cover image Soldier of Arete

Soldier of Arete

Gene Wolfe. Tor Books, $17.95 (354pp) ISBN 978-0-312-93185-8

Wolfe's forgetful protagonist Latro continues the odyssey through classical Greece begun in Soldier of the Mist . Serving in King Xerxes's army during the Persian attempt to conquer Greece, in the fifth century B.C., Latro received an injury that makes him forget each day's events. In compensation, he records his experiences on a scroll, the ostensible text of this book. Now a Greek slave in the service of the shipmaster Hypereides, he travels from Sestos, after its fall, to Thrace, where he fights alongside Amazons, and onto the cities of Thought (Athens) and Rope (Sparta). Accompanied by the child Io, who calls herself his slave, and by a fellow captive soldier, Latro seeks to regain his friends, his memory and his freedom. One effect of his curse, or illness, is that he can see and speak with gods, mythical creatures and the dead. The shifting perspective provided by Latro's need to relearn his life and his world every day, with incidents and people portrayed in varying terms each time he writes about them, makes for a many-layered and complex narrative. It is virtually mandatory to read the first volume, although a synopsis here might have precluded the necessity. This is a rich book and a rewarding one for the persevering reader. ( Oct. )