Monday, May 20, 2019

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 5/17/19

This week I have three books that I bought -- all things I used to own before my 2011 flood, and felt like reading again. All of them are mildly out of print, I think, but that doesn't mean as much these days: most books are accessible, with Internet-aided book searches and ebooks and all that rot, to anyone who knows about them and wants them enough.

It's a goddamn utopia, isn't it?

Anyway, I'm going to list these books in order from most obscure to least, partially because that's the way they're already stacked.

Creatures of Light and Darkness -- Roger Zelazny's most obscure novel, in the Avon paperback with the Amber-style Ron Walotsky cover. The hardcover is almost nonexistent, due to some confusion as to which Zelazny book was supposed to be pulped back in 1969, right after Creatures was printed (hint: the plan wasn't to pulp the brand-new one). But it would be pretty darn obscure anyway: it's a quirky, weird, self-indulgent book. Or at least I remember it that way: it's as old as I am and I haven't read it in probably three decades. It is far-future SF of the kind that wraps back around to fantasy, except wrapped around five or six times for good measure and told sideways.

Speaking of far-future SF that wraps around to fantasy (and things told sideways), I also have Gene Wolfe's The Urth of the New Sun. This is not the fifth book of the four-book "Book of the New Sun" series, but a separate novel that follows that series. And I got this for the obvious reason: I'm re-reading "Book of the New Sun" right now, and thought I might want to keep going. I'm not currently planning to dive into the related Books of the Long and Short Sun, but who knows?

And last is also from Gene Wolfe, and similarly related: Castle of Days. This is a sort-of omnibus of the early story collection Gene Wolfe's Book of Days (with the stories arranged to line up to various holidays during a year), Castle of the Otter (a small book of essays about Book of the New Sun) and "Castle of Days" (a larger collection of more miscellaneous essays). I'm definitely going to read the Otter essays, and probably the miscellaneous ones -- I'm a sucker for novelists' occasional nonfiction anyway.

Finally: Yes, I did start Book of the New Sun because Wolfe died recently: it was a damn shame and a huge loss to literature, but, at the very least, a death can remind us of someone important and the great work they did. If it does that, we can at least keep their memory and work alive. Or maybe we just tell ourselves that, so we feel less horrified by the thought that we, too, will die, sooner than we would like.

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