The Citadel of the Autarch: A measuring rod for excellent fantasy literature

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSFF book reviews Gene Wolfe The Book of the New Sun 4. The Citadel of the Autarch audiobookThe Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe

The Citadel of the Autarch is a satisfying conclusion to Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun. (A fifth book, The Urth of the New Sun, is a coda to the original four books.) We’ve known all along that Severian the torturer would be the autarch by the end of his story, but his fascinating journey to the throne is what this saga is all about… on the surface, at least.

What it’s really about, for those who want to see it, is the juxtaposition of future and past, the nature of time and space, perception and reality, religion and science, and the Earth’s and humanity’s need for redemption. All of this is explored in the context of the strange characters, situations, and places that Severian meets on his way.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Book of the New Sun is not an easy read, but it’s what speculative fiction is all about — it’s brain-bending, it makes the reader consider and question, it stretches the intellect and opens the mind to new ideas and experiences. In The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe accomplishes all this and does it in a beautiful way. This is my measuring rod for excellent fantasy literature.

For readers who don’t want to be bothered by allegory and symbolism, or don’t want to risk scorching their synapses, there’s still much to admire in The Book of the New Sun, for though it wallows in weirdness, all of it is tied loosely together by Wolfe’s lovely language, detailed world-building, smart ideas, and astounding imagination.

I look forward to reading on in Gene Wolfe’s Solar Cycle (there are two sequel series: The Book of the Long Sun and The Book of the Short Sun.) I’m hoping that Audible Frontiers will eventually produce these because I loved listening to Jonathan Davis reading The Book of the New Sun.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. I’m hoping Amazon will get on the stick and get Kindle versions of these books soon.

  2. I hope Audible puts the sequels on audio. No plans for that so far, though.

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