Nightside the Long Sun: The First Book of Starcrossers Landfall

Gene Wolfe, Author Tor Books $21.95 (333p) ISBN 978-0-312-85207-8
Wolfe's first novel since Pandora by Holly Hollander (1990) is a vivid and compelling evocation of life inside an interstellar spacecraft so huge that a whole world of cities and wildernesses exists within it, and so old that its origins and purpose are mere legends to its inhabitants. Patera Silk, a young priest in one of the city of Viron's poorest temples (``manteions''), receives a mental message from one of his gods, an enlightenment which invests his life with urgent meaning. On the same day, however, he learns his manteion had been sold for back taxes and may well be dismantled. Armed with the conviction of his revelation, Silk enlists the aid of a local but decent-hearted thief, intent upon breaking into the mansion of Blod, the new owner of the manteion, to convince (or even force) him to guarantee its survival. From that point on, Silk is drawn even deeper into the shady world outside his temple walls. But for all its interest, the plot is hardly the most powerful element. The atmosphere of Wolfe's spacecraft seduces and amazes, details and mystery piling upon each other to yield a sense of palpable otherworldliness. The environment of the long sun--so called because the ship's cylindrical interior is lit by a central tubular ``sun'' extending the length of the ship--comes energetically alive, and readers will be grateful that this book begins a four-volume series. If this first taste is any test, Wolfe has embarked on an epic to rival his acclaimed Book of the New Sun. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1993
Release date: 04/01/1993
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