Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Peace
Gene Wolfe
Orion Millennium, 264 pages

Peace
Gene Wolfe
Gene Wolfe is one of the most respected writers in the field, and one of the few authors in the genre whose stories have been accepted in mainstream publications such as The New Yorker. Nominated 19 times for a Nebula Award, he has received the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. He is known for strikingly audacious novels such as The Fifth Head of Cerberus, but most readers will probably have learned to appreciate his writing in The Book of the New Sun series, and the associated Long Sun series. Wolfe lives in Barrington, Illinois, USA.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Sword and Citadel
SF Site Review: Shadow and Claw
SF Site Review: In Green's Jungles
SF Site Review: Free Live Free
SF Site Review: The Urth of the New Sun
Gene Wolfe Tribute Site
Gene Wolfe Tribute Site
Gene Wolfe Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

Advertisement
I have always been in awe of people with an equal aptitude for the practical, the numerical and the mathematical as well as for skillful flights of fancy. Gene Wolfe is a mechanical engineer by training, but a man who, at least as exemplified by this book, is the fantasy/science fiction equivalent of a Faulkner.

On the face of it, it is almost impossible to classify Peace as a book of fantasy. So much of it is rooted so squarely, and so beautifully, in small-town mid-America, that it could simply be a book of Literature with a capital L. It might well be the ultimate book to hand to someone who dismisses all speculative fiction as a child of a lesser literary god. It is possible to have a science fiction book be lyrical, philosophical, intricate, possessed of both enough depth to drown in and enough wit to do so while smiling. Peace is such a book.

It is full of wonderful snatched flights of whimsy and of fancy -- the porcelain teapot adorned with the faces of its previous owners, and which, when filled up, will break; the transformation of an every day neat and tidy store into an Antique Bookshop, with gold leaf lettering on the door which instantly "goes from bright newness to an antique patina that might have graced the Great Chalice of Antioch"; the aboriginal people who, ten thousand years ago, crossed the Bering Straits into what would become America and "...eventually settled at Indianola, Indianapolis, Indian Lake, and various other places at which point they were forced to become Indians in order to justify the place names."

This is a writer's book, in a way. It is brimming with the kind of language which will find an echo in anyone who's ever written a word, as well as with insights into how the writer thinks, how he is born, how he is made, how he changes the world.

The protagonist of Peace, (while not himself a writer) is a creature of brooding creativity of which he himself may be almost unaware but which enables him to give the book its fantastical edge. It allows him to live in a house which is infinitely larger inside than out, and whose many rooms reflect not so much the genius of an architect but rather the living memories inside his own mind. He moves freely between the future and the past, talking as an adult to people long dead whom he knew as a boy -- even asking advice from an old doctor as to what he should do when he gets his stroke many years in the future.

The reader is never quite sure who this man is, or where precisely he came from, or what exactly he is trying to do -- but there is a little of all of us in him, and one way or another he takes up every reader and carries them all through into his timeless realm with him.

Writers have been described as lying professionally for a living -- the better the lie, the greater the writer's laurels. Gene Wolfe himself has one of his characters say,

"...To you, I am a fraud... To myself I am an artist, shaping the past instead of the future. I write, yes. My hand moves across the paper carrying my pen, and there are words and I try to tell myself they have all come from me.... the world shapes itself, I find, very fast, to what I write. Or I write more than I know -- perhaps all of us who do what I do."
Peace is a greater book than its creator possibly intended. Gene Wolfe, perhaps, like his character, wrote more than he knew. And somehow this delicate, insubstantial web of Alden Dennis Weer's memoirs acquires a solidity and a timelessness which may well make it one of Wolfe's most remarkable works.

Copyright © 2002 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves". When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Her latest fantasy work, a two-volume series entitled Changer of Days, was published by HarperCollins.


SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to editor@sfsite.com.
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide