cover image Soldier of the Mist

Soldier of the Mist

Gene Wolfe. Tor Books, $15.95 (335pp) ISBN 978-0-312-93734-8

The premise of Wolfe's tantalizing last novel, Free Live Free, is reworked in his new fantasy, the first volume in a new series. Each features a motley group that forms around one person whose occult talents allow them all to pursue the supernatural. On both quests, spiritual rewards tangle with earthly ones. Latro, the protagonist here, is a soldier in fifth century B.C. Greece whose battle wounds have erased his memory but given him the ability to converse with the gods. From slave to sailor to honored but involuntary guest of a warrior king, Latro's first-person account of his pilgrimage through the still-raging Persian Wars provides a fresh eye on the ancient world. The device of his amnesia and the setting (a culture that believes in godsbut believes them to be as fickle as mortals) help vivify Wolfe's theme: the search for absolutes, for transcendence in a world whose values are unfixed and relative. Although this is sometimes more puzzling than challenging, and the story progresses in fits and starts, its surprising turns and Wolfe's feeling for his variously lost, larcenous, venal and valiant characters keep the reader intrigued. (November 3)