Last month, I blogged an excerpt from The Land Across, a new novel from science fiction grand master Gene Wolfe. Now, Tor.com has a tantalizing review by Mordicai Knode (tl;dr: "Lonely Planet Meets the Necronomicon") that makes me want to rush out and read it RIGHT NOW.
Gene Wolfe asks you “who do you believe?” as you read The Land Across, and that question includes the narrator, our protagonist. People buzzed about Gone Girl but cyclical novels, recursive meta-fiction, unreliable narrators? Those are some of the well-worn tools in his torturer’s kit. I mean his doctor’s bag, I’m sorry, slip of the tongue. While you muse on that, muse on The Third Policeman—oh, I’m sorry, I mean the third policeman, no caps or italics. How silly of me. Gene Wolfe is musing, as well, on freedom and benevolence, on democracy and dictatorship. I’ve talked about Tolkien’s and that same subject previously, but here rather than hinging on the strange figure of Tom Bombadil, the exemplar of freedom, Wolfe focuses on an equally mysterious paternal—literally and figuratively—authority figure.
This is my first read through. I’m going to re-read it though, boy howdy, and how! Translate all the seemingly innocuous words, try to connect all the characters, to see past the trees to find the forest. To make a treasure map. I don’t doubt on further delves that I won’t discover new things. I took copious notes along the way, this read: the root tongues of names, taking careful note of the painting of the satyr’s and the nymphs, to the wolves in the wood. Then I realized how little any of that mattered to anyone who wasn’t also in the middle of reading the books. Like a series of coded chalk marks left in a labyrinth. To me, the reader, invaluable, but to anyone else not lost in the maze, meaningless…
Gene Wolfe’s The Land Across is Lonely Planet Meets the Necronomicon
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