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From a literary perspective, this will certainly be the best collection of the year in science fiction and fantasy. Gene Wolfe, of whom The Washington Post said, “Of all SF writers currently active none is held in higher esteem,” has selected the short fiction he considers his finest into one volume.  There are many award winners and many that have been selected for variou From a literary perspective, this will certainly be the best collection of the year in science fiction and fantasy. Gene Wolfe, of whom The Washington Post said, “Of all SF writers currently active none is held in higher esteem,” has selected the short fiction he considers his finest into one volume.  There are many award winners and many that have been selected for various Year’s Best anthologies among the thirty-one stories, which include: “Petting Zoo,” “The Tree Is My Hat,” “The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories,” “The Hero as Werewolf,” “Seven American Nights,” “The Fifth Head of Cerberus,” “The Detective of Dreams,” and “A Cabin on the Coast.” Gene Wolfe has produced possibly the finest and most significant body of short fiction in the SF and fantasy field in the last fifty years, and is certainly among the greatest living writers to emerge from the genres.  This is the first retrospective collection of his entire career.  It is for the ages. Contents 11 • The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories • [Archipelago] • (1970) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 23 • Afterword (The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories) • essay by Gene Wolfe 25 • The Toy Theater • (1971) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 30 • Afterword (The Toy Theater) • essay by Gene Wolfe 31 • The Fifth Head of Cerberus • (1972) • novella by Gene Wolfe 76 • Afterword (The Fifth Head of Cerberus) • essay by Gene Wolfe 78 • Beech Hill • (1972) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 83 • Afterword (Beech Hill) • essay by Gene Wolfe 84 • The Recording • (1972) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 86 • Afterword (The Recording) • essay by Gene Wolfe 88 • Hour of Trust • (1973) • novelette by Gene Wolfe 112 • Afterword (Hour of Trust) • essay by Gene Wolfe 114 • The Death of Dr. Island • [Archipelago] • (1973) • novella by Gene Wolfe 158 • Afterword (The Death of Dr. Island) • essay by Gene Wolfe 159 • La Befana • (1973) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 162 • Afterword (La Befana) • essay by Gene Wolfe 163 • Forlesen • (1974) • novelette by Gene Wolfe 201 • Afterword (Forlesen) • essay by Gene Wolfe 202 • Westwind • (1973) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 208 • Afterword (Westwind) • essay by Gene Wolfe 209 • The Hero as Werwolf • (1975) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 221 • Afterword (The Hero as Werwolf) • essay by Gene Wolfe 222 • The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automaton • (1977) • novelette by Gene Wolfe 236 • Afterword (The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automaton) • essay by Gene Wolfe 237 • Straw • (1975) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 243 • Afterword (Straw) • essay by Gene Wolfe 244 • The Eyeflash Miracles • (1976) • novella by Gene Wolfe 291 • Afterword (The Eyeflash Miracles) • essay by Gene Wolfe 292 • Seven American Nights • (1978) • novella by Gene Wolfe 331 • Afterword (Seven American Nights) • essay by Gene Wolfe 333 • The Detective of Dreams • (1980) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 346 • Afterword (The Detective of Dreams) • essay by Gene Wolfe 347 • Kevin Malone • (1980) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 355 • Afterword (Kevin Malone) • essay by Gene Wolfe 356 • The God and His Man • (1980) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 360 • Afterword (The God and His Man) • essay by Gene Wolfe 361 • On the Train • [Redwood Coast Roamer] • (1983) • shortfiction by Gene Wolfe 362 • Afterword (On the Train) • essay by Gene Wolfe 363 • From the Desk of Gilmer C. Merton • (1983) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 367 • Afterword (From the Desk of Gilmer C. Merton) • essay by Gene Wolfe 368 • Death of the Island Doctor • [Archipelago] • (1983) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 372 • Afterword (Death of the Island Doctor) • essay by Gene Wolfe 373 • Redbeard • (1984) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 377 • Afterword (Redbeard) • essay by Gene Wolfe 379 • The Boy Who Hooked the Sun • (1985) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 381 • Afterword (The Boy Who Hooked the Sun) • essay by Gene Wolfe 382 • Parkroads—A Review • (1987) • shortfiction by Gene Wolfe 384 • Afterword (Parkroads—A Review) • essay by Gene Wolfe 385 • Game in the Pope's Head • (1988) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 390 • Afterword (Game in the Pope's Head) • essay by Gene Wolfe 391 • And When They Appear • (1993) • novelette by Gene Wolfe 408 • Afterword (And When They Appear) • essay by Gene Wolfe 409 • Bed and Breakfast • (1996) • shortfiction by Gene Wolfe (variant of Bed & Breakfast) 426 • Afterword (Bed and Breakfast) • essay by Gene Wolfe 427 • Petting Zoo • (1997) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 431 • Afterword (Petting Zoo) • essay by Gene Wolfe 433 • The Tree Is My Hat • (1999) • novelette by Gene Wolfe 452 • Afterword (The Tree Is My Hat) • essay by Gene Wolfe 454 • Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon? • (1999) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 464 • Afterword (Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon?) • essay by Gene Wolfe 466 • A Cabin on the Coast • (1984) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 475 • Afterword (A Cabin on the Coast) • essay by Gene Wolfe


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From a literary perspective, this will certainly be the best collection of the year in science fiction and fantasy. Gene Wolfe, of whom The Washington Post said, “Of all SF writers currently active none is held in higher esteem,” has selected the short fiction he considers his finest into one volume.  There are many award winners and many that have been selected for variou From a literary perspective, this will certainly be the best collection of the year in science fiction and fantasy. Gene Wolfe, of whom The Washington Post said, “Of all SF writers currently active none is held in higher esteem,” has selected the short fiction he considers his finest into one volume.  There are many award winners and many that have been selected for various Year’s Best anthologies among the thirty-one stories, which include: “Petting Zoo,” “The Tree Is My Hat,” “The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories,” “The Hero as Werewolf,” “Seven American Nights,” “The Fifth Head of Cerberus,” “The Detective of Dreams,” and “A Cabin on the Coast.” Gene Wolfe has produced possibly the finest and most significant body of short fiction in the SF and fantasy field in the last fifty years, and is certainly among the greatest living writers to emerge from the genres.  This is the first retrospective collection of his entire career.  It is for the ages. Contents 11 • The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories • [Archipelago] • (1970) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 23 • Afterword (The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories) • essay by Gene Wolfe 25 • The Toy Theater • (1971) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 30 • Afterword (The Toy Theater) • essay by Gene Wolfe 31 • The Fifth Head of Cerberus • (1972) • novella by Gene Wolfe 76 • Afterword (The Fifth Head of Cerberus) • essay by Gene Wolfe 78 • Beech Hill • (1972) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 83 • Afterword (Beech Hill) • essay by Gene Wolfe 84 • The Recording • (1972) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 86 • Afterword (The Recording) • essay by Gene Wolfe 88 • Hour of Trust • (1973) • novelette by Gene Wolfe 112 • Afterword (Hour of Trust) • essay by Gene Wolfe 114 • The Death of Dr. Island • [Archipelago] • (1973) • novella by Gene Wolfe 158 • Afterword (The Death of Dr. Island) • essay by Gene Wolfe 159 • La Befana • (1973) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 162 • Afterword (La Befana) • essay by Gene Wolfe 163 • Forlesen • (1974) • novelette by Gene Wolfe 201 • Afterword (Forlesen) • essay by Gene Wolfe 202 • Westwind • (1973) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 208 • Afterword (Westwind) • essay by Gene Wolfe 209 • The Hero as Werwolf • (1975) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 221 • Afterword (The Hero as Werwolf) • essay by Gene Wolfe 222 • The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automaton • (1977) • novelette by Gene Wolfe 236 • Afterword (The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automaton) • essay by Gene Wolfe 237 • Straw • (1975) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 243 • Afterword (Straw) • essay by Gene Wolfe 244 • The Eyeflash Miracles • (1976) • novella by Gene Wolfe 291 • Afterword (The Eyeflash Miracles) • essay by Gene Wolfe 292 • Seven American Nights • (1978) • novella by Gene Wolfe 331 • Afterword (Seven American Nights) • essay by Gene Wolfe 333 • The Detective of Dreams • (1980) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 346 • Afterword (The Detective of Dreams) • essay by Gene Wolfe 347 • Kevin Malone • (1980) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 355 • Afterword (Kevin Malone) • essay by Gene Wolfe 356 • The God and His Man • (1980) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 360 • Afterword (The God and His Man) • essay by Gene Wolfe 361 • On the Train • [Redwood Coast Roamer] • (1983) • shortfiction by Gene Wolfe 362 • Afterword (On the Train) • essay by Gene Wolfe 363 • From the Desk of Gilmer C. Merton • (1983) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 367 • Afterword (From the Desk of Gilmer C. Merton) • essay by Gene Wolfe 368 • Death of the Island Doctor • [Archipelago] • (1983) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 372 • Afterword (Death of the Island Doctor) • essay by Gene Wolfe 373 • Redbeard • (1984) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 377 • Afterword (Redbeard) • essay by Gene Wolfe 379 • The Boy Who Hooked the Sun • (1985) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 381 • Afterword (The Boy Who Hooked the Sun) • essay by Gene Wolfe 382 • Parkroads—A Review • (1987) • shortfiction by Gene Wolfe 384 • Afterword (Parkroads—A Review) • essay by Gene Wolfe 385 • Game in the Pope's Head • (1988) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 390 • Afterword (Game in the Pope's Head) • essay by Gene Wolfe 391 • And When They Appear • (1993) • novelette by Gene Wolfe 408 • Afterword (And When They Appear) • essay by Gene Wolfe 409 • Bed and Breakfast • (1996) • shortfiction by Gene Wolfe (variant of Bed & Breakfast) 426 • Afterword (Bed and Breakfast) • essay by Gene Wolfe 427 • Petting Zoo • (1997) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 431 • Afterword (Petting Zoo) • essay by Gene Wolfe 433 • The Tree Is My Hat • (1999) • novelette by Gene Wolfe 452 • Afterword (The Tree Is My Hat) • essay by Gene Wolfe 454 • Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon? • (1999) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 464 • Afterword (Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon?) • essay by Gene Wolfe 466 • A Cabin on the Coast • (1984) • shortstory by Gene Wolfe 475 • Afterword (A Cabin on the Coast) • essay by Gene Wolfe

30 review for The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    The Best of Gene Wolfe: Challenging, allusive, and tricky stories Originally posted at Fantasy Literature I decided to tackle this collection for a third time, this time armed with Marc Aramini’s Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986, an 826-page analysis covering Wolfe’s output through 1986, including most of his short stories (no matter how obscure) along with The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Peace, Free Live Free, and The Book of the New Sun. It is truly The Best of Gene Wolfe: Challenging, allusive, and tricky stories Originally posted at Fantasy Literature I decided to tackle this collection for a third time, this time armed with Marc Aramini’s Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986, an 826-page analysis covering Wolfe’s output through 1986, including most of his short stories (no matter how obscure) along with The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Peace, Free Live Free, and The Book of the New Sun. It is truly a work of dedication, a painstaking analysis of symbols, names, literary references, and themes of each story, and yet clearly the work of a fan rather than a dry scholarly study. Gene Wolfe is frequently described as one of the most brilliant SF writers in the genre by critics, authors, and readers alike. Some fans praise his books above all others, and there is a WolfeWiki page dedicated to discussing his work. This makes it very difficult to raise a note of dissent without feeling like the only one who doesn’t get it. But there are certainly many SFF readers that are baffled and frustrated by his stories, because they are packed with metaphors, literary references, hidden themes, and require extremely close reading to understand and appreciate. One recurring response I get when I complain I didn’t understand Wolfe is that you won’t understand a Wolfe story until the second reading or more. That struck me as strange – why should a reader have to read something twice to get it? It sounds like work rather than pleasure. And I think this is what separates Wolfe fans from others. If you take pleasure in closely examining a puzzle or riddle, are always on the lookout for a possible reference, hidden meaning in a character’s name, or a key story element hidden in a seemingly casual offhand comment, then his stories can be an addictive puzzle. Judging from the number of awards he’s won and his dedicated fan base, there is certainly a contingent who find the effort worthwhile, but I think it’s fair to say his work is an acquired taste. Many will find that it isn’t worth it, or lacks the enjoyment of their favorite writers. Last year I finally read one of his earliest books, The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972), which consisted of three loosely-connected novellas narrated by some very unreliable characters gradually revealing a series of puzzles and mysteries for the reader to unlock. It was very challenging work, but intriguing enough to make the effort worthwhile. Please see my review for details. So next I decided to try this collection of his best short stories, selected by the author himself. It’s a hefty tome with 31 stories spanning 478 pages. It includes a number of award winners, which I probably should have focused on, but I went ahead and started at the beginning. And discovered that Gene Wolfe’s short stories are more often than not inscrutable, impenetrable, and frustrating. First off, his favorite story element is unreliable narrators, who frequently do not identify themselves, and often has a piecemeal memory of events that they relay out of sequence. Wolfe loves to toy with the reader, sprinkling little breadcrumbs amidst an otherwise mundane surface story that we are supposed to pick up, digest, think deeply upon, and finally figure out what the author was carefully hiding in a second reading. Is this his idea of fun? For whom, I might inquire? I understand the idea of not spoon-feeding the reader by spelling out exactly what a story is about, and avoiding a heavy-handed message at the end. Really, I get that. But I was literally at a loss at the end of most of the stories in this collection, since Wolfe simply cuts off the ending without any clear explanation whatsoever. So I initially gave up on this collection one-third of the way through, then decided to give it another chance and only made it to the midway point with no better luck. I decided to cut my losses and move on to other books that provided more immediate rewards. Eight months later when the 2016 Hugo Awards were announced, I noticed that Marc Aramini’s Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 was the runner-up in the Best Related Work category (losing out to No Award, unfortunately, but that is another story). I recalled that someone by that name had posted a number of very helpful and insightful comments on my initial, frustrated review of this collection. Indeed they are the same person. And so here I am, making a third attempt to scale Mount Wolfe, armed with some serious firepower. Here are reviews of the most notable stories, assisted by the analysis of a truly dedicated Wolfe scholar and fan. My technique was to read the Wolfe story first, read Aramini’s analysis of it, and then if it felt worth it read the story again. This often revealed a great deal of insight as I picked up on many of the clues and allusions buried in the text, previously unrecognized. He also has a series of YouTube videos explaining Wolfe’s major works. Here is the first one with a general overview: Marc Aramini on Gene Wolfe and Literature, Part 1. If you think you might be interested in this book, perhaps you can listen to some of his YouTube videos first to get an idea of his erudition and enthusiasm. But since the greatest pleasure is solving the puzzles central to each story, they will not be revealed here. “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” (1970) This is the story of Tackman Babcock, a lonely young boy who must entertain himself in the beach house operated by his mother near the sea. He is mostly neglected by his mother, aunts, and his mother’s male companions Jason and Dr. Black. So he spends much of his time reading a book given to him by Jason (shop-lifted, actually). In the book, Captain Ransom is the hero and ends on Doctor Death’s Island. Doctor Death experiments on animals, turning them into monstrous half-men. This is a clear tribute to H.G. Wells’ classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, but there are many more layers to this story. The characters from the book begin to weave themselves into Tackman’s daily life, addressing him and having conversations. Soon the distinctions between his imagination and reality blur, and when strange events begin to occur in the house, we begin to see the meta-narrative come into focus. Wolfe is playing with the structure of narrative and the power of imagination, while also exploring the lonely world of an unwanted boy and the callous adults that surround him. “The Fifth Head of Cerberus” (1972) We are introduced to the twin worlds of Saint Croix and Saint Anne, which were originally colonized by French settlers but 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, 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. 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, more 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… “The Death of Dr. Island” (1973) This story won the Nebula Award for Best Novella in 1973, and had its genesis as a sort of jest when Isaac Asimov mistakenly announced that “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” had won the Nebula Award, when “No Award” had the most votes. So Wolfe decided to write an inversion of that story, playing with the title and themes as he is wont to do, and producing one of his most impressive stories. The setting is very unique and important. A young boy named Nicholas emerges from a hatch in an island environment, naked and alone, surrounded by trees, ocean, and wind. Initially he explores silently, before the surrounding objects, both animate and inanimate, address him as Dr. Island. He then encounters an older youth named Ignatio, who attacks him without warning when he asks for some fish to eat. Finally he runs into Diane, who is not violent but also seems mentally disturbed. Dr. Island reveals that the island environment is artificially made and intended as a place to provide therapy for them so they can rejoin normal society eventually. Nicholas is sociopathic and has undergone radical brain surgery to cure his behavior, and Ignatio is homicidal. Diane herself has catatonic episodes. But Dr. Island is not forthcoming with some very crucial details, and the “Death of Dr. Island” is a very multi-layered play on words that will only be revealed at the end. The story of course has overt Christian imagery, namely the Garden of Eden in which our three characters are thrust into, naked and ignorant, and there are even serpents and fruits involved, along with the disembodies voice of Dr. Island who monitors this world. And yet it is far more than a simplistic metaphor for the loss of innocence – Wolfe subverts the analogy at every turn, in ways so subtle that multiple readings are needed to discover the little clues and recurring imagery that point to the natural world and contrast it with the artificial purposes of this future society and its treatment of the mentally disturbed. It is an intensely moralistic but sophisticated story, and for once I could appreciate the emotional lives of the characters, which are often distant in Wolfe stories. Definitely a highlight of the collection. “Forlesen” (1974) This may be one of the most inscrutable and bizarre stories of the collection, and that is saying something. I honestly didn’t like it when I first finished it, but after reading Aramini’s analysis, I could better appreciate what he was doing, even if I would never have recognized most of the references he embedded in the story. Emmanuel Forlesen wakes up one morning, with no knowledge of anything, even his own name. He encounters a woman making breakfast, who turns out to be his wife, and she urges him to “read the orientation manual”. It feels a lot like The Truman Show or a PKD story at that moment. The manual welcomes him to planet Planet, and tells him everything is normal and not to be concerned, also indicating that any memories he has of the past are false, and urging him to not be late for work. On his drive to work at Model Pattern Products he has two strange encounters, the first with a policeman who pulls him over when he pauses to look over the side of the elevated road, threatening him with a gun to get going. This bit strangely reminded me of a Cordwainer Smith story named “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”, though mostly just for the surreal nature of the highway itself. His second encounter is with a strange old hitchhiker named Abraham Beale, who has lost his job and his farm. Abraham has done many jobs in the past, but it seems that modern society no longer has need of him. Forlesen drops off Abraham at a dog food factory and heads to the office. The extended office sequence marks the bulk of the story, in which Forlesen meets a series of supervisors, secretaries, and working groups. The supervisors make inane sports metaphors about teamwork and results, the secretaries complain of problem employees. Forlesen is asked to join the Creativity Group meeting, which seems utterly pointless and futile, and then Leadership Problem Quiz, which seems equally meaningless. Events get more and more surreal, with dozens of tiny details that suggest possible hidden meanings but without obvious references. Finally at the end Forlesen meets the Examiner, who asks him, “What’ll it be? Doctor, priest, philosopher, theologian, actor, warlock, National Hero, aged lore master, or novelist?" Forlesen replies “I want to know if it’s meant anything…if what I’ve suffered – if it’s been worth it.” To which the Examiner’s answer is “No…Yes. No. Yes. Yes. No. Yes. Yes. Maybe.” It’s cryptic, but clearly Wolfe is ridiculing the modern corporate life and contrasting it with the lost working-class professions of the past represented by Abraham. It’s very much like The Office but not the slightest bit funny, just leaving a bad taste of futility and confusion, which is what I assume Wolfe was after. Aramini manages to find a wealth of insight from all the cryptic clues of the story, but the overall message is loud and clear even if the details remain a mystery. “The Hero as Werwolf” (1975) This story is much more accessible than Forlesen, though clearly important themes are hidden below the surface. It is about a young man named Paul, who is hunting food in a European city in the indeterminate future. As the story progresses, we learn that he is hunting the Masters of the city as food, while he considers himself human and separate from them. In the midst of the hunt, he runs into an old man and young girl who have selected the same wealthy couple as targets, and initially the dispute over who has prior claims. Paul is intrigued with the thought of another human girl, as they are very rare and humans live a furtive and fugitive existence in the Masters’ city. He tracks down the old man and daughter and tries to negotiate to gain possession of the girl as a mate, for lack of a better word. The father resists, insisting he cannot care for the girl, who is mute and feral. But Paul insists, and they become hunting partners. When their target, a little boy, flees into a building, Paul and the girl rush in to pursue him, and just when they have captured the boy, and accident causes Paul’s leg to get caught in a door. The girl takes the only action she can think of to free him…and the story abruptly ends. I remember looking up and thinking, “WTF?” It’s a common feeling after finishing a Wolfe story. After reading Aramini’s careful analysis and re-reading it I understood a lot more, but it’s certainly a tricky one. At least it can be enjoyed as a tense narrative with interesting world-building. But that ending… “The Eyeflash Miracles” (1976) This story completely defeated me in my second attempt to read this collection. It has all the elements that excite Wolfe fans who want to delve into the huge number of religious allusions to the Wizard of Oz, birth of Christ, and Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu, as it depicts the empty mechanistic hell of a secular and technology-dominated world where the marginalized members of society are cast aside. If you are not familiar with the above elements, the story of young blind Little Tib, Nitty, Mr. Parker, and Pravithi are almost incomprehensible. So I think this perfectly encapsulates what can drive a normal reader completely mad with frustration – the surface events seem unconnected, insignificant, and confusing, but for those readers cognizant of the undercurrents, themes, and religious symbolism, it is a rich and complex fable of a young man who may be Christ and Krishna, performing miracles in a fallen world as fantasy and reality converge, till they link hands and skip down the yellow brick road into the sunset at the end. Without Marc Aramini’s insight, I would never have gotten through this one. “Seven American Nights” (1978) This is one of the most fascinating and tantalizing stories of the collection and was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella. It is the story of Nadan Jafferzadah, a wealthy Iranian adventurer and arts/cultural tourist who journeys across the Atlantic to visit a future America devastated by chemical weapons. The story’s title is an obvious play on the Arabian Nights (One Thousand and One Nights) collection of Middle Eastern and other folk tales that date back to the 8th century and earlier with their origins mainly in India and Persia. They coincide with the Islamic Golden Age of the 8th to 13th centuries, so they story’s setting is an ironic turning of the tables, with America in decline and Europe back in ascendancy. Nadan writes the story in the form of a travel diary, with entries for each day, as he explores a Silent City dominated by ancient decaying ruins of a great civilization. We soon learn that this city is an ancient center of government, but the people living there are much diminished from their former greatness, as many are deformed by genetic defects caused by the chemical weapons war that wrecked the US. He makes many observations expressing his pity for the sad state of affairs, but respect for the old architecture, art, and accomplishments of this once-great nation. He is eager to try American foods, theatre, and the local women as well. He takes a particular interest in a nearby theatre playing Gore Vidal’s Visit to a Small Planet and J.M. Barrie’s Mary Rose, who is more famous for Peter Pan. He attends regularly and becomes romantically involved with the lead actress Ardis and her leading man Bobby. He also tours the city and has various encounters and glimpses of mysterious events whose importance are not immediately clear. The details of the story are incredibly intricate. Most things seem innocuous coincidences, but as we realize that his journal entries may be concealing various details, and he experiments with some drug-infused marzipan eggs, it becomes increasingly difficult to accept what is being told. As events become more bizarre and sinister, it is unclear what is truth or hallucination. There are also various subtle clues that our narrator may not be the carefree tourist he claims to be. I read this story twice, once before reading the extensive analysis of Marc Armini and once afterward, and was astounded by the amount of minute scholarship and analysis that he and others in the URTH mailing list have devoted to understanding this story. It is open to myriad interpretations of its cryptic events, to the point that plausible cases can be made for completely different explanations. There are a plethora of literary allusions, and Aramini and others have tracked down a wealth of details and parallels to events and themes the story explores, along with the significance of various character names. However, it should be notes that the story holds up as a finely-wrought story with multiple layers of meaning, and a cryptic ending that forces you to rethink everything that has come before. It is a masterpiece on par with Wolfe’s other great novellas here, “Fifth Head of Cerberus” and “The Death of Dr. Island”.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    Reading a Wolfe story is never easy. They are not for the faint hearted reader looking for a comfy book, wanting to relax by consuming a popcorn story. He frequently tells a story from the perspective of an unreliable narrator: some are unintelligent, some (like Severian from the Book of the New Sun) lie, others suffer from amnesia. He puts loads of riddles in his stories, sometimes easy ones like figuring out the main protagonist's name, but most are complex which I didn't figure out at all - d Reading a Wolfe story is never easy. They are not for the faint hearted reader looking for a comfy book, wanting to relax by consuming a popcorn story. He frequently tells a story from the perspective of an unreliable narrator: some are unintelligent, some (like Severian from the Book of the New Sun) lie, others suffer from amnesia. He puts loads of riddles in his stories, sometimes easy ones like figuring out the main protagonist's name, but most are complex which I didn't figure out at all - decoding was done by mailing lists, wikis etc. New readers find this confusing, but I consider it as highly rewarding, a kind of surplus in addition to Wolfe's literary style, his often interesting narrative structure, and his recurring topics of identity, humanity, and memory. I'm not the only one, Wolfe has a dedicated fan base. I second author Michael Swanwick's praise: "Gene Wolfe is the greatest writer in the English language alive today. Let me repeat that: Gene Wolfe is the greatest writer in the English language alive today! I mean it.Shakespeare was a better stylist, Melville was more important to American letters, and Charles Dickens had a defter hand at creating characters. But among living writers, there is nobody who can even approach Gene Wolfe for brilliance of prose, clarity of thought, and depth in meaning." Gene Wolfe selected the stories in this volume, but I don't think that all of Gene Wolfe's best stories are included. I'm missing "'A Story,' by John V. Marsch" (1972), "Tracking Song" (1975), "The Doctor of Death Island" (1978),  "The Ziggurat" (1995), "Golden City Far" (2005), and "Memorare" (2007). But most of Wolfe's canonicla stories are included, and at least those should be read: "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" (1972), "The Death of Dr. Island" (1973), "Forlesen" (1974),  "Seven American Nights" (1978),  and "The Tree Is My Hat" (1999). A bit surprising for me was the amount of horror stories and stories tending to the dark side of things. I usually don't like horror at all, and some of the stories got a star less because of that. The ordering of stories is based on their publication date - except the last story. I'm fine with that, although a different approach, e.g. a thematical one, would add some insights and make it easier for Wolfe beginners. As a final remark, Goodreads doesn't handle shorter works well. That's why I've put reviews for those to my Blog. Links for longer reviews to each story will lead there. My favourite ★★★★★ stories were The Fifth Head of Cerberus The Death of Dr. Island Seven American Nights Forlesen Weakest ☆ or ★ stories Redbeard Game in the Pope's Head Contents: ★★★★ • “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” •  (1970) • review ★★★ • “The Toy Theater” • (1971) • review ★★★★★ • “The Fifth Head of Cerberus” • (1972) • novella • review ★★1/2 • “Beech Hill” • (1972) • review ★★ • “The Recording” • (1972) • Uncle Bill dies after the narrator buys a record; narrator is kind of haunted by his uncle. One of Wolfe's most straightforward stories. ★★★ • “Hour of Trust” • (1973) • novelette • review ★★★★★ • “The Death of Dr. Island” • (1973) • novella  • sorry, no review ★★★ • “La Befana” • (1973) • review ★★★★★ • “Forlesen” • (1974) • novelette • sorry, no review ★★★★ • “Westwind” • (1973) • review ★★★ • “The Hero as Werwolf” • (1975) • review ★★★★ • “The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automaton” • (1977) • novelette • review ★★1/2 • “Straw” • (1975) • review ★★ • “The Eyeflash Miracles” • (1976) • novella • review ★★★★★ • “Seven American Nights” • (1978) • novella • review ★★ • “The Detective of Dreams” • (1980) • review ★★★ • “Kevin Malone” • (1980) • review ★★1/2 • “The God and His Man” • (1980) • The god Isid 1000 1000E sends a man from Urth to explore another world. He finds a rigid, Roman similar society with masters and slaves in the hot lands, a native American similar one in the steamy lands, and finally a spiritual one in the cold lands. Good enough for those few couple of pages. ★★ • “On the Train” • (1983) •  Two pages about an eternal trip on an endless train. Seems to be out of context. ★★★★ • “From the Desk of Gilmer C. Merton” • (1983) • light-hearted, funny story with a couple of puns to SF of an author undergoing some changes while corresponding to his agent. ★★★ • “Death of the Island Doctor” • (1983) • review ★1/2 • “Redbeard” • (1984) • review ★★★ • “The Boy Who Hooked the Sun” • (1985) • review ★★ • “Parkroads—A Review” • (1987) • can't say much about this one - a review of an imaginary film. ★ • “Game in the Pope's Head” • (1988) • Four people are playing a game, everyone a different. Reality shifts. Didn't understand it.  “And When They Appear” • (1993) • I skipped this novelette, as I don't feel like reading Christmas stories in summer. ★★★★ • “Bed and Breakfast” • (1996) •  review ★★★ • “Petting Zoo” • (1997) • review ★★★★ • “The Tree Is My Hat” • (1999) • horror novelette featuring the friendship to a shark god • review ★★ • “Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon?” • (1999) • review ★★★ • “A Cabin on the Coast” • (1981) • review

  3. 5 out of 5

    Aerin

    When my husband and I first started dating, he asked what kinds of books I liked to read. I lent him this collection and told him to read "Seven American Nights." In retrospect, I don't necessarily recommend this as a courtship tactic. He returned it the next day saying that, though the writing itself was excellent, he had no idea what the everloving fuck. "I know, isn't it great?" I said, and gleefully began reveling in the labyrinth Wolfe had created: "The novella's called Seven American Nights, When my husband and I first started dating, he asked what kinds of books I liked to read. I lent him this collection and told him to read "Seven American Nights." In retrospect, I don't necessarily recommend this as a courtship tactic. He returned it the next day saying that, though the writing itself was excellent, he had no idea what the everloving fuck. "I know, isn't it great?" I said, and gleefully began reveling in the labyrinth Wolfe had created: "The novella's called Seven American Nights, but it only describes six! The discoverer of the manuscript said that pages had been removed - but by whom and for what purpose? What happened on the seventh night? Where is the gap? And we know the narrator may have ingested a hallucinogen on one of the nights - but which one? Everything he describes is so bizarre! What became of him, anyway? What lurks beyond the coastal cities in America's nuclear wasteland?" "But what is the answer?" my husband asked. "Oh, I mean, Wolfe's not going to come out and tell you," I said. He looked at me incredulously. He went back to reading nonfiction. ----- The title of this collection is accurate - these are masterpieces, some of the best short fiction SF has to offer. Despite that Wolfe wrote many of my favorite novels, I often find his short stories and novellas more enjoyable - in the same way that putting together a 100-piece puzzle can be satisfying for the mere fact that you can solve it in an afternoon, as opposed to a 10,000 piece puzzle that might take you a month. Not that I'll ever really "solve" these stories - I still ponder over many of them, years after reading them for the first time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    A.D. Jansen

    I thought reading Gene Wolfe's short stories might help me solidify an opinion on him. Nope. Throughout this collection my opinion vacillated between "most ludicrously overpraised writer of all time" and "never mind, actually a genius" willy-nilly. I will say that for a Definitive Retrospective, this thing is awfully inconsistent. Somewhat complicating matters is that Wolfe selected these stories himself, so who knows, he could just be not very good at evaluating his own material (although when h I thought reading Gene Wolfe's short stories might help me solidify an opinion on him. Nope. Throughout this collection my opinion vacillated between "most ludicrously overpraised writer of all time" and "never mind, actually a genius" willy-nilly. I will say that for a Definitive Retrospective, this thing is awfully inconsistent. Somewhat complicating matters is that Wolfe selected these stories himself, so who knows, he could just be not very good at evaluating his own material (although when he assesses "The Death of Dr. Island" as his best story, he is spot-on). He has a lot of neat ideas, at least. Almost all of the stories here have intriguing premises. He is also a writer of tremendous range, and there is a great deal of variety in the material. The problems lie in his execution, which is all over the place. People talk about what a great stylist he is, and he totally can be (see: Peace), but for some reason he doesn't choose to be very often; most of these stories are flatly written, and would be totally uninteresting if not for the ideas. He's also not a particularly concise writer (I wish the Borges influence had been stronger in this respect), and even his better stories are occasionally undermined by their excessive length. Lastly he tends to make a lot of bewildering artistic decisions, like ending "Detective of Dreams" with a passage so heavy-handed C.S. Lewis would have been embarrassed to have written it, or throwing a cartoonish Irish pirate character into the middle of the introspective, realistic "Cabin on the Coast." There are a bunch of other weird decisions in here that I'm pretty sure are not part of some clever hidden meaning, and are just not very good writing. Still there was enough brilliance interspersed throughout the book to keep me reading. In a way, though, it's his failures as well as his successes that make him an interesting writer; if he was great all the time, I could just label him a Great Writer and be done. But he's something more elusive than that and so, for better or worse, I'll probably keep reading him until I can figure him out.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stefan

    This was officially the best science fiction short story collection I've ever read, even beating out my previous favorite, Tangents by Greg Bear. This book is precisely why I stopped giving 5 stars to every book I like: because that would make it impossible to express the level of admiration I feel for the truly special books, the ones that you know you'll read and re-read and recommend to everyone. If you only read one SF short story collection this year, make it this one. I would add more to t This was officially the best science fiction short story collection I've ever read, even beating out my previous favorite, Tangents by Greg Bear. This book is precisely why I stopped giving 5 stars to every book I like: because that would make it impossible to express the level of admiration I feel for the truly special books, the ones that you know you'll read and re-read and recommend to everyone. If you only read one SF short story collection this year, make it this one. I would add more to this review, and maybe will at some point, but for now I think John Clute summed it up nicely in his review here: http://scifiwire.com/2009/04/critic-j...

  6. 4 out of 5

    SonLight

    Gene Wolfe can be maddeningly impenetrable. After reading most of the brilliant Books of the New Sun, I couldn't purchase this short story collection fast enough when I stumbled across it in a local book store. And like his novels, there is certainly brilliance here, at least occasionally, throughout the collection. But I repeat. Wolfe can be maddeningly impenetrable. Particularly as my progression continued past the halfway point, I began to see what at first were amusing, often times clever an Gene Wolfe can be maddeningly impenetrable. After reading most of the brilliant Books of the New Sun, I couldn't purchase this short story collection fast enough when I stumbled across it in a local book store. And like his novels, there is certainly brilliance here, at least occasionally, throughout the collection. But I repeat. Wolfe can be maddeningly impenetrable. Particularly as my progression continued past the halfway point, I began to see what at first were amusing, often times clever and thought provoking challenges to peer beyond the words printed on the page and into supposition and interpretation, for what they really were -- exhaustive reader manipulations disguised by healthy doses of sophisticated prose. The plot device wore its welcome out. What was unexpected became expected. I think, perhaps, that Wolfe's short stories are ill-served in this mass-consumption format. I think his stories may be better when served like a fine glass of wine -- sparingly -- to avoid dulling an extraordinary vintage into mundane beverage. Granted, some of his stories are brilliant. In particular, I'll go back to "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" time and time again. But it got old -- filling in the blanks -- or trying to. Often, short stories are served well when dosed with inscrutability and ambiguity. More to savor. But many of Wolfe's stories left me scratching my head when I'd rather be invested in the characters. It's difficult to form any significant attachment to a story when, at best, and often, you're barely getting half of what you need to feel satisfied. Wolfe should have taken more opportunity throughout his short stories to embrace convention, rather than flout it at the reader's expense.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    I've been planning to experience more of Gene Wolfe's work since I read The Fifth Head of Cerberus, so when I spotted this in the library, I couldn't resist. He's a very good short story writer, knowing just how to manipulate the reader and keep them intrigued while making them think. Some of the stories aren't so good, but most of them are brilliant, and in this volume each of them has an afterword explaining something about them and why Gene Wolfe picked them for this collection. I think I lik I've been planning to experience more of Gene Wolfe's work since I read The Fifth Head of Cerberus, so when I spotted this in the library, I couldn't resist. He's a very good short story writer, knowing just how to manipulate the reader and keep them intrigued while making them think. Some of the stories aren't so good, but most of them are brilliant, and in this volume each of them has an afterword explaining something about them and why Gene Wolfe picked them for this collection. I think I liked 'The Eyeflash Miracles' most.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    Fucking Incredible. Do I get to use profanity on goodreads? I guess I'll find out soon. But it deserves it. The best short-fantasist since Borges. If Gene Wolfe wrote in a foreign language this would be on the curriculum at every contemporary fiction class in America.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Williwaw

    I'm going to jump the gun a bit, because I can't restrain myself any longer. I'm not quite half-way through the book (and admittedly skipped one story). But I must say there are some gems in here that I'd like to mention before my memory fades. First up is "The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories." This is probably the most straightforward and accessible story of the ones I've read so far. It's about a young boy who finds refuge and adventure in reading a book that seems to be very closely rela I'm going to jump the gun a bit, because I can't restrain myself any longer. I'm not quite half-way through the book (and admittedly skipped one story). But I must say there are some gems in here that I'd like to mention before my memory fades. First up is "The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories." This is probably the most straightforward and accessible story of the ones I've read so far. It's about a young boy who finds refuge and adventure in reading a book that seems to be very closely related to the H.G. Wells novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau. His single mother (who I recall has a big beach house somewhere) neglects him and seems to be cavorting with at least two different men. She's got some serious problems, and perhaps that's why the boy has retreated into the novel, where he imagines he's part of the action. "Toy Theater" was harder for me. I had to read it twice to get the clever little twist at the end. Then comes the absolutely brilliant novella, "The Fifth Head of Cerberus." I read it once before, and it was the first time I realized that Wolfe was an incredible talent. It's different from the other stories in this collection (at least, the ones I've read so far), partly because of the denser sentence structure, but also in the depths of its fully realized world. It takes place far in the future, on another planet, which is in fact a binary planet (i.e., it's got a nearby orbital). The story is so weird and rich that I don't really have room to describe it here. Suffice it to say that it's about a young man who, while growing up, comes to some interesting realizations: first, that the house he lives in is a brothel, run by his father; and second, that he's probably a clone who is destined to repeat the patters of his predecessors. Based upon my limited experience, I'd say this story is a great entre into Wolfe's ouevre. "Beech Hill," the next story, left me absolutely puzzled. Someone else here on goodreads said it's about a guy who makes an annual pilgrimage to a hotel where he and the other residents engage in a role-playing game. I'll have to re-read it with that in mind. (I've already read it twice, however, and didn't follow it in the least!) "The Recording" is one that's fading fast from my memory. It's about a kid who wants to use his father's record player, so he persuades him (or is it his uncle?) to go to a record shop so he can play his own record on it, without the risk of damaging anyone else's recordings. The fatIher/uncle has a health problem, and just before they get to the store, asks the kid to summon a doctor. But the kid is too hot to get the record, so he takes the money and runs into the shop. When he comes out, father/uncle is dead! Later on in life, he recovers the record which he was never able to listen to, and finally plays it, expecting to hear his uncle's voice raised in some terrible admonition. It's not that, but it's nevertheless quite appropriate. I skipped "Hour of Trust." I don't know why. It didn't look promising, somehow. Next up was "The Death of Doctor Island." This was actually the first Wolfe story I ever read. Probably at least 5 years ago. I really hated it the first time around. It didn't hold my attention and I had trouble following it. This time, however, I can see that it's a very compelling story. But it's so horrifying that I can't say that I "like" it. It's about a young boy who is imprisoned on a "therapy" satellite orbiting Jupiter (or maybe Callisto?). Anyway, by the end it's clear that the boy has been suffering from epilepsy, and has had his corpus callosum surgically divided. The division is a cure for grand mal seizures, but the left and right hemispheres (verbal and non-verbal halves) of the brain consequently become separate. The boy is not alone on the satellite. There's a psychotic man (I think his name is Ignacio) and a bipolar young girl. The boy interacts with both in an environment that replicates a tropical island with beaches stretching to the ocean. The island can communicate with the boy, so he's interacting with the landscape as well. The island is apparently a psychiatrist! I haven't thought through it yet, but there seem to be some parallels with the Garden of Eden, Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, etc. I caught a stray reference to Poe's "Cask of Amontillado," but couldn't figure out what it was doing there. I suppose maybe it's a reference to the boy's two different personalities, embodied by the right and left hemispheres of his brain. And how they've been walled off from each other. Anyway, I have a sense that there are many allusions hiding in this story, and that it gets richer upon re-reading. I found "La Befana" to be a piece of light religious fluff, so I won't discuss it now. But "Forlesen," ah, "Forlesen!"It's an utterly brilliant encapsulation of, or short-hand existential parable of, the mid-twentieth century American "management class." If a man's life is more or less the same every day, why not tell the story of his life as if it occurred during only one day? That's more or less the outline of this story. But it's full of weird details that hearken back to the tales of Franz Kafka and Robert Aickman. It's a very powerful story and I can't recommend it enough. More to come . . . I'll add comments as I progress through this volume of stories.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    A reasonable collection of short fiction, mainly sci-fi or futuristic. Found some of the stories a bit hard to get my head round and wondered if it was worth it really. Still, it was a good purchase in a charity shop for 95 pence as I've discovered it is worth over £30 on Amazon - and that's not even for a first edition, which mine is, so hopefully it will be finding a new and loving home! - 6/10.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Seregil of Rhiminee

    The Very Best of Gene Wolfe is a great collection of Gene Wolfe's short stories. I think that Tor Books and PS Publishing have done an excellent job with this collection. It's great that they gathered all these stories to one book, because many readers may only know that Gene Wolfe has written the excellent The Book of the New Sun series and aren't aware of his fascinating short stories. I think that the introduction by Kim Stanley Robinson is worth mentioning, because it contains lots of useful The Very Best of Gene Wolfe is a great collection of Gene Wolfe's short stories. I think that Tor Books and PS Publishing have done an excellent job with this collection. It's great that they gathered all these stories to one book, because many readers may only know that Gene Wolfe has written the excellent The Book of the New Sun series and aren't aware of his fascinating short stories. I think that the introduction by Kim Stanley Robinson is worth mentioning, because it contains lots of useful and good information about Gene Wolfe and his stories. This introduction tells what kind of things have affected Gene Wolfe's writing style. I thought it was very interesting to read about Gene Wolfe's life and writings. The contents of this book are: - Introduction by Kim Stanley Robinson - The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories - The Toy Theater - The Fifth Head of Cerberus - Beech Hill - The Recording - Hour of Trust - The Death of Dr. Island - La Befana - Forlesen - Westwind - The Hero as Werwolf - The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automaton - Straw - The Eyeflash Miracles - Seven American Nights - The Detective of Dreams - Kevin Malone - The God and His Man - On the Train - From the Desk of Gilmer C. Merton - Death of the Island Doctor - Redbeard - The Boy Who Hooked the Sun - Parkroads — a Review - Game in the Pope's Head - And When They Appear - Bed and Breakfast - Petting Zoo - The Tree Is My Hat - Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon? - A Cabin on the Coast - Christmas Inn All the stories in this collection are good, so it was a bit difficult to choose my favourite stories. If I had to choose the best story, I'd choose "The Fifth Head of Cerberus", because it's an excellent example of literary science fiction. It's a fantastic and a bit cryptic story, because its secrets are revealed gradually to the reader. It's a story, which must be read from start to finish in one sitting without pauses in order to fully appreciate what's going on. That's all I'm going to say about these stories, because I think that every reader should make their own opinions about them. Because all the stories are worth reading, I highly recommend this collection to all readers who like good speculative fiction. Gene Wolfe's stories are excellent and they make the reader think about different things. I must say that it's truly amazing how versatile a writer he is - he can write almost anything from fantasy to science fiction. Besides being versatile he writes rich and nuanced prose.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David Debacher

    There's some really great stuff in here. I'm not entirely sure why he gets classified as strictly SF when science fiction is really a relatively small part of what he's doing here, but whatev, it's great stuff either way. My only beef is that the twist endings get a little old/predictable after a while--but if I'd been able to refrain from reading it all at once and read stories sproadically instead like I usually try to do, that wouldn't have been an issue.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christian

    Gene Wolfe personally selected all of the stories to be included here (except the last story) and included a small explanation or background story to each one. The stories are excellent and important reading, the addenda are fascinating and illuminating. Anyone who enjoys words and ideas should own a copy of this book, a collection of the best of each.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Jackson

    Highly recommend the novella "Seven American Nights." Less so the novella "Forselen."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Gene Wolfe wrote a story called 'The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories', which in turn enabled him to put it out in a collection earnestly labelled 'The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories'. As a literary joke this is rather fun. Was it only a joke? The more I read into Wolfe’s fiction the more sure I become that for this author nothing is ever really just a matter of wordplay. Later he wrote stories called The Death of Dr. Island and Death of the Island Doctor, bot Gene Wolfe wrote a story called 'The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories', which in turn enabled him to put it out in a collection earnestly labelled 'The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories'. As a literary joke this is rather fun. Was it only a joke? The more I read into Wolfe’s fiction the more sure I become that for this author nothing is ever really just a matter of wordplay. Later he wrote stories called The Death of Dr. Island and Death of the Island Doctor, both of which are also featured in this collection. All three are quite different in style and apparently unrelated. In The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories, a boy comes upon a paperback novel in a drugstore. The boy has the pleasingly odd name of Tackman Babcock, though he’s mainly referred to in the second person singular — as if he were you, the reader. Tackman is fascinated by the book: ‘The covers are glossy stiff cardboard, and on the front is a picture of a man in rags fighting a thing partly like an ape and partly like a man, but much worse than either.’ Jason, the older man he’s with, says: ‘That’s camp. Did you know that?’. Is it camp? Tackman doesn’t really know what this world means, but in this context it would seem to be Jason’s way of dismissing what he sees as meaningless frippery. The story unfolds at first in direct quotation from the books: a somewhat butchered version of The Island of Dr Moreau, complete with a sinister vivisectionist and his half-human, half-animal creations. It is not long, however, before those characters become part of Tackman’s world in a very immediate way. Jason is not his father, and there is something strange going on at the costume party that evening. The story assumes a shape which is somehow comforting, even through the chaos. Adult life is complicated, even incomprehensible, to you; but a white man’s adventures on strange foreign soil somehow make sense of it all. The story has it all — even pleasant moral platitudes, like ‘the evil are always foolish in the final analysis’. It is an appealing balance. And it ends on a strange note: a sudden tragedy — or a sudden crime — and Doctor Death at the boy’s elbow, reassuring him that when he starts reading the story over again the characters will resume all their old roles. You’re too young to realise, he says, but it’s the same with you. The dominance of these archetypes is eternal, it seems. It’s hard to decipher whether this is a promise or a threat. *** The Death of Dr Island works a little differently. It is a science fiction story, though that much takes a while to become apparent: at first it appears to be about a boy on a desert island. His name is Nicholas Kenneth de Vore. Something has happened to Nick. Paragraphs of description are peppered with uncanny details: initially he emerges into the world via a hatch; his body is marked with traces of sutures; he hears voices which seem to come directly from the flora, fauna, and waves. Sometimes he screams: ‘His screaming was high-pitched, and each breath ended in a gibbering, ululant note, after which came the hollow, iron gasp of the next indrawn breath. On one occasion he had screamed in this way, without cessation, for fourteen hours and twenty-two minutes, at the end of which a nursing nun with an exemplary record stretching back seventeen years had administered an injection without the permission of the attending physician.’ And he is not alone on the island. There are at least two others there: Ignacio, a violent and unpredictable older boy, and Diane, a strange young woman with whom Nick becomes involved. The island is part of a facility designed to contain the mentally ill. Nick has been through surgery to separate the two sides of his brain. What is this story? It’s a wild, strange, linguistic safari. Wolfe’s prose has a tendency to skip lightly along, as if he had written it out then carefully excised every alternate excessive concrete detail. He seems to encourage that feeling of being slightly lost. At its best it is mysterious, but sometimes it is slightly confounding. Writing about this now I find myself slightly at a loss to explain what this story is about, or even approach a satisfactory description of it. The story ends with Nick destroying the island — with the literal death of the thing, Dr Island. Is it a metaphor for how fighting against mental illness sometimes entails the destruction of the system of treatment itself? I don’t know. There is an elusiveness here, a resistance to interpretation, that makes me think of Nabokov in its playful textual manipulations; but also writers like Cormac McCarthy in terms of that muscular, allusive, dark, and wholly American style. *** Death of the Island Doctor is only a few pages long. It describes a retired professor, a man ‘a little cracked’, who is given the opportunity of running a seminar by his university. His name is Dr Insula and he asks to teach about islands: ‘I may also decide to include isles, atolls, islets, holms, eyots, archipelagoes, and some of the larger reefs…it depends how they come along, you know. But definitely not peninsulas.’ It is not especially clear whether this is intended to be a history class or a literature class. But at first, the question turns out to be irrelevant; the university awards the course no credit, and so of course no students attend. Insula goes on teaching his none-existent class for six years until, by a happy administrative accident, it is awarded a tiny amount of credit, and two students show up. They are a young man and a young woman, and since it is only them they go to his house to receive the seminar. He serves them tea, and talks to them: ‘He told them of Lucian’s travels to Antioch, Greece, Italy, and Gaul, and this led him to speak of the ships of that time and the danger of storms and piracy, and the enchantment of the Greek isles. He told them of Apollo’s birth on Delos; of Patmos, where Saint John beheld the Apocalypse; and of Phraxos, where the sorcerer Conchis dwelt. He said, “‘to cleave that sea in the gentle autumnal season, murmuring the name of each islet, is to my mind the joy most apt to transport the heart of man to paradise.’” But because it did not rhyme, the young man and young woman did not know he was quoting a famous tale.’ He gives them homework, too: Dr Insula tells them to take a little boat to an actual island, a specific place in their locality. He instructs them to come to their next meeting prepared to describe what it is they found magical there. And so they go, and nothing at all of note happens. The reader knows, I’m sure, that when the young man and young woman return for their next seminar they will find that old Dr Insula has since died; but how much more mysterious for him to be found sitting in the old boat in his garage, as if to set out to sea again one last time. This is one of Wolfe’s more comfortable stories, I think. In some ways it is gently conservative. It has a tone reminiscent of Calvino or Borges: that sense of a bibliophilia beautiful for its own sake which regardless becomes a sort of mental prison, a labyrinth of its own making, in which the protagonist is never quite sure if he is Theseus or the Minotaur. Dr Insula will never do anything again other than teach this non-existent class. He there in perpetuity. I don’t know if there isn’t something horrifying about this. Hope is manifest in the young man and young woman. (They are pointedly described as ‘young’ throughout.) The final line implies that they formed a relationship, and that later they came to realise Dr Insula wasn’t wrong about the island at all. It’s an echo of the final lines of The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories — a reminder that life frequently happens in spite of our best intentions, and that the shape of our lives tends towards archetypes which we find reflected in fiction and myth.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Husha Hum

    I have not finished reading it, so perhaps it's unfair to review at this point. But I must, just to rave here. It is one of those books that deserves to be savoured slowly. Some of these stories I'm saving for maybe...months later. I don't want to get through it in one go. My favourite so far was The Boy Who Hooked the Sun--like Da Vinci said: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." 2nd fave- the death of the island doctor- so sweet yet sad. Those who crowd their books with superfluous deta I have not finished reading it, so perhaps it's unfair to review at this point. But I must, just to rave here. It is one of those books that deserves to be savoured slowly. Some of these stories I'm saving for maybe...months later. I don't want to get through it in one go. My favourite so far was The Boy Who Hooked the Sun--like Da Vinci said: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." 2nd fave- the death of the island doctor- so sweet yet sad. Those who crowd their books with superfluous details, straining oh so desperately to be poignant/enchanting/etc that the result lies awkwardly on the page, ought to take note. Part of the greatness of Gene Wolfe lies in the way he paints his stories so artfully, leaving enough for the reader's imagination to naturally fill in. This is a big part of the fun of reading. (Otherwise I would just watch a movie, where everything is presented to me.) A lot of writers don't know that this is crucial, and dictate down to the teensiest detail. Then there are others, who try to be mod and artsy, yet come off as lazy, with too much left out--Gene Wolfe strikes the perfect balance. It's beautiful writing, and you realize the twistedness only upon reflection, and the second or third reading. Some things just don't sit right, which forces you to think about it. There are many levels to it--an example being The Toy Theater, which I loved for its idyllic "old world" atmosphere. I re-read to understand the sinister levels, and had to really think to fill in the gaps. The gaps are the best part. They are not there just for stylistic effect, but actually draw your attention to the meaning beneath the surface. I don't like HP Lovecraft, I ABHOR Neil Gaiman's writing, I didn't like some of HG Wells' books, and I'm not generally into sci-fi (though I do read it, because I like to read). Lots of writers in this genre are over-rated. I think it can be lame, pretentious, or downright silly. But this book transcends my prejudices. You can tell that this man has mastered writing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael Nash

    I love Gene Wolfe, and this collection, though I sometimes wonder whether I’m smart enough to read him. His style has been described as “challenging” and you can’t just sit down and dive into him the way you would a trashy fantasy novel. But when you can puzzle out what’s going on in one of his stories, it’s always worth the effort. There were plenty in this collection that I simply didn’t get (apparently one can’t understand the plot of “Seven American Nights” without using the internal contrad I love Gene Wolfe, and this collection, though I sometimes wonder whether I’m smart enough to read him. His style has been described as “challenging” and you can’t just sit down and dive into him the way you would a trashy fantasy novel. But when you can puzzle out what’s going on in one of his stories, it’s always worth the effort. There were plenty in this collection that I simply didn’t get (apparently one can’t understand the plot of “Seven American Nights” without using the internal contradictions of the text to figure out which parts of the manuscript are forgeries, and then applying the Christian symbolism of the section that is not a forgery to deduce the actual plot). And I’m sure even in the stories that I partially got, there is plenty that I didn’t. With that caveat, some of my favorites from the collection were: Forlesen: A disturbing Kafkaesque critique of corporate culture The Eyeflash Miracles: Which I have described as being “The Wizard of Oz meets Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH, if the former were a Christian allegory and the latter were set in a dystopic America which modeled the Great Depression. And When They Appear: Was super disturbing, but really sticks in my mind for some reason The Petting Zoo: A surprisingly depressing story about a boy and his dinosaur. Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon?: Wolfe writing in the style of the stupid-yet-noble circus strongman was brilliant and poignant. I also like the quote from the afterword: One of life’s principle lessons is that intelligence is a minor virtue. The cardinal virtues are prudence, justice temperance, and fortitude. Anyway, this collection was great and thought provoking, and I recommend it to anybody who, you know, enjoys reading things in the English language.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fantasy Literature

    3.5 stars from Stuart, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE Disclaimer: just so you know, some of the books we review are received free from publishers I decided to tackle this collection for a third time, this time armed with Marc Aramini’s Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986, an 826-page analysis covering Wolfe’s output through 1986, including most of his short stories (no matter how obscure) along with The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Peace, Free 3.5 stars from Stuart, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE Disclaimer: just so you know, some of the books we review are received free from publishers I decided to tackle this collection for a third time, this time armed with Marc Aramini’s Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986, an 826-page analysis covering Wolfe’s output through 1986, including most of his short stories (no matter how obscure) along with The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Peace, Free Live Free, and The Book of the New Sun. It is truly a work of dedication, a painstaking analysis of symbols, names, literary references, and themes of each story, and yet clearly the work of a fan rather than a dry scholarly study. Gene Wolfe is frequently described as one of the most brilliant SF writers in the genre by critics, authors, and readers alike. Some fans praise his books above all others, and there is a WolfeWiki page dedicated to discussing his work. This makes it very difficult to raise a note of dissent without feeling like the only one who doesn’t get it. But there are certainly many SFF readers that are baffled and frustrated by his stories, because they are packed with metaphors, literary references, hidden themes, and require extremely close reading to understand and appreciate....3.5 stars from Stuart, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    Always a fan of Wolfe's shorter fiction. Many of these stories have been collected in other collections, notably "The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories". The Hugo winning "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" stands out, of course, while "Seven American Nights" and "Parkroads-- a Review" continue to develop his world-building. "Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon?" is a perfect example of the flawed first-person narrative style Wolfe uses to good affect in much of his longer fiction, as wel Always a fan of Wolfe's shorter fiction. Many of these stories have been collected in other collections, notably "The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories". The Hugo winning "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" stands out, of course, while "Seven American Nights" and "Parkroads-- a Review" continue to develop his world-building. "Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon?" is a perfect example of the flawed first-person narrative style Wolfe uses to good affect in much of his longer fiction, as well as being just a really fantastic treatment of an old SF trope. Wolfe's humanistic voice and sense of the fantastic lurking around the edges of the ordinary bring to mind the works of a young Ray Bradbury; this collection shows why. I don't know what the checkbox beneath this text area wants from me because an ad is covering it up.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Gene Wolfe will take you by the hand at first, to lead you blindfolded over the uneven cobblestones of his vision. He will speak to you in a calm, clear voice, so that you may not notice when he withdraws his hand from yours. Like a child learning to ride a bicycle, you may glide along for a time, sure of your author's hand on the back of your seat, in the twilight between dependency and confident independence, and just at the moment when you feel certain of yourself, Wolfe will jerk the road be Gene Wolfe will take you by the hand at first, to lead you blindfolded over the uneven cobblestones of his vision. He will speak to you in a calm, clear voice, so that you may not notice when he withdraws his hand from yours. Like a child learning to ride a bicycle, you may glide along for a time, sure of your author's hand on the back of your seat, in the twilight between dependency and confident independence, and just at the moment when you feel certain of yourself, Wolfe will jerk the road beneath your tires. This book is one I will read again.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

    Gene Wolfe is brilliant. Two things I really enjoyed: 1) Wolfe picked all these stories himself, as what he considered his best, minus the final story. 2) Each story includes a comment from Wolfe about either the story or something related. Here are my favorite three: 1. The Death of Dr. Island 2. The Marvelous Brass Chess Playing Automaton 3. Seven American Nights If you want to be better at writing short fiction, study this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ken Rideout

    Great writing for fantasy/sci fi. Philip K Dick meets Herman Melville. I'm wondering if all of his stories employ the "confused narrator" approach (so far it's 5 for 5 of the short stories I've read in this compendium). I'm definitely going to try one of his novels this summer. Thanks for the rec, Ed!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was my introduction to Gene Wolfe; although I had read one of the stories in this collection, I'd forgotten the details and the author, so it was as good as reading it for the first time. I hope all (or most, I can deal with most) of Wolfe's work is as entertaining, because I'm planning to read a lot more.

  24. 5 out of 5

    DeAnna Knippling

    Some gems. Some stinkers. But mostly middling stuff. I love Gene Wolfe's stuff. But a lot of this was more valuable in the sense of being able to handle some of the themes/ideas from his larger work in smaller bites. I wouldn't start here. My favorites were The Death of Dr. Island, Straw, And Fifth Head.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rich Mulvey

    A great retrospective of Wolfe's short work. The strongest stories were in the first half of the book, but even the worst of Wolfe is always worth the time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    The short story output of science-fiction and fantasy writer Gene Wolfe has been prodigious. He has published many dozens of stories in magazines since the early 1970s, and over time they have been gathered into various collections from the publisher Tor Books. In 2009, as Wolfe was nearing his 80th birthday, Tor invited him to choose his favourite short stories for this “best of” collection. It must be emphasized that these are Wolfe’s “best” short stories according to the author’s own opinion The short story output of science-fiction and fantasy writer Gene Wolfe has been prodigious. He has published many dozens of stories in magazines since the early 1970s, and over time they have been gathered into various collections from the publisher Tor Books. In 2009, as Wolfe was nearing his 80th birthday, Tor invited him to choose his favourite short stories for this “best of” collection. It must be emphasized that these are Wolfe’s “best” short stories according to the author’s own opinion of their storytelling or because they sprang from memorable moments in his life; the collection does not necessarily represent Wolfe’s most critically acclaimed work, though the contents do somewhat overlap. After each story, Wolfe makes a few brief comments about how the story came to be or why he likes it. Throughout his career, Wolfe’s defining quality has been constructing stories where there is always more under the surface than an inattentive reader might suspect. Sometimes one might have to read a story twice for its true import to dawn, and often the key revelations are dropped so casually that you might miss them entirely. For example, two of the stories, “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” and “And When They Appear” present what is superficially a tale of childhood innocence, but under the surface one detects horror and abuse. (The latter story especially has a gradually dawning gruesomeness reminiscent of William H. Gass’s famous early story “The Petersen Kid”.) There are a handful of exceptions from that tendency, however. “Parkroads” is a movie review of a peculiar film that doesn’t exist; Wolfe has long been a huge fan of Jorge Luis Borges, and this is a tip of the hat to the Argentinian master. The slight “Redbeard”, a short tale of small-town Midwestern scandal, is arguably not even a genre story. We find here some of what I agree is Wolfe’s greatest short work, and some of the stories (such as the “Island” trilogy, “Seven American Nights” and “Forlesen”) I would recommend to anyone wanting some great literature. But it is hard for me to rate this volume so highly when it evinces the clear . decline in Wolfe’s writing over the decades. In his 1970s output, he was one of the best prose stylists around, truly an equal to Proust or Nabokov. From the 1980s on, he became more interested in the intricacy of his stories-as-enigmas than in the quality of the prose, and he began to assign narration to e.g. inarticulate children (or rather, his idea of how kids today talk) or characters writing in ridiculous ethnic-stereotype dialect. While some of the later material is enjoyable and worthwhile, the overall inconsistency of the two eras of quality represented here is disappointing. So while Wolfe is worth checking out, I would recommend instead his first collection of short stories, The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories (sic!), which collects much of his 1970s work and contains most of the finest stories from this “best of” as well as other good stuff. I would also recommend The Fifth Head of Cerberus, a collection of three novellas that initially seem standalone, but are ultimately revealed ; here in this “best of” you only get the first novella, and it just isn’t fair to not get the others. If, after those 1970s works, you decide you like Wolfe and want to explore further, though at the risk of disappointment due to his declining prose, then you could try The Best of Gene Wolfe or some of his other short story collections. But in general, this book is not the best representative of his work.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ian Lewis

    As with most collections of short stories, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Wolfe can be very opaque and frustrating sometimes, unless you're willing to dig deep into his literary allusions. The stories that worked best are those that worked on a surface level, and then were deepened by multiple readings/research. There were a few that did not work at all, unless you were deeply familiar with his sources. The best stories seemed to always have a focus on the fallen nature of humanity and were more con As with most collections of short stories, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Wolfe can be very opaque and frustrating sometimes, unless you're willing to dig deep into his literary allusions. The stories that worked best are those that worked on a surface level, and then were deepened by multiple readings/research. There were a few that did not work at all, unless you were deeply familiar with his sources. The best stories seemed to always have a focus on the fallen nature of humanity and were more concerned with freedom, lives, and trials/tribulations of everyday people. Many also had a starkly Christian tone as well. As an aside "Between Light and Shadow" by Marc Aramini is a very useful tool for digging in deeper into Gene Wolfe. Anyway: 5 star stories (the usual suspects. These seem to work at all levels and deepen with more reading.): The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories, The Fifth Head of Cerberus, The Death of Doctor Island, Death of an Island Doctor. 4 star stories : Hour of Trust, La Befana (interesting interpretation on a religious folktalke), Westwind (a nice manifestation of what prayer is for many people), The Marvelous Chessplaying Automaton, Kevin Malone (nice ghost story), From the Desk of Gilmore C. Merton, Redbeard, Bed and Breakfast (maybe 3.5?), Petting Zoo (especially if you have a fondness for Calvin and Hobbes), Straw (although I didn't see why there needed to be an SF element, I enjoyed it quite a bit), The Detective of Dreams (ending is a bit heavy handed. Read up on your parables.) 3 star Stories: The Recording, The God and His Man, The Boy Who Hooked The Sun, And When They Appear (this is an incredibly bleak story), The Tree is My Hat (very good, until the ending), Has Anybody Seen Judy Moon? 2 star or less stories: The Toy Theater, Beech Hill (seemed pointless), The Eyeflash Miracles (will make little or no sense unless you're intimately familiar with the Wizard of Oz books. Then you might enjoy it), On The Train, Parkroads - A Review, Game in the Pope's Head (maybe if I had familiarity with mass murderers, it may have made sense) Ones I have yet to make sense of: The Hero as Werwolf: Exciting story, well written, I very much enjoyed reading it. Not sure if my sympathies should lie with any character, or how to make sense of it as a whole. It seems like there should be something there, though. Seven American Nights: I need to re-read it. I enjoyed it, and thought the ending was Lovecraftian. Then I read some theories about this story. They all seemed to read a whole lot into the text that didn't seem to be there, inventing new plots seemingly whole clothe. As I said, I'll have to re-read to see if that is necessary. If so, it seems like a failing on the story's part. A Cabin On the Coast - I greatly enjoy reading this story, but it doesn't completely hold together for me. Makes it very difficult giving it a rating.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    Gene Wolfe passed away in April, after a long and illustrious career. He was not well known outside the SF and fantasy field, but an icon within it. I decided to pick up a copy of “The Best of” and enjoy some Wolfean fiction. Wolfe loved language and history (the more ancient the better). He was well known for using older, unfamiliar words that seemed like he made them up, but for the most part he was simply reviving them. He loved showing us fantastical places and times that startled our modern Gene Wolfe passed away in April, after a long and illustrious career. He was not well known outside the SF and fantasy field, but an icon within it. I decided to pick up a copy of “The Best of” and enjoy some Wolfean fiction. Wolfe loved language and history (the more ancient the better). He was well known for using older, unfamiliar words that seemed like he made them up, but for the most part he was simply reviving them. He loved showing us fantastical places and times that startled our modern sensibility. Many of Wolfe's stories are enigmatic, told by narrators who are naive about their surroundings or so accustomed to them that they treat them as a matter of fact, until something they say jars our understanding so abruptly that our perception of the situation is turned on its head. Part of the fun of reading Wolfe is figuring out just what is going on, and what strange world our protagonist is operating in. He reveled in ambiguity. Wolfe's stories are carefully crafted, and one sentence can completely change the meaning. That is why his stories reward close reading. But oh, so memorable. He took us to strange and exotic places, showered us with complex and gorgeous language, and filled his stories with allusions to unfamiliar myths, objects, beliefs and history. Quite rightly, Ursula Le Guin referred to him as “our Melville”. His influence on other authors in the field is incalculable, and has been acknowledged by many authors who wish they could have written what he wrote, or something similar. He was one of those writers whose style you would recognize if you stripped his name off the story. It was a joy to revisit many of his best stories in this collection. Although it was published ten years ago, it captures the highlights of his short fiction. The short afterwords by Wolfe are a treat and often provide insight to the creation of the story.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sunyi Dean

    Awesome Obviously, I loved it. My favorite was The Eyeflash Miracles. Absolutely stunning story on every level. Here were my other standout stories: “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories,” copyright © 1970 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in Orbit 7. “The Fifth Head of Cerberus” copyright © 1972 by Damon Knight; first appeared in Orbit. “The Death of Dr. Island,” copyright © 1973 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in Universe 3. “Forlesen,” copyright © 1974 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in Orbit Awesome Obviously, I loved it. My favorite was The Eyeflash Miracles. Absolutely stunning story on every level. Here were my other standout stories: “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories,” copyright © 1970 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in Orbit 7. “The Fifth Head of Cerberus” copyright © 1972 by Damon Knight; first appeared in Orbit. “The Death of Dr. Island,” copyright © 1973 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in Universe 3. “Forlesen,” copyright © 1974 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in Orbit 14. “Westwind,” copyright © 1973 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in Worlds of IF. “The Hero as Werwolf,” copyright © 1975 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in The New Improved Sun. “The Eyeflash Miracles,” copyright © 1976 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in Future Power. “The Detective of Dreams,” copyright © 1980 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCaul “On the Train,” copyright © 1983 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in The New Yorker. “From the Desk of Gilmer C. Merton,” copyright © 1983 by Gene Wolfe “Death of the Island Doctor,” copyright © 1983 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in The Wolfe Archipelago by Gene Wolfe. "Bed and Breakfast,” copyright © 1995 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in Dante’s Disciples. “The Tree Is My Hat,” copyright © 1999 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in 999. “A Cabin on the Coast,” copyright © 1981 by Gene Wolfe; first appeared in Zu den Sternen, edited by Peter Wilfert (Munich: Goldmann Verlag, 1981).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dan'l Danehy-oakes

    Short story collections are hard to review well. Short story collections by a writer who simply refuses to repeat himself are nearly impossible to review well. One approach: These are all excellent stories. I could fairly easily put together a second collection of Wolfe stories, not included in this volume, to put together another as large (475 trade paper pages). Another approach: I've read most of these stories before. I found new things in each and every one of those, and I'm fairly sure they'll Short story collections are hard to review well. Short story collections by a writer who simply refuses to repeat himself are nearly impossible to review well. One approach: These are all excellent stories. I could fairly easily put together a second collection of Wolfe stories, not included in this volume, to put together another as large (475 trade paper pages). Another approach: I've read most of these stories before. I found new things in each and every one of those, and I'm fairly sure they'll stand up to several more readings. Still another approach: Some of these stories are frustrating on a first reading, though they pay back the time it takes to puzzle them out. None of the stories, however, is as frustrating as the little one- or two-paragraph "Afterwords" to each story, in which Wolfe goes out of his way to discuss only very superficial matters, and almost never touches on the hearts of the stories. Final approach: Buy this book. Read it, and reread it; there's so much in almost all of the stories that you'll miss most of it the first time through. This is a good thing. It means that you get to read the stories with more pleasure each time, and congratulate yourself on how much you've picked up.

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