[PDF] ✎ The Fifth Head of Cerberus ⚡ Gene Wolfe – Saudionline.co.uk

The Fifth Head of Cerberus files The Fifth Head of Cerberus, read online The Fifth Head of Cerberus, free The Fifth Head of Cerberus, free The Fifth Head of Cerberus, The Fifth Head of Cerberus 9cd01e896 Back In Print For The First Time In Than A Decade, Gene Wolfe S The Fifth Head Of Cerberus Is A Universally Acknowledged Masterpiece Of Science Fiction By One Of The Field S Most Brilliant WritersFar Out From Earth, Two Sister Planets, Saint Anne And Saint Croix, Circle Each Other In An Eternal Dance It Is Said A Race Of Shapeshifters Once Lived Here, Only To Perish When Men Came But One Man Believes They Can Still Be Found, Somewhere In The Back Of The BeyondIn The Fifth Head Of Cerberus, Wolfe Skillfully Interweaves Three Bizarre Tales To Create A Mesmerizing Pattern The Harrowing Account Of The Son Of A Mad Genius Who Discovers His Hideous Heritage A Young Man S Mythic Dreamquest For His Darker Half The Bizarre Chronicle Of A Scientists Nightmarish Imprisonment Like An Intricate, Braided Knot, The Pattern At Last Unfolds To Reveal Astonishing Truths About This Strange And Savage Alien Landscape

10 thoughts on “The Fifth Head of Cerberus

  1. says:

    It s Gene Wolfe, what else is there to say, really An intriguing collection of science fiction short stories all with a common theme, filled with intricate details and an underlying exploration of themes that you have to read between the lines to even get a glimpse of.Sometimes reading Wolfe is an exciting intellectual task, but it is of course not the same as reading a good novel I applaud the man for having found an interesting way of providing readers with questions to think about, but if I want exceptionally good literature I ll go back to Tolstoy.That all being said, I may want to re read this at some point in the distant future, along with the Book of the New Sun.

  2. says:

    Oh Gene Wolfe why can t I quit you Constantly frustrated by your boring viewpoint characters your secondary ones tend to be so much interesting , your constant practice of leaving out the good bits of the story only to refer to them, if at all, obliquely and second hand later , and your monomaniacal need to make every story a goddamn puzzle But I keep coming back for keep hoping this time it will be different and I ll get the full experience, be completely immersed, not just find a few excellent bits and flounder amongst the rest I know it s not you, it s me I m just not a good enough reader for youbut dammit I can t stop trying So here we are with _The Fifth Head of Cerberus_ I will admit right off that even the title of this one confuses me One thing to note if you don t want a bunch of mysteries ruined before you even start and you have the SF Masterworks edition I read then don t read the frickin introduction Damn, I hate it when they write intros to books that spoil key plot and character elements, what s up with that Of course, after you finish you might find it helpful in figuring some things out Fifth Head is really a set of three interconnected novellas as opposed to a true novel All of them take place on the binary sister worlds of Ste Anne and Ste Croix, apparently initially colonized by French settlers who seem to have wiped out the original aboriginal population and who were themselves supplanted by a succeeding wave of colonization from Earth The first section, the eponymous The Fifth Head of Cerberus , is narrated by a man recalling his strange youth in a brothel on the world of Ste Croix He tells us of his early life with his brother David as they matured under the watchful eye of their robot guardian cum teacher Mr Million and the all pervasive though mysterious presence of their somewhat sinister father Rest assured not all things are as they appear it s a Gene Wolfe story after all , but I won t spoil the apparent revelations about the man and his family Of course since it is a Gene Wolfe story many of these revelations are oblique and circumstantial to say the least so take your conclusions with a grain of salt Suffice it to say that Wolfe s obsessions with identity and memory play a central role in this story and the fact that many of the key events of the tale happen off screen or are expressed via the unreliable first hand narration of the main character damn Mr Wolfe loves him some unreliable narration leaves any final conclusion dubious at best This is primarily a tale of a son coming to the point in his life where he must come to terms with his own identity and challenge his father for supremacy or is he really challenging himself HmmmThe next tale, A Story , by John V Marsch , is perhaps both the most straightforward and at the same time the most confusing section of the book It purports to be a tale written by John Marsch, an anthropologist from Earth who has come to visit the twin system in the hopes of discovering some remnant of the mysterious native Abos , and who played a minor role in the previous story The narrative is written as though it were a folktale of the Abos of Ste Anne and details the adventures of John Sandwalker, his estranged twin brother John Eastwind, and the conflict between their two tribes the hill dwelling Free People and the marsh dwelling cannibals of the meadowmeres There are also the mysterious Shadow Children who may simply be magical creatures of the Otherworld, or perhaps they re extraterrestrials then again could they actually be the original natives Whoever they are, they are a mysterious and protean group that seems to exist in a liminal state between the real world and the dreamworld of the mind and who play the role of both bogey man and preternatural benefactors simultaneously Identity and consciousness again play key roles in the story and I must admit that the main character s habit of apparently passing between the real world and the dream world without notable cues and the way in which memory and perception of the here and now seemed to blend together made this section a bit challenging for me.The final section, V.R.T , veers into the Kafkaesque as our old friend, the apparently earth born anthropologist John Marsch, travels from Ste Anne to Ste Croix where he runs afoul of the local authorities This section is primarily composed of snippets of text from various sources Marsch s journals and scientific papers from his field work on Ste Anne undertaken in the hopes of finding a living remnant of the original inhabitants of the planet, and his memoirs and interrogation tapes from his time in prison on Ste Croix All of these disparate elements are being reviewed in a haphazard sequence and piecemeal I might add by a local agent of the police who has been asked to decide on Marsch s ultimate fate The overarching fear and paranoia endemic to a police state play a large role in this section as do, once again, the issues of identity and memory The ennui and total disinterest of the police agent as he reviews the sad facts of the case of Dr Marsch brings into sharp focus the horror and paranoia that underlies this tale Our confusion or mine anyway is only exacerbated when these facts as reported by Marsch become less and less reliable as he obviously becomes and unhinged by the events that overtake him Or does he Perhaps something mysterious really did happen during his journey to the back of beyond on St Anne in which he had only one local guide who claimed to be half Abo as a companion What mystery, if any, did he discover out there and what happened to him as a result I ll leave it to you to discover this.Did I mention that legends state the Abos were shapeshifters And that there are theories not only that they still exist, but may even have subsumed the human population so effectively that they have in essence become the human population Well, let s just add that to the pile of mysteries Wolfe brings to his set of tales This is definitely a Wolfean story many, if not all, of Wolfe s primary hobby horses are in evidence, from a fascination with memory and identity, to unreliable narrators and key pieces of the puzzle never being revealed or only revealed after the fact and behind a curtain as it were If that s your bag you ll like this one and it will definitely bear re reading and give you plenty of food for thought I m still left with an empty feeling inside though As with nearly every adventure I take with Mr Wolfe I just wish I was better equipped to parse his lingo, to see between the cracks in that way he so obviously wants me to Sometimes I think I succeed, if only in small way, but I still end up coming away thinking that would have been an awesome story if it just came together and maybe made a bit sense

  3. says:

    For every reader that believes Wolfe allusions are well wrought and indicative of a greater back story and that there is a palimpsest to get to the bottom of, there are others who insist that the surface story, with all its mysteries and contradictions, is all that there is atmosphere over form The second group has forgotten something Gene Wolfe is that rarest of men a spiritually inclined engineer with a love both of literature, mystery novels, and pulp science fiction not to mention that he is a genius and clearly sees the mystery of everyday life that the power he believes in which could change everything in fact never acts directly, working unseen if at all and allowing freedom.Wolfe s contextual symbols ALWAYS point somewhere, you just have to be willing to see the deeper story In this text, two engineering terms are vital to solving the mystery the relaxation the pale and pasty Dr Marsch brings up when talking to number 5 and the idea of V.R.T variance reduction techniques, in which a SERIES of approximations reduces variance and solves a problem.FROM HERE ON OUT, HEAVY SPOILERSSPOILERSContextual words are imbued with meaning these symbols are sometimes cultural like the names of St Anne or St Croix Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, the immaculate conception, and cross, the death of that fully human fully divine individual parthenogenetically produced , and sometimes only make sense in context, like the street name Rud d asticot street of larvae maggots, or offhand comments like the aboriginals mating with trees and having a dendritic or predendritic society, or little details like Cedar Branches Waving s mother burying her feet in nutrient rich sand after giving birth, or Sandwalker s feet always dropping down from a higher place to a lower whose feet get swept out from under him at the end of the second novella Even names like Eastwind have significance, or the fact that when there is one shadowchild it is named Wolf, as our narrator from the first novella is named Wolfe.Read Wolfe several times and ponder the mystery of the life cycles he has wrought Many Pink Butterflies, taken literally, implies that a whole lot of larval stages have transformed into something pink But remember that there are two species, one associated with trees and the other with chewing leaves with pink eggs, spitting out white wives, and that a mite proficient with string is often caught on the wind Eastwind has no testicles, and an invading parasite can only reproduce through infecting its host and stealing its reproductive mechanism Now read the ending again, with a tree with its feet planted firmly in the river reaching out to save VRT, and our little cat biting Marsch, and you will realize that it is not, as is commonly said, Victor Trenchard who has replaced Marsch, but the bite of the cat and its little parasites, that it is Eastwind that has survived metaphorically while Sandwalker with his normal reproductive tract is drowned in the river.Gene Wolfe is the greatest author who ever lived, and we are so lucky to have his unique and individual voice in literature Though many will not get him on the first, second, or even third read, there is nothing like the eureka moment in Wolfe from a close reading and successful conclusion He is even brilliant than his reputation indicates.

  4. says:

    The Fifth Head of Cerberus Three novellas about identity, memory, and colonizationOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureI don t think I m the only reader drawn to Gene Wolfe s books hoping to understand all the symbolism, subtleties, oblique details, unreliable narrators, and offstage events and finding myself frustrated and confused, feeling like it s my lack of sophistication and careful reading ability to blame Wolfe is most famous for his amazing 4 volume THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN dying earth masterpiece, which has a 1 volume coda called The Urth of the New Sun, along with two companion series, THE BOOK OF THE LONG SUN and THE BOOK OF THE SHORT SUN Collectively they are known as THE SOLAR CYCLE, and these books tend to split readers into two camps either dedicated Wolfe fans who find his works richer, deeper, and subtle than anything else in the SF canon, or those who just don t get it I m a great admirer of THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN, which I have read twice through for the epic story and exquisite writing, but couldn t even finish THE BOOK OF THE LONG SUN, which bored me into submission But like a dedicated alpinist, I plan to try the ascent once again when the right conditions prevail, hoping to conquer the Everest of the genre someday.The Fifth Head of Cerberus 1972 is Wolfe s first book of substance his first, Operation Ares in 1970, was not particularly good according to the author himself It began as a novella, but he was asked to expand it to book length by adding two linked novellas So the book consists of three stories, each very different but tied together beneath the surface in tricky and oblique ways, a form of literary kabuki, as Wolfe loves to create puzzles and drop little hints and revelations throughout his stories Someone wisely observed that your understanding of a Gene Wolfe book only begins when you ve read the last page Once you get to the end, you feel compelled to go back to the beginning and search out all those hints that were seemingly irrelevant, and put together the hidden tapestry he has been carefully weaving So if you are a fan of propulsive, easily accessible stories with likeable characters and straightforward plots, this is the wrong book for you I ll give a brief synopsis of the three novellas, but I won t provide any spoilers for two simple reasons 1 it would ruin your enjoyment, and 2 I m not sure that I properly understood the underlying connections of the stories anyway So I ll just lay out the basic details, and if you are intrigued, then pick up the book and have a go at it yourself.The Fifth Head of CerberusWe are introduced to the twin worlds of Saint Croix and Saint Anne, which were originally colonized by French settlers but later were overtaken by later waves of colonists from Earth There are stories that Saint Anne had an original race of aboriginals that were wiped out by the French colonists, but details are strangely vague In fact, some claim that the initial race were shapeshifters, suggesting they may still remain, hidden in plain sight.Our protagonist is a boy growing up in a mysterious villa with his brother David, raised under the watchful tutelage of Mr Million, apparently a robot guardian who educates them The boy and his brother initially are not cognizant of their father s business, a high end brothel, knowing only that there is a steady stream of wealthy visitors that come to their property to be entertained by a stable of attractive women Their father is a distant and somewhat menacing presence who shows little interest in them until one day he invites them to his laboratory He begins to give them a series of tests, like experiments, which involve drugs, psychological tests, and leave them both drained and uncertain of their memories afterward This continues for some time.The boys eventually encounter a young girl who becomes their companion, get into some petty criminal activities together, and finally the boy is taken further into his father s confidences The details that are revealed cast the entire story into a different light, and the story takes a stranger turn as a mysterious anthropologist from Earth named John V Marsh shows up, asking to speak with the author of the Veil Hypothesis, which suggests that the native aboriginals were never wiped out, but instead A Story, by John V MarschThis story is completely different in tone, like a dreamquest of the aborigines on Saint Anne It is told by John Sandwalker, who is seeking his twin separated at birth, John Eastwind It is definitely one of the strangest and most hypnotic stories I have read, with a completely alien mindset and extremely unreliable narrator and details Sandwalker encounters a woman and child at an oasis, then runs into the Shadow Children, creatures that may or may not be human, and may not even be corporeal at all times, since they seem to drift in and out of the real and dream worlds The Shadow Children share their songs and food with Sandwalker, but are then captured along with him by the marshmen, who plan to sacrifice them to the river in order to carry their message to the stars Are the Shadow Children the original inhabitants of Saint Anne, before human colonists arrived Who, then, are the marshmen Have they switched places, as was hinted at in Veil s Hypothesis The questions, conundrums, and mysteries pile up in this story, and Wolfe is not about to give any easy answers as he lets the reader fight to piece together the tidbits he scatters at whim If this is his idea of a pleasurable reading experience, I found it a bit cruel and perverse, but apparently Wolfe fans can t get enough of this.V.R.T.In the final story, Wolfe literally revels in misdirection, layers of narrative, the complete unreliability of the narrator s memories, and the fragmentary nature of the source materials themselves Although we are given and tantalizing clues as to the nature of the aborigines, what happened to the original French settlers, and what happened to the narrator of the first story, his father, and the anthropologist John V Marsh, things get very tangled indeed.Here were are presented with the scattered journal entries of John V Marsh, who has been incarcerated by the authorities of Saint Croix under suspicion of being a secret agent and assassin sent from Saint Anne His jailers do not believe his claims that he really is an anthropologist sent from Earth to learn about the fate of the aboriginals We learn that he has spent several years on Saint Anne, trying to gather information on the aborigines, who supposedly still live in the back of beyond, essentially the outback He also hears them referred to as The Free Folk of the hills, separate from the cannibal people of the marshmeres He hires an old derelict named Trenchard who claims to be an aborigine himself, and his son V.R.T as a half aborigine, as guides to take him to the outback in the hopes of tracking down any surviving natives.However, the framing narrative is of a mid level inspector who is looking through the scattered documents pertaining to the prisoner Marsh, who must decide how to prosecute him There is much doubt cast on his cover story, although at no point does Marsh admit to being anything other than the anthropologist from Earth he claims to be, despite long bouts of interrogations, solitary confinement, and deprivation His only means to communicate with other prisoners is through tapping on the walls in a code the prisoners have devised.The journey Marsh describes in his journal entries his jailers have provided him with pen, paper, and candle in the hopes he will reveal important information is a strange one, somewhat reminiscent of the dreamquest of the second story, but the trip is mostly fruitless except for strange encounters with ghoul bears and other predators, and growing suspicions by Marsh about the boy V.R.T Eventually the tone of Marsh s entries changes in a very subtle fashion, casting further doubts about his identity, but again nothing is spelled out Oh, you are a cruel writer indeed, Mr Wolfe And yet the writing was skillful enough to keep me going, even with the growing suspicion that I would reach the end without any final answers As it turns out, the story is so ambiguous that I don t even know if it delivered any final clues that were just too subtle for me to grasp, or if he left it open to multiple interpretations, which I suspect is the case In any case, don t expect any spoon feeding here.The Fifth Head of Cerberus is not an easy read, and may not even provide the expected payoff for the hard work, but it remains a brilliant example of Wolfe s impressive writing abilities, almost too clever for his own good If you are a serious SF fan who likes challenging works, look no further.

  5. says:

    I feel a failure now that I ve finished The Fifth Head of Cerberus It is good Very good I see that But I can only muster mild like for the thing, and I feel as though I must have missed something along the way in my insomnia reading haze And I can t really see myself going back to redress the situation because I just don t feel connected to Gene Wolfe s work.I read what Ursula K LeGuin says about the book,A subtle, ingenious, poetic and picturesque book the uncertaintly principle embodied in brilliant fictionand I think, Yep, but meh And then I read what China Mi ville says about the book, author Gene Wolfe s tragico Catholic perspective leads to a deeply unglamorized and unsanitized awareness of social reality This book is a very sad and extremely dense, complex meditation on colonialism, identity and oppression.and I think, Mmmhmm, but still And I enjoy the three novella novel structure, but the manufactured obscurity makes me cold And I appreciate the struggles of the three protagonists, but I only ever flirt with investing myself in their conflicts And I see Wolfe playing with the themes that people venerate this work for, but I can t quite put my finger on anything that I can personally take away.So I walk away from the book unmoved and uninspired, yet I see its quality I really do So please don t avoid this book because of me I probably missed something crucial The fault for my lack of excitement is likely my own or my lack of sleep s Whichever it is, though, I will never know Sorry, Mr Wolfe I ll try to do better next time I read one of your books.

  6. says:

    I don t feel qualified to give a comprehensive review of this book It is only the 2nd book of Gene Wolfe s I ve read, and the first I ve come close to understanding I think this must be a better book to begin with though, than his Book of the New Sun series I am a big fan of Jack Vance s Dying Earth series and Wolfe s is similar in setting but not in tone You get a lot of humor in Vance, and almost no humor in Wolfe so far Or at least the humor partakes of the same dense opacities as the rest of the book s literary ingredients It is hard to tell what is meant as truth or misconception, and many readers have found this to be part of the fun.Wolfe ties together many deep themes, wild characters, and disarming alien descriptions alongside droll pseudo reminiscences He touches on Imperialism, genetic modification, interplanetary travel, sibling relationships, folklore, shapeshifting creatures, ghosts and many intriguing elements, but only through hints and by undermining your expectations The plot is only discoverable beneath a riptide of otherworldly richness, of bizarre, hallucinogenic revelations, and if swallowed half digested and barely understood, it can still be incredibly interesting.When the story flips to the perspective of the aborigines, I was treated to an intense array of breathtaking surprises The reader is left questioning who is the actual protagonist of this story, and who s version of reality can be believed.The two nearby planets the author describes each have their own philosophy, anthropology, and history, and in the famous Wolfian fashion, none of it is readily discernible, except through subtle insinuations This puzzle narrative technique ceaselessly sabotages the reader s attempts at interpretation Like the characters themselves, the reader is forced to undergo an investigation of the facts provided, and is left to draw their own conclusions.The author might have split up the book into 3 separate novellas, but that would not have aided much in how approachable they are Taken together they enlarge upon their interior modus operandi in unique ways This extraordinary interaction within the texts may never have been incorporated into literature before or since I will have to examine his New Sun series at length to see if it lives up to his layered accomplishment with Cerberus The intelligence of the structure, the imaginative setting, and the elegant descriptions are enough to impress any fan of science fiction If you do not mind Wolfe s trickery, I think that there is a great deal of enjoyment to be gained from this book Keep in mind this was written very early in his career, and he had only begun to experiment

  7. says:

    Gene Wolfe is difficult to praise highly enough without sounding unconvincing One can urge people to read his work, claim that he s one of the greatest living writers in the English language regardless of genre indeed, perhaps the greatest , one can ramble on about his virtues for hours to friends and strangers, and in the end, to those who have not read him, the claims start to sound unhinged, even deranged Aren t you overselling him just a tad they inevitably ask To this I can only say read some of his work and see The Fifth Head of Cerberus is perhaps the best place to start, not because it is his easiest work it is not , but because is both fairly compact and an example of Wolfe at his best The commitment is smaller than if you launch in to the Latro books, or The Book of the New Sun , but the joy to be had on reading is no smaller You will know soon enough if Wolfe is, for you, all that his admirers say he is I say for you because taste in literature is inevitably personal, and perhaps you will find that Wolfe is not what you are seeking Perhaps, however, you will find that he is, and if so, you have a wonderful treat awaiting you I suggest that you not read any review of this book that describes the plot In fact, I suggest that, if you choose to buy the book, you avoid reading overly much about it, looking at the cover image, or reading the back cover copy None of them will improve your experience of the text No summary will do you any good, anyway I could explain the plot of in a couple of moments, and it would in no way convey the pleasure that reading it will bring to you In fact, knowing anything about the plot at all will explain nothing about why you want to read it, and might, in fact give one precisely the wrong impression about why one would want to read it Wolfe is said to have claimed my definition of good literature is that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure The Fifth Head of Cerberus is, by that standard, some of the very best literature there is Immediately after I first read the book, I was driven to read it again I have since re read it perhaps five or six times over the course of many years, and each time I find both that understand the book better, and that, like a bottle of incredible wine, aging has only improved the content I would normally be reluctant to give five stars to any work, but not in this case Can this book really compete with, say, Moby Dick , or Hamlet , or Lolita , or Ulysses in the canon of great literature I claim yes, it does See for yourself I will close with a few remarks to serve someone newly encountering Wolfe s work He is a master craftsman, and makes few if any mistakes in shaping the intricate puzzle boxes he hands to his readers Every sentence in a book has been placed there for a reason No detail of character, setting or action is described thoughtlessly, and no detail will be described to you twice Wolfe does not telegraph his motives or paint a summary on a billboard he expects a thoughtful reader That said, I discourage you from treating his works as mystery stories or as a game to be solved They are not You should not be attempting to commit each line to memory, and should not try to drain every last bit of meaning from them on first reading You will not succeed, and it will serve no purpose Instead, dive in, enjoy the elegant prose, hang on to the galloping story as it carries you forward, and marvel at the form of the whole as you reach the end When you inevitably wonder about something you may have missed, worry not you can and will enjoy the work even on re reading.

  8. says:

    Intriguing set of 3 stories that demands a 2nd reading While I missed the dry wit of some of his other work I was very challenged to read into each story my own hypothesis of the purpose of the multi generational cloning, versus the fate of human kind with the abos slow absorption of the newcomers as somewhat illustrated in the last story Will everyone end up with green eyes and a somewhat triangular face Also, an interview with the author

  9. says:

    update reread in 2017 and this time I m going right back to the beginning again for another, immediate reread I ll probably babble about it on my blog again soon, too Below is my original review from 2012 I have definitely joined the camp of those who consider The Fifth Head of Cerberus to be set in the same universe as Book of the New Sun Long Sun Short Sun Indeed, the predicament in which Urth finds itself in BotNS now feels like the wages of the sins committed in the establishment of the societies described in Cerberus Set on a double planet some twenty light years from Earth Urth a good hundred years at least since its colonization by the French, who named one planet St Anne and the other St Croix, the three novellas comprising the book are haunted by a terrible consequence of that colonization, one that seems to be typical of humans among the stars in this universe and in our own.For St Croix, at least, was not uninhabited when we got there But the aboroginals abos for short didn t survive our coming for long And now theories abound as to how and why that is so or if, indeed, it is Some St Annes, at least, are obsessed with a theory that the abos had once been human, descended from an earlier wave of human expansion, which would mean that they had killed off their own kind No one seems sure if that makes it better or worse.Another theory is that the abos possessed the power to mimic humans so successfully that they then lost their power of perfect mimicry, lost it because the humans they mimic don t possess it, and either lived among the humans in forgetful secrecy as St Anne St Croix society developed or, in one radical interpretation, actually killed off and replaced the human colonists and live on now believing they are the colonists themselves How would they know It s to haunting ideas like these that Wolfe scholars like Robert Solar Labyrinth Borski point when they start talking about the predicament of Urth in Severian s day as a punishment inflicted on humanity by alien intelligences of the kind of awesome power we only get glimpses of until we encounter them full bore in Urth of the New Sun I m trying not to get spoilery here, but if the kind of unwitting bad behavior that founded is at all typical of how humans from Urth behave among the stars, no wonder the megatherians are fighting behind to keep Severian and other candidates from fulfilling their potential.Even without the game of drawing connections to Wolfe s later work The Fifth Head of Cerberus is only the second book Wolfe published the dude was just warming up, here , these three novellas are satisfying reads in their own right, though when you re done with them you ll have spent so much of your brainspace on puzzling out all the questions of identity, in particular, that they pose, that you might doubt your own.The titular novella concerns a boy growing up in a high end brothel, whose father specializes in customizing his employees in ways the airbrush artists at fashion magazines could only dream of, but using a similar aesthetic, and who is himself the product of generations of experimentation not unlike what he himself practices in his lab as he grows up The second, A Story by John V Marsch is told from the point of view of a minor character in The Fifth Head of Cerberus , an anthropologist who is either making up or participating in a story of the lost abo culture and its first terrible contact with humanity The third, V.R.T riffs on themes in the first two, calls into question all the assumptions the reader may have been making on the first read of those two, and sends her back to read them again to see whether she was wrong, right, confused or had been hit on the head by something and just dreamed them.Yeah, it s like that Because it s, you know, Gene Wolfe Which itself seems an awful lot like the double planet system to which the Whorl brings its colonists at the end of Book of the Long Sun, one world being blue and one green But Gene Wolfe, when pressed doesn t know why this motif of Urth Lune, St Croix St Anne, Blue Green recurs But this is an irresistible game For instance, we know that some of the inhabitants of Urth in Severian s time are returnees from the stars, returnees who came back weirdly changed and perhaps not altogether human kind of like, say, the Ascians of whom it is impossible not to think when the protagonist of the middle story sees Shadow Children riding men like ponies and brought back various odd creatures, and might even have terraformed the moon to make it into Green Lune out of homesickness for having a sister planet in their night sky Prefiguring his strange and weirdly entertaining Pandora by Holly Hollander, Wolfe seems to like to play with the concept of authorship in titles than any other writer ever.

  10. says:

    Read this for a group read the first time I ve managed to get myself organised to do that in a long time I have a backlog as long as my arm of books that were picked for discussion in that group And they always pick interesting ones.This was my first Gene Wolfe book, so I wasn t entirely sure what to expect I don t know whether my brain just doesn t work in quite the right way to fully get the story, or if everyone else is equally at sea I kind of want to nod wisely and pretend I followed every word, but I didn t but I liked it a lot anyway, and I know I m going to be thinking about it for quite a while It s all about issues of identity, along with colonial issues, which I find interesting, and it s fantastically written the plot may be puzzling, but the sentences never are.The structure of the book is interesting three novellas which share themes and come together into a whole It s a bit difficult to see how they connect at first, other than shared worlds, but don t let that deter you Normally I d find it a turn off, but it s worth just letting the narrative carry you along.I don t know if I m going to read of Gene Wolfe s work, oddly enough I liked this very much, and may even reread it, but it wasn t easy I find myself gravitating to easy reads, lately I spend so much time wrestling with Middle English that when I get to my relaxing time, it s hard to settle down with something as nuanced and complex as The Fifth Head of Cerberus.

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