Wolfe, Gene: 

Gene Wolfe, is highly regarded by peers and fans. Another ‘SF grand master’ he is a multiple award winner and is renowned for his dense, allusive prose.  

The Book of the New Sun is a tetralogy, a collection of essays, and a sequel. It inaugurated the so-called "Solar Cycle" that Wolfe continued after 1987 by setting other multi-volume works in the same universe, The Long Sun and Short Sun series.

The tetralogy chronicles the journey of Severian, a disgraced journeyman torturer who is exiled and forced to travel to Thrax and beyond. It is a first-person narrative, apparently translated by Wolfe into contemporary English, set in the distant future when the Sun has dimmed and Earth is cooler (a "Dying Earth" story).

This is just amazing stuff but heavy going - not for the light reader. 

We are fortunate to have the huge Centipede Press signed/limited editions which are the ultimate testament to the series. In addition we also have the extremely rare 'Empires of Foliage and Flowers’ from Cheap Street. 

Neil Gaiman gave some pointers on Gene Wolfe which are amazing true:

"I cannot tell you how to meet Gene Wolfe. I can, however, suggest a few ways to read his work. These are useful tips, like suggesting you take a blanket, a flashlight, and some candy when planning to drive a long way in the cold, and should not be taken lightly. I hope they are of some use to you. There are nine of them. Nine is a good number.

How to read Gene Wolfe:

1) Trust the text implicitly. The answers are in there.

2) Do not trust the text farther than you can throw it, if that far. It's tricksy and desperate stuff, and it may go off in your hand at any time.

3) Reread. It's better the second time. It will be even better the third time. And anyway, the books will subtly reshape themselves while you are away from them. ‘ Peace' really was a gentle Midwestern memoir the first time I read it. It only became a horror novel on the second or the third reading.

4) There are wolves in there, prowling behind the words. Sometimes they come out in the pages. Sometimes they wait until you close the book. The musky wolf-smell can sometimes be masked by the aromatic scent of rosemary. Understand, these are not today-wolves, slinking greyly in packs through deserted places. These are the dire-wolves of old, huge and solitary wolves that could stand their ground against grizzlies.

5) Reading Gene Wolfe is dangerous work. It's a knife-throwing act, and like all good knife-throwing acts, you may lose fingers, toes, earlobes or eyes in the process. Gene doesn't mind. Gene is throwing the knives.

6) Make yourself comfortable. Pour a pot of tea. Hang up a DO NOT DISTURB Sign. Start at Page One.

7) There are two kinds of clever writer. The ones that point out how clever they are, and the ones who see no need to point out how clever they are. Gene Wolfe is of the second kind, and the intelligence is less important than the tale. He is not smart to make you feel stupid. He is smart to make you smart as well.

8) He was there. He saw it happen. He knows whose reflection they saw in the mirror that night.

9) Be willing to learn. "

                                                                                                                  ✣

The Book of the New Sun

Possibly the finest science fiction series ever written, Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun has been hailed as one of the field’s most important and enduring works. The tale of Severian and his exile from the Guild of Torturers won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1980. A triumph of imagination and inventiveness. 

We are in awe of the Centipede Press editions, each contains gorgeous full color, full page illustrations by German artist Alex Preuss. The editions are oversized with a three piece cloth construction, ribbon marker and slipcase. Signed and limited to 100 copies, these are #55 except for book one. Bit of a story here, but we only found out about this edition when book two was published, by that time book one was long gone and in the subsequent years we’ve never seen a copy for sale. Jerad at Centipede Press was kind enough to make his unsigned publishers copy available to us, make a slipcase and have Gene Wolfe sign the book, which he did in bold! 

So here they are in all their glory with a couple of images of the interiors.

     

                

                

                                       

Empires of Foliage and Flowers:

Early into 'The Shadow of the Torturer', Severian obtains a small brown book called ‘The Book of the Wonders of Urth and Sky’ which is said to be a collection from printed sources of universal secrets of such age that their meaning has become obscured of time. The book itself was said to be a standard work of short stories published three or four centuries prior to the reign of Severian. Fragments and stories from the book feature throughout the 'Book of the New Sun’. 

Wolfe elaborated on some of these stories as chapbooks published by Cheap Street Publishers but one was done as a novella - ’Empires of Foliage and Flowers’. Cheap Street went all out on making this 80 page gem back in 1987. We could rave on about this stunning work but we’ll let the book talk for itself:  

  

                                                   

                                                  

The Book of the New Sun:

Like many we first encountered Wolfe’s novels through the stunning cover artwork of Bruce Pennington. His artwork was used on the first UK hardcover and paperback editions of the Book of the New Sun, The Island of Dr Death and Other Stories and Other Stories,  Gene Wolfe’s Book of Days, The Fifth Head of Cerberus and The Devil in a Forest.

Visually striking, the art seems to perfectly capture the blend of the futuristic and the fantastic that characterises the Urth cycle.  It has been said that Gene considers Bruce’s cover for The Shadow of the Torturer to be one of his favourites. It has also been suggested that in chapter 26 of 'The Urth of the New Sun' (“Gunnie and Burgundofara”), Severian’s remembrance of his youth in Nessus is a direct reference to Bruce’s painting:

  “As clearly as if he were in that chamber of tears with us, I saw the young journeyman striding along, his fuligin cloak billowing behind him and the dark cross of Terminus Est rising above his left shoulder.”

   

                                                                                                       Sidgwick & Jackson - First Edition Hardcovers

  

                                 Simon & Schuster - First Edition                                      Timescape - First Edition - Signed                                       Timescape - First Edition - Signed  

   

                           Timescape - First Edition - Signed                                                  TOR - First Edition                                                                    Ziering - Book Club

   

                                                                                                                                        Easton Press Editions

                                                                                                                   

                                                                                                                                                    SFBC                                       

The Book of the Long Sun:

   

                                                                                                                                    TOR - First Editions

The Book of the Short Sun:

   

                                                                                                                                        TOR - First Editions

The Wizard Knight:

                                                            

                                                                                                                                         TOR - First Editions

The fantastic historical world of Greece, in 479 B.C., when the gods walked the Earth. Latro, a mercenary soldier from the north, has suffered a head wound in battle and has been separated from his compatriots. He has not only lost the memory of who he is and where he is from, he has also lost the ability to remember from day to day and must live out of context in an eternal present, every day rediscovering the shreds of his identity and the nature of the world around him, aided only by a written record that he attempts to continue daily and must read every morning.

But in recompense for his unhappy condition Latro has received the ability to see and converse with invisible beings, all the gods and goddesses, ghosts and demons and werewolves, who inhabit the land and affect the lives of others, all unseen. Everyone knows that supernatural creatures are constantly around them and sometimes, under special circumstances, can perceive them—but Latro is now constantly able to penetrate the veil of the supernatural, which is both a triumph and a danger.

Gollancz First edition hardcover.

     

                   Chatto - First Edition                                           TOR - First Edition                                        Gollancz - First Edition                                            Bobbs - First Edition

Paperbacks:

                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                    TPB                                                                  

  

                                                                                                                                         B-Format's

    

                                           TPB                                                                                           TPB-B                                                                                          TPB-B