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Archive for February 25th, 2010

‘The Fifth Head Of Cerberus’ by Gene Wolfe

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Gene Wolfe is a sacred cow of science fiction, consistently held up as a demonstration that – in the right hands – the genre can be high literature. So how come the only two stories I had read by him – ‘Viewpoint’ and ‘The Ziggurat’ – where terrible? Was I just unlucky or was everyone else mad?

When I asked this elsewhere there was a general concensus that as Wolfe got older he became more conservative and more Catholic to the detriment of his writing. The two stories I had read were from this later period. I should read his earlier stuff. In particular, I should read ‘The Fifth Head Of Cerberus’ since it is the greatest science fiction novella ever written.

I have now read the novella and can confirm that it is indeed very good, as are ‘”A Story” by John Marsch’ and ‘V.R.T.’, the two linked novellas which accompany it. I was reminded of Sacsayhuam├ín, its interlocking parts constructed so seamlessly that it shouldn’t be possible. The reader is treat with respect which then must then earn and behind all this there is a deep, ingenuous intelligence. It is only a shame this intelligence seems to have calcified so unpleasantly in later years.

Written by Martin

25 February 2010 at 13:20

Posted in sf, short stories

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