cover image In Green's Jungles

In Green's Jungles

Gene Wolfe. Tor Books, $24.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-87315-8

In 1980, Wolfe published The Shadow of the Torturer, the first volume in his now classic Book of the New Sun, which was eventually followed by his much-praised Book of the Long Sun sequence. Whereas the former series was set on the decadent planet Urth, the latter took place within the Whorl, a hollowed-out asteroid whose inhabitants knew nothing of the universe outside their failing world. At the end of the second series, the charismatic Cald Silk led his people to the planets called Green and Blue and then disappeared. For years it had been rumored that the two novel sequences were somehow connectedDand here the rumor is substantiated. In this second volume in The Book of the Short Sun (after On Blue's Waters), Horn, the narrator of the Long Sun books, is on a quest for the lost Silk. Although he engages in numerous adventuresDleading an army, slogging through a monster-inhabited jungle, touring several exotic societiesDthe specifics of the plot are almost inconsequential. What counts is Wolfe's gorgeous prose, the brilliant dialogue and the dazzling way that reality shifts from one paragraph to the next. Horn soon discovers that he has the seemingly magical power to travel instantaneously between Green and Blue, though his body and those of his compatriots undergo strange changes with each shift. Eventually, they visit a world with a dying red sun that may be long-lost Urth. Oddly, Horn also discovers that he has begun to physically resemble Silk. Like any middle volume in a series, this novel leaves mysteries unsolved and plot threads hanging, but that really doesn't matter. It's the sheer strangeness of this masterful tale that counts, and the glorious sense of unknown wonders to come. (Aug.)