The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe (1981) 301 p.

This is going to be the kind of series that’s difficult to review, because the books are much the same as each other – indeed, I’m not sure why Wolfe even bothered to split one very large books into four smaller ones. The Claw of the Conciliator picks up shortly after The Shadow of the Torturer, with Severian having left the city of Nessus but been separated from his travelling companions.

The tone of the series continues to be used to enhance the sense of memoir, and grant a sense of arcane wonder to Severian’s mysterious world, but it comes at a price to plot and character. As with the first book, things seem to merely happen, with very little indication of a developing narrative – or, on Severian’s part, any form of motive or free will. It reminds me in that sense of a classic play, or some other form of high literature, in which the events of the story are somewhat less than clear. Nonetheless, Wolfe’s future Earth is intriguing enough to keep me reading, and I was consistently impressed at the way futuristic technology – ranging from teleportation to robots to the terraforming of the moon – is reinterpreted by Severian’s people as something bordering on magic. Much of the context is hidden below baroque language, allusion and implications, and although the story can be difficult to follow, these are books that reward careful reading. Next up is The Sword of the Lichtor.

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