've beaten them both to death, but I'll say again:

a) we get the huge buildup on the secret of the inhumi, and it turns out the
secret doesn't meet the expectations that the narrative builds up for it. We
were expecting something more than we guessed in the first volume, but that
was it.

b) the fact that the narrator is Horn in Silk's body has been obvious since
the first volume, so the climactic revelation that the narrator is Horn in
Silk's body falls flat.

These are the two Big Ticket Items in the trilogy, and both are
disappointments. The rest of the problems (and Alga has enumerated them in a
properly annoyed way) are problems of narrative construction that a careful
editor or Wolfe himself could have dealt with.

Which is not to say I didn't enjoy the trilogy; I've already read it more
than once and gotten more enjoyment each time.

-- Dave Lebling
    aka vizcacha

*This is WHORL, for discussion of Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun.
*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.moonmilk.com/whorl/
*To leave the list, send "unsubscribe" to whorl-request@lists.best.com
*If it's Wolfe but not Long Sun, please use the URTH list: urth@lists.best.com

<--prev V12 next-->